Politics News

The heart stopper

All eyes and ears await the decision of the Supreme Court into the long running electoral dispute here this week, with uncertainty as to whether there will be a run-off or a re-run of the October 10 polls as being sought by the opposition Liberty Party supported by the ruling Unity Party.

The LP is seeking a re-run of the 10 October presidential and representatives’ elections citing fraud and irregularities. UP and the Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC were due for a run-off on November 7, but the Supreme Court placed a preemptory prohibition until the LP case before the National Elections Commission or NEC is disposed of.

NEC has ruled dismissing the fraud and irregularity claims by the LP and UP, but the LP took an appeal before the Supreme Court on November 28, 2017.

The superior court heard arguments from both parties on Friday reserving ruling this week.

LP says it wants a rerun of the entire polls, but UP emphasizes during arguments at the Supreme Court that if the Final Registration Roll (FRR) is corrupted, the entire exercise is corrupted, thus telling the Court that it wants the FRR to be sanitized.

The case has drawn public interest, with eager voters overcrowding the court over the weekend while others who could not make their way early into the jam – parked Supreme Court for the final debate between the protesting parties and the NEC waited outside.

In its appeal before the Supreme court, the 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.

The NEC says its witness Lighe produced unused ballot papers for both presidential and representatives in the 10 October elections which 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 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 which has already been argued and awaiting a final ruling.

By Winston W. Parley

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