LEON commends ECOWAS for responding to the request of the NEC for a technical support team to evaluate the extent of problems with the Final Registration Roll and to then return at short notice to assist and advise on the implementation of the Supreme Court Ruling of 7th December2017.
LEON also welcomes the landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Liberia on the allegations of fraud in the October 10, 2017 Presidential and Representatives elections and for the subsequent fixing the date for the run-off election by the National Elections Commission (NEC). Together this has brought immense relief to all Liberians who must be commended for their calm during this period.
LEON would also like to thank Unity and Liberty parties for going to the court with their concerns rather than resorting to violence. This shift to using the legal process to resolve concerns is an important break with past practices.
We also note that due process was afforded the complainants throughout the hearings and appeals processes which were conducted in line with the provisions set in the Liberian New Elections Law.
LEON has continued to observe and has been following the hearings and appeals. Additionally, Long Term Observers (LTOs) continue to report from around the country. They conducted a survey of 826 people between November 30 and December 12, to ascertain their level of understanding and reactions to the legal challenges on which a short report is attached.
The delay has been a litmus test to the resilience and commitment of the people of Liberia to the current peace. However, LTOs noted that the atmosphere from around the country was completely calm, even more than during the campaign period. This is noteworthy considering that 70% of survey respondents said that the delays had effected their family very much and 71% thought it had affected the country to a large degree. 80% of respondents wanted to go to a run off after complaints were decided and not to have further delays.
LEON therefore encourages the stakeholders in the process to move forward to the run-off a positive and cooperative manner so as to avoid further anxiety for Liberian citizens.
LEON would like to point out that the Supreme Court found that ‘whilst there were some irregularities and violations of the New Elections Law…there is no evidence to show that those violations were in such magnitude that they rose to such a level to warrant setting aside the results of the Presidential and Representative Elections held on October 10, 2017.’
This is very much in line with LEON’s findings as reported in our various election day and post-election statements. We point out that LEON LTOs conducted a person to list audit of the voter register during the week of exhibition of the Provisional Registration Roll (PRR) and found that only 4.1% of names were missing at that stage but that most of the missing people were from a small number of voter registration centers – which have now become polling places.
The NEC have informed the public that they went through the PRR several times checking that addresses and precinct numbers matched and manually reassigning voters to the correct polling precinct.
Thus the figure of people wrongly assigned is likely to have been substantially lowered during this process.
Prior to finalization of the Registration Roll the NEC has stated that they also searched for people who had registered more than once and deleted 4,567 registrants where it was obvious that the photograph was the same. As the ECOWAS Technical Support Team report notes, people who registered more than once but with very different names could be missed during this manual process.
However, on Election Day, LEON had over 1200 observer’s stations in polling place around the country. They noted that the inking the voters thumb and checking for ink was done consistently in 95% of the polling places observed, thus preventing any people who did still have more than one voter card from voting more than once.
Following the Supreme Court Ruling 7th November 2017, the NEC invited the ECOWAS technical Support team back to advise and verify the cleanup of the Registration Roll. This includes both a verification of some suspect multiple registrants where the photographic evidence was not so clear, and an assignment of new voter ID card numbers to 510 voters necessitated by them having the same number as other voters already on the Registration Roll. LEON welcomes this decision.
Furthermore the NEC and ECOWAS team held a consultative meeting with the Political Parties on 15th September to explain their plans for the clean up and to invite the parties to nominate one or two people to come to witness the steps taken to comply with the Supreme Court Order. These steps include a further de duplication exercise.
LEON encourages the National Elections Commission to continue comply with the orders of the Supreme Court in an open and consultative manner, including display of the FRR at Polling Precincts at least two days ahead of the election to allow citizens sufficient time to check their names in accordance with article 3.11(2 . a) of the New Elections Law and to keep the public informed of all steps in order to deliver a credible run-off that would make Liberians proud.
Liberians cannot afford to go through another period of anxiety as we did while we awaited the outcome of the current challenge from the Supreme Court.
The Parties should also proceed in good faith and accept the Supreme Court’s ruling. The ruling states that there was no evidence that ‘the fraud and irregularities complained of and shown by the testimonies of the witnesses were limited to the generality of the elections rather than indications of widespread or intentional gross conspiracy conduct by the NEC as an institution.’
LEON findings concur with this ruling since observers found no irregularities in 92.5% of polling stations observed on October 10. We note that the NEC is run by Liberians with less support from the international community than before and that there needs to be some acknowledgement of this as a step forward but also the challenges that it faces.
However, it must also be stressed that there are international technical advisers to the NEC who are helping ensure that election procedures are in conformity with international standards and good practices for elections.
The parties should use this time to ensure that they have well training poll watchers at every precinct who understand the procedures and can file complaints if necessary so that the parties can be specific if they have any future cause for action. The NEC should also investigate all such complaints to the fullest extent.
As the parties re commence their campaigns, LEON hopes that they will tell their supporters to stay calm and that the campaigns do not employ hate speech or personal attacks.
LEON observers will be observing the run-off election and issuing reports as before. Long term observers will continue observing the campaigns and will also be observing training of polling staff next week and verifying that the FRR is exhibited at all precincts.
Lastly, but importantly, LEON would like to thank the international partners, UNDP, IFES, The EU, Sweden and USAID, who have supported the election processes with technical advisors and funding.
LEON AS AN OBSERVATION NETWORK:
The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) is a platform of four Liberian Civil Society Organizations: The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD) with the goal to meaningfully contribute to the democratization process in Liberia by providing an avenue for civil society to participate in monitoring and observing the 2017 elections.
LEON has 133 observers who have been stationed around the country since June, observing all aspects of the electoral process. They will continue to monitor the campaign and preparations for the run-off election. LEON had a further 1000 short term observers who were stationed in polling places in all electoral districts on the October 10 election day and who will also observe the runoff election.
Mr. Amos Williams
LEON, National Secretariat
C/o Federation of Liberian Youth
(+231) 886403666 / 776