A seemingly general low voters’ turnout mars Tuesday, December 26, 2017 runoff presidential election here, between incumbent Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the governing Unity Party (UP) and former soccer icon Senator George Manneh Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
CDC’s Weah received 38.4 percent of total votes cast in the first round of poll conducted on October 10, 2017 followed by UP’s Boakai 28.8 percent, the two highest votes which qualified them for the runoff from among a total of 20 presidential candidates who contested in round one of polling.
Seventy-three years old Boakai and Weah, 51, are vying to succeed Nobel Laureate and first female President in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is ending her second and final constitutional term in office.
The Chairman of the National Elections Commission announces here that the NEC begins releasing provisional results from the runoff poll today, Wednesday, December 27.
Addressing a brief news conference in Monrovia immediately after poll closed across the country Tuesday, Chairman Jerome George Korkoya describes voting as peaceful and smooth throughout Liberia.
He explains that tallying of results commences also today, and results will be immediately posted at various precincts.
The Commission qualifies over 2 million voters to participate in the runoff presidential election after clearing the FRR of duplicated names in compliance with mandate from the Supreme Court.
The election will produce the first democratic political transition in Liberia in 73 years since Independence in 1847.
The National Elections Commission had earlier scheduled the runoff election for November 7, but a court action initiated by third placer Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party against results of the October 10 polls saw the process delayed for over a month before the Supreme Court threw out the case due to lack of sufficient evidence and ordering the NEC to clear the final registration roster and go ahead with the runoff.
A visit to several precincts in Monrovia and its environs by this paper saw poll workers of the National Elections Commission reporting for work in time (8:00 A.M.) but voters trickle in one after another to cast their votes unlike long queues experienced in the first round of elections.
There was no complaint from the electorate as they did previously about encountering difficulty in finding their names and photographs on the voter roll and appropriate line to stand in. most of the polling place were practically empty with people walking in without any problem.
Two electorate, Mr. Momo Kamara Yanmoh, who cast his ballot at precinct #30143 and Madam Chuko Mamie Dixson at precinct #30107 in West Point Township explain that they woke up very early and went to vote, but when they arrived there, they were shocked to see the centers empty.
According to them, this provided them an opportunity to vote quickly to avoid last minute’s rush, when the voting places would be overwhelmed by multitude of people.
They detail that voters who approach the polling center were firstly welcome by NEC staff who then led them thru process to cast their ballots for a candidate of their choice.
When Presiding Officer Mr. Eric Marwolo was asked why NEC was providing a special number to an electorate before he/she was allowed to vote, he says the process is meant to assist the NEC, political parties’ observers and international election monitoring groups to know the total number of persons who voted at a particular center.
Unlike the first round of election, the runoff presidential poll specifically in Montserrado County Electoral District#11 started in time with most of the poll watchers sleeping at the centers.
Voters at the New Life Ministry polling center in Barnsville, Somalia Drive describe the process for this run off as very smooth, and wish that all other elections conducted by the NEC would have a smooth process like this one.
“This runoff election is very easy and I hope every other elections in this country will start I know time like this. During the first round of election, I came here very early and the ballot boxes were not even here, nothing started in time and people had to vote in the night “, recalls Jacob, an electorate.
In the first round of the elections, baby mothers, old men and women were seen on a special line so that the voting can be easy for them, but there were no special queue for them in this runoff because it was a free entry for everyone.
At the E. J. Goodridge Memorial High School in District #11, a poll watcher explain to this paper that the ballot papers were stockpiled in the center, noting that the people are coming in gradually.
In Sinoe County, southeast Liberia, labour pain reportedly grabs a pregnant woman, who went to cast her vote, and she was brought up front to exercise her franchise before being rushed to hospital where she subsequently gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.
International observers from ECOWAS led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and observers from the African Union, European Union, Carter Center and local elections observation groups monitor the runoff poll.
A joint state security group, including the Liberia National Police (LNP) Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) deployed officers at various polling places across the country to provide security for the runoff election.
By Emmanuel Mondaye, Ethel A. Tweh & E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne