Liberians defied all odds, including momentary downpour and some times long distances, and turned out in mass to cast their votes in Tuesday, 11 October, 2011 presidential and general elections. The elections were the first democratic exercise exclusively conducted by Liberians since the end of the civil conflict in 2003.
The polls followed nearly three months of vigorous, but generally peaceful campaigns throughout the country by various presidential candidates, including incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her main challenger former UN envoy Winston Tubman of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change. In all over 1000 candidates for the House of Representatives and Senate including 16 presidential candidates participated in the exercise, monitored here by hundreds of international observers from ECOWAS, the AU, European Union, OSIWA, the American, French, German, Swedish and Spanish embassies here and hosts of other international bodies.
The polls were generally peaceful, free, fair and transparent with no reports of serious disorder at any of the polling centers around the country at least up to press time last evening. An early statement issued here by the National Elections Commission described the turnout during the morning hours as “quite impressive.” The NEC then encouraged Liberians to make good use of the elections to vote for the candidates of their choice in all three categories: Presidential, Senatorial and Representative.
Liberians demonstrated very high level of maturity during Tuesday’s polls thanks to robust security measures jointly put in place by the Government of Liberia and its international partners, including the United Nations and ECOWAS. Regional solidarity exhibited here by the Economic Community of West African States is particularly worth noting. Three former Heads of States of the sub-region, including John Koufor of Ghana, Generals Abdulsalami Abubakar and Yakupu Gowan both of Nigeria are on the ground to observe the process.
The votes casting, the announcing of results from the polls and the acceptance of the outcome by all candidates and the electorate are crucial in determining whether Liberia will continue on the path of peace, political and economic stability. This is where the highest degree of political maturity is importantly required. Presidential candidates and political party leaders are under obligation to behave in a respectable and orderly manner and to encourage their various supporters to act similarly during the preliminary counts and after the final results are announced by the National Elections Commission.
It is a full gone conclusion that among the 16 Presidential candidates only one can emerge victorious to ascend to the Presidency. The rest of the candidates and their supporters must be willing to accept the results and rally around the winner to move mama Liberia forward. The level of maturity demonstrated at the polls by all Liberians is an indication that Liberia has already won. The challenge is on all citizens, including candidates in the race to let it be so.
Liberians everywhere should feel proud of the manner which they conducted themselves on Tuesday. The October 11, 2011 Presidential and General elections will surely be recorded in history as the most peaceful, free, fair and transparent polls conducted in recent history not only in the sub-region, but on the entire continent.