-following votes in elections & Referendum
Liberians are glued to their radios and social media pages awaiting provisional results from a largely peaceful joint senatorial election and national referendum across the 15 counties.
This follows months of heated exchanges between the ruling establishment and the opposition in a tense political environment that had vast majority of the population on its heels for unpredictable post-election events.
Days before the election saw violent clashes in Grand Cape Mount County, where the convoy of opposition candidate Simeon Taylor, was reportedly attacked and set ablaze, allegedly by supporters of ruling Coalition candidate incumbent Senator Victor Watson, on Saturday, 5 December in Dambala Town, Porkpar District, Grand Cape Mount County.
Mr. Taylor is the senatorial candidate for the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP). The Collaboration involves the former governing Unity Party; the Alternative National Congress; the All Liberian Party; and the Liberty Party.
Candidate Taylor reportedly survived the attacks, but his whereabouts have not been officially established.
President George Weah immediate issued and statement condemning the act calling for thorough inestigation and the perpetrators being brought to book.
The opposition CPP also issued a statement condemning the attack on its candidate and urging the government to desist from state sponsor intimidations.
In all pre – campaign political events leading to the senatorial election witnessed series of violence in Montserrado and few of the 15 counties that are desperately needed by both the ruling party and the opposition, but the campaign period and the Election Day on 8 December were both peaceful.
Anger over the government’s combination of the national referendum with the senatorial election has prompted the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) to urge its supporters to vote no to all the eight propositions contained in it, while the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) campaigned for a ‘yes vote’ to all propositions.
Some of the contentions raised against the referendum include lack of adequate awareness and education for the population and a fear that incumbent President George Manneh Weah could follow in the steps of his counterparts in neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast to seek third term once the presidential tenure is dropped from six to five years, among others.
But Weah insists that he has no interest in a third term bid. In fact, Article 93 of the Liberian Constitution makes that very clear that any amendment would not benefit the incumbent president.
Article 93 states: The limitation of the Presidential term of office to two terms, each of six years duration, may be subject to amendment; provided that the amendment shall not become effective during the term of office of the incumbent President.
Beyond that the senatorial election has had the country in so much tense political situation due to all the rhetoric the people have had to endure over the year, leaving others to suggest that the limited time used to talk about the referendum would have many voters ill prepared to make rational decisions at the ballot box.
Meanwhile, polling places visited across Montserrado were seen to be calm as voters stood in queues to vote in the senatorial election and the referendum. Some polling places were encouraging in the morning hours of Tuesday, but some places appeared to witness very low turnout of voters.
Among other key vote – rich counties, Montserrado has been so far one of the main centers of attraction in the senatorial race as the opposition CPP’s senatorial candidate Abraham Darius Dillon, an incumbent, battles with the ruling CDC’s Thomas Fallah, a sitting representative in the county.
Polling places in Brewerville City on Tuesday, 8 December were seen empty on the day of election. According to our reporter who visited polling centers within the VOA Community in Brewerville, National Elections Commission (NEC) workers were seen to be relaxed and most of them were seen on their phones as voters seemed scarce.
Speaking to our reporter, one bystander identified as John Saah suggests that most people were trucked to Bomi County to vote, thereby abandoning the county in which they reside. Saah who is believed to be in his early 30s, suggests that the hardship in the country may have led some voters to be trucked to different part of the country to vote.
He explains that some people go to bed hungry and they don’t have anything for their family to live on.
On Monday, 7 December, thousands of voters were seen at the VOA Junction boarding NTA buses headed for Bomi County apparently to go and cast their votes there. Brewerville reported a huge turnout in the 2017 elections.
It can be recalled during the replacement of voters card this year, many residents of Montserrado County were seen being trucked to Bomi County allegedly by two former House Speakers J. Alex Tyler and Edwin M. Snow, both of whom at battling to unseat incumbent Bomi Senator Sando Johnson.
Mr. Snowe is a sitting Bomi County Representative who got elected in the 2017 polls, having transferred from Montserrado County where he had already served two terms as representative and a short – serving House Speaker.
At one point Bomi County citizens resisted the influx of people who were being transported to the county on board National Transit Authority (NTA) buses during the voter registration and voter ID replacement exercise.
In Clara Town on Bushrod Island, NEC Polling Officer at Royal Foundation Mr. Varney Freeman indicates that turnout is encouraging, but expresses hope that voting process ends peacefully. As at the time of the interview with this paper, Freeman says he had not seen an incident of conflict arising from voters at the polling center.
For those who registered twice, he says names of some of them were not found in the Final Registration Roll so they were not eligible to vote.
By Winston W. Parley & Bridgett Milton-Edited by Othello B. Garblah