By Lewis S Teh
At least twelve leading civil society organizations (CSOs) have urged the National Elections Commission (NEC) to maintain the integrity of the election and preserve the peace of Liberia.
The CSOs have made the call as members of NEC’s Board of Commissioners continue to announce preliminary results from the 10 October 2023 presidential and legislative elections.
Mr. Anderson Miamen, the Executive Director of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), read the statement on behalf of the twelve CSOs at a joint news conference Tuesday, 17 October 2023 in Sinkor, suburb of Monrovia.
“We applaud the courage and commitment of Liberians to vote and shape the country’s future, despite some of their past and current leaders not doing enough to tangibly transform their lives,” said Miamen.
According to him, these and other CSOs have been very active during these elections, in part through conducting civic and voters’ education.
He said they also worked by monitoring/observing campaign promises and finance, electoral violence, including those targeting women and disadvantaged groups, and voting, among others.
“We recognize [the] cordial working relationships mutually benefiting partnerships with the National Elections Commission, media, and other stakeholders that made these contributions possible,” he added.
He named the CSOs as CENTAL, Integrity Watch Liberia (IWL), Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Women NGO Secretariat (WONGOSOL), Public Health Initiative of Liberia (PHIL), and Accountability Lab Liberia (Alab).
Others are the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), Sister AID Liberia Incorporated (SALI), Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform, and Kids Educational Engagement Program (KEEP Liberia) as organizations that groupped themselves to caution the NEC.
According to Miamen, access to the voting centers and ballot-counting process allowed civil society, the media, representatives of political parties and independent candidates, and international partners to closely observe the process.
He stated that it increased its inclusiveness, transparency, and credibility.
Miamen noted that despite the success of the voting and ongoing announcement of preliminary results, they are concerned about multiple issues associated with the elections.
Firstly, he said the pace of the counting and announcement processes are very slow, especially for highly accessible areas.
“With increased anxiety and brewing tension among citizens, political parties, and candidates, NEC needs to be more efficient in tallying and announcing final results to calm down nerves,” Miamen urged.
The CSOs noted that after nearly one week, the tallied votes and results from some counties and districts are still below 60%.
He stated that the unexplained delays in announcing final results from Montserrado County Electoral District #8, District #2 in Maryland County, and District #4 in Grand Bassa County raise concerns.
“We acknowledge the 15-day window stipulated in Article 83(c) of the Liberian Constitution; however, we also observe the slow pace with which results are announced, as well as the delay in releasing results from places that are obviously accessible in favor of more remote areas without any reason given by the Commission.”
The tough talking CSOs actor believes that the more the results are delayed, with no clear information and explanations, the more people will speculate about alleged wrongdoings or foul play.
“It is in NEC’s best interest, as well as the integrity of the elections and peace of [the] country, to timely process and announce all results from the elections,” he indicated.
At the same time, Miamen reported that they have received distressing reports of violence and storming of the tallying centers in Montserrado and Nimba Counties by supporters of some political parties and candidates, especially the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
He said this is extremely troubling, as it could be interpreted as attempts to manipulate or undermine the integrity, transparency, and independence of the votes counting process.
Miamen said they are deeply concerned about some candidates and political parties declaring themselves as winners, when NEC is the only institution mandated by law to do so.
The CENTAL executive director revealed that such is a recipe for violence, as it may incite overzealous partisans and supporters to act in ways that jeopardize the peace of the country.
He detailed that calm and maturity are needed, as Liberians await the final results from the NEC.
Meanwhile, Miamen used the occasion to call on NEC to enhance efficiency and expediency in counting, reporting and announcing the election results.
He urged the commission to respect time announced for commencement of the daily press conference. He further urged the commission to show understanding and empathy when addressing concerns from journalists.