By Lewis S Teh
The Observation Mission of the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS, says the November 14, 2023, Presidential Runoff Election between incumbent President George Manneh Weah and former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai has sharply divided the Liberian society.
ECOWAS stresses a need to urgently address the situation.
“The ECOWAS Observation Mission notes that the electoral process has exposed the Liberian society as sharply divided and requires urgent steps to foster greater inclusivity governance, social cohesion and national unity, by whoever emerges victorious in the runoff election”, the regional body further underscores.
The Observation Mission head, Professor Attahiru Jega, in a news conference in Monrovia Thursday, November 16, 2023 commended Liberian electorates for exercising patience and a sense of patriotism during the electoral process and urged a same display of high sense of maturity, whilst awaiting the official announcement of results by the national elections commission.
According to Professor Jega, on Election Day, the Mission deployed 80 observers, grouped into 36 teams across the entire country, detailing that the team visited a total of 847 polling stations spread across both urban (56%) and rural areas (44%) in all of Liberia’s 15 counties.
Official consolidated election results released by the national elections commission on Thursday, 16 November shows that main opposition candidate Joseph Boakai, received 712,741 of total votes tallied so far, constituting 50.57 percent, while incumbent President Weah trails with 696,520 votes, translating in 49.47 percent, in Tuesday’s runoff.
However, Professor Jega says the team reported that they witnessed the start of poll at 47 polling stations, and that generally, all the 47 polling stations visited opened within half an hour of the official opening time of 8am, adding that no significant delays were recorded at the start of the polls.
The team also observed a rather faster processing of voters than what transpired during the general elections on October 10 polls, noting that on the average, it took about two minutes to process voters from issuance of ballot papers to casting of ballots.
He describes atmosphere at the polling stations as generally peaceful, with security agents present in 95.74% of the polling stations visited.
Professor Jefa names Barclayville Central High School in Topoh, Grand Kru county; Bassa High School, Bonjeh Public School, Dewoin in Bomi county, Dorothy Cooper High School; Gbarnga, Jorquelleh, Bong county; Johnny Voker School Polling Station, Saclepea, District#7, lower Nimba county; Sosomolahun Public School, and St. Agnes Catholic School in Kolahun, Lofa county, as places the mission didn’t notice security presence.
He discloses that all polling stations visited were set up in a way that guaranteed the secrecy of the ballot, and that generally, voters were required to present their voter’s ID cards in order to cast ballots, saying in 16 polling stations visited represented, observers witnessed that voters were allowed to vote despite their names not being on the registry at those stations.
He notes that some of the people, who were allowed that dispensation included polling staff and security personnel on duty, as well as drivers of international observers in compliance with the national elections commission manual on polling process.
Meanwhile, the Mission urges the two candidates, their political alliances, and supporters to be guided by the spirit of national unity, peace and stability, and adhere to expressed commitment made within the framework of the Revised Farmington River Declaration, saying in this regard the mission appeals to all stakeholders to refrain from acts of incitement that would undermine the peace.
It also urges the national elections commission to diligently work to ensuring the timely and transparent release of results, to consolidate the enviable gains made in the handling of the October 10, 2023 general elections in a way that will ensure stability of the country.
It says winners of the polls should remain magnanimous in their victory and to be graciously conciliatory to forestall any breaches of the peace in order to maintain the stability of the country.
The ECOWAS Observation Mission’s preliminary results was witnessed by a cross section of dignitaries, including former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, ESIA observations mission head, Carter Center head of observation mission, and EU head of observation mission, among others. Editing by Jonathan Browne