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Liberians vote in crucial presidential election

By Winston W. Parley

Liberians turned out massively on Tuesday, 10 October 2023 to vote in a crucial presidential and legislative elections deemed so far to be calm and peaceful in most places.

Tuesday’s polls are crucial because their outcomes will put the image of the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the radar and say more about its resilience to protect national peace and security.

Though largely peaceful, the recent political campaign process leading to Tuesday’s polls witnessed violent clashes between some opposition political parties and the ruling CDC. 

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Deaths were reported in some cases, others were injured, and properties were destroyed. Meanwhile, the Joint Security arrested several persons as suspects before Election Day.

Many Liberians and foreign residents remain hopeful that the electoral process will end without chaos across the country. 

Voters queue at one of the polling centers in Sinkor-Monrovia

The NEC has conducted the elections after years of bitter political rhetoric between the opposition and the ruling establishment.

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Liberia has had a bitter 14-year civil war, thus, there have been incessant calls to maintain the peace.

Many believe that a smooth electoral process with credible results could pitch Liberia’s democratic gains highly after years of bitter political rhetoric among Liberia’s political leaders.

The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is seeking a second term to continue its development plans, though the opposition has alleged that the administration has underperformed.

The NEC has qualified over 2.4m voters to partake in the process which will either elect a new administration or retain President George Manneh Weah’s government.

At some voting places, potential voters complained that the process was slow, but others said they had a bit faster process.

Long queue at 72nd Barracks

There were some cases of individuals allegedly being caught scanning the biometric voter cards of potential voters using smartphones, but the accused were not immediately linked to any political institutions.

Their motives have not been determined, but a local online media platform Kool FM reported that police had held a lady in the Paynesville area in Montserrado for allegedly scanning voting cards belonging to others.

At God of Mercy school in Sinkor, a privately run institution in Monrovia suburb, voters queued patiently Tuesday morning to make their way in and vote.

This paper observed the presence of some international and local observers, officers from the Joint Security and some media representatives.

In an interaction with some political parties’ observers, Mr. Clement Harley who represented the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), said he had been at the center from 4 a.m. on Tuesday up to the time of the interview at 10 a.m.

Mr. Harley said he observed the process to be calmed, adding that he had not observed any misunderstanding yet.

Meanwhile, some of the voters complained about the lack of proper arrangements by the NEC workers which they claimed had caused some delays in the voting process at the God of Mercy School.

One of the voters, Mr. Alieu Jallah claimed that he had stood in the voting line since the start of the process at 8 a.m., but he could not make his way in due to alleged poor preparation by the NEC workers.

“We are not experiencing the line going. I can’t leave my house at 6 am…, the process starts at 8 am and it’s almost 12 [pm], I haven’t gone [in yet], he complained.

At the Assembly of God (AG) High School on Buchanan Street in central Monrovia, voter said the process was faster there in the morning hours.

They praised the NEC workers and the joint security for handling the process smoothly.  

20 presidential candidates are contesting in the election. Incumbent President Weah is seeking a second six-year term of office.

His main rivals are Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai who heads the former ruling Unity Party (UP) presidential ticket, and Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, head of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).

Depending on which political party or politician they prefer, different issues may drive voters’ decisions in this crucial presidential and legislative election.

Those backing the opposition have accused the CDC regime of allegedly underperforming over the last nearly six years. 

They believe that the regime should not be re-elected, while those backing the CDC regime have insisted that there are good reasons to award a second term.

They have cited the government’s intervention in the health sector, road construction, the waiver of exam fee payments for senior high school students, and tuition-free education at all public universities and colleges for undergraduates, among others.

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