The Chairman of the National Elections Commission describes the recent complaints and evidence submitted to the commission as fake, lacking substance. Addressing a press conference in Monrovia on Wednesday, November 1, Chairman Jerome George Korkoya says claims by political parties that ballot papers were buried in Grand Gedeh County and other parts of the country and later discovered by them, are fake and systematic lies.
He explains that purported ballot papers displayed by the political parties are simple ballot papers brought in the country during the voters and civic education period, intended to teach voters how to vote.
The exercise, under the brand name, ‘know your candidate’ were shared with all political parties and candidates that participated in the October 10, 2017 Presidential and Representatives election as means of educating their partisans and supporters on how to identifying their candidate on the ballot papers, but some political parties are using those simple ballot papers as evidence against the NEC, creating myths that the elections were marred by fraud.
Korkoya explains that claims that ballot papers were dumped in Grand Gedeh County has been investigated and they have the material that was allegedly discovered for inspection.
“These are not ballot papers at all but parts of the ‘know your candidate’ civic education that was distributed by the National Elections Commission. There is no way at all anybody can vote with these since they do not have the security feature and are different sizes to the ballot papers,” he adds.
Cllr. Korkoya appeals to political parties to use the appropriate channels to air grievances and complaints. “The National Elections Commission recognizes their right to freedom of speech, but announcing unsupported claims in the media risks inflaming the situation and dividing people.”
Commenting on the recent joint statement by three political parties read by Unity Party Chairman Wilmot Paye, Chairman Korkoya reassures all stakeholders that the President of Liberia met the magistrates on the request of the National Elections Commission on 17 September 2017.
“As head of state, the president has supported the National Elections Commission strongly in its mandate to hold free and fair elections. The government as well as other branches of the state is a stakeholder and the National Elections Commission has a duty to engage all stakeholders in its work. At no point the National Elections Commission’s independence been questioned by the President. The meeting was simply to highlight the importance of these elections to the citizens of Liberia, and to encourage the magistrates to do a professional job, and be independent. The National Elections Commission is independent at all times,” he explains.
Meanwhile, preparations for Liberia’s presidential run-off election have come to a halt just days before the scheduled vote. The Supreme Court ordered a stay while it hears a complaint filed by the third place finisher in the first round of polling, Cllr. CharlesWalker Brumskine of the Liberty Party.
As of now, the runoff will be a contest between Senator George Weah, who led the first round with 38 percent of votes, and Vice President Joseph Boakai, who came second with nearly 29 percent. Brumskine finished a distant third, winning nine percent.
His party’s complaint cites alleged irregularities at polling stations, violations of electoral laws and fraud. It also accuses outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of meeting privately with election officials to influence the outcome — a charge her office promptly denied.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne