The National Elections Commission (NEC) has filed its response before the Supreme Court of Liberia against claims made in an appeal filed by opposition Liberty Party (LP), saying LP and ruling Unity Party (UP’s) 23 witnesses’ testimonies “woefully failed to sustain the burden of proof” during hearing at the NEC.
It is not established yet whether the UP has filed any appeal with the Supreme Court after the NEC ruled against it and LP in alleged election fraud and irregularities case in challenge to the outcome of the 10 October polls, but the LP says NEC’s Board of Commissioners committed reversible error when it failed to take into consideration witness testimony that NEC staff were overwhelmed and challenged on elections day.
LP claims that there were absence of queue controllers, voters whose names were not on final registration roll allowed to vote, no serial numbers on the ballots, a presiding officer was caught attempting to stuff pre-marked ballots in the ballot box in Nimba County and that opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) obtained 1109 votes at a polling place that was supposed to have a maximum of 550 ballots.
But the NEC replies that its witness Lamin Lighe refuted allegations that some polling places were changed without notice, further claiming that no new names were added to the Voters’ Roll after it was produced, published and given to political parties.
Concerning LP’s claims that there were no serial numbers on the ballots, the NEC says its witness Lighe produced unused ballot papers for both presidential and representatives in the 10 October elections which allegedly confirmed that there is a serial number on the stub of each of the ballot papers.
NEC says the Presiding Officer in Nimba District #3 who was caught attempting to stuff pre – marked ballots, “it was merely an attempt which was immediately detected” and the culprit, Josephus Cooper arrested.
“Witness Lighe further testified that the votes at that Polling Place, namely Polling Place Number One (1), were quarantined and a re-run conducted,” the NEC says, and further notes that the ballot papers discovered in an outside bathroom in Grand County County District #2 were “Know Your Candidates” educational posters.
As to claims of excess votes obtained by CDC in Bong County Polling Place Number One of 1,109 ballots, the NEC notes that the presiding officer allegedly mistakenly wrote 109 instead of 110, but allegedly cancelled the “nine” with a red ink later as required by NEC’s counting manual and then wrote number one before the number 10.
The appealing party and the NEC are expected to appear before the Supreme Court today, Friday, 1 December at 10am for the hearing of the case. The LP came third in the first round of the polls and is not designated for a runoff, but it began a process that challenges the conduct of the a runoff due between the UP which came second in the pools and is designated alongside opposition CDC to contest the runoff.
The UP is backing the alleged elections fraud and irregularities case, but it is not yet clear if it is appealing against the NEC’s ruling. The runoff was due to be held on 7 November before a Supreme Court order halted the process in order to allow the NEC conduct investigation into claims made by the parties. The NEC’s Hearing Officer and the Board of Commissioners refused LP and UP’s request, thus prompting the bill of exception before the Supreme Court.
By Winston W. Parley