Editorial: Misinformation in election is dangerous

Editorial: Political leaders and stakeholders in Liberia are condoning a bad and very ugly precedent in Liberian elections, involving rival parties and candidates releasing disinformation and misinformation to the public, announcing victory prior to the National Elections Commission, the constituted body that is clothed with the authority to declare a winner in a particular poll.

Such was the unpleasant experience from the just-ended senatorial by-election conducted in Lofa County where the opposition Unity Party and the governing Congress for Democratic Change mobilized their respective partisans and supporters into the street in the county for pre-victory celebrations when the NEC had released no official results.

While tallied ballots are posted in polling places after polls have ended, they do not officially translate that a candidate has won, and doing so is not only a serious disservice to the general public, but it creates a recipe for chaos and violence that we do not need in our elections.

Reports gathered from Foya District in Lofa a day after the by-election indicate said scenario played out between rival supporters of the CDC and the UP, which resulted in bloody clashes, but Joint Security forces intervened and dispersed the rival crowd.

Similar ugly experience occurred after the December 8, 2020, Special Senatorial Elections, particularly in Montserrado County between now Senator Abraham Darius Dillon and CDC Representative Thomas Fallah when a pro-CDC radio station broadcast its own results, presenting Rep. Fallah as winning the race, which was totally different from what the NEC posted in polling places across the county. 

When these deliberate scams are happening, leaders of the particular party involved turned blind eyes. What is even of more concern is that the NEC that presides over the polls does not rebuke those involved or tell them to immediately desist, which is highly disappointed.

Mind you, these are instances just from senatorial elections, and they send a signal of what to expect, as the nation goes to Presidential and General Elections in 2023. Such negative and anti-democratic practices should have no place in our electoral processes neither now nor in the future.

We call on both the government and the National Elections Commission not only to condemn those attempting to reverse our democratic processes thru misinformation and disinformation campaigns but to ensure that they are brought to book to face the law.

It is important that the NEC sounds a serious caveat before, during and after an election that any candidate or party caught releasing false results and declaring self-victory would be harshly dealt with to deter would-be actors.

It is important that we as a nation do everything to keep our elections free of violence and acts that would cast dark cloud on the entire process just for selfish political interest at the detriment of the greater good. Election is a democratic exercise and democracy should allow to take its course rather than cheating or scamming to gain undue advantage that leaves room for unimaginable consequences.

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