To Support NEC’s CVE Effort:  CSO Council Requests Invalid Ballots

To address the staggering number of 114,639 invalid votes which represented 5.88 percent of the total votes, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) has pledged its patriotic support to the National Elections Commission (NEC) to buttress in the area of Civic Voters’ Education (CVE) across the country.

The presidential run-off, which is scheduled for November 14, is between President George Manneh Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai of the main opposition Unity Party (UP).

The run-off is triggered by the failure of the two main candidates to satisfy Article 83(b) of the Liberian Constitution. Article 83(b) of the Liberian Constitution – organic law of the country states that: “All elections of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second ballot shall be conducted on the second Tuesday following. The two candidates who received the greatest numbers of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the run-off election.”

According to the Commission, President Weah of the ruling CDC obtained 804,087 amounting to 43.83 percent of the total votes, while main opposition leader Boakai of the UP got 796,961 votes representing 43.44%, according to tallied results from 100% of polling places.

And so, with the 20 political parties, most specifically the two forerunners, falling short of Article 83(b) of the Liberian Constitution, NEC on Tuesday, October 24, 2023, declared a presidential run-off between President Weah of the CDC and Mr. Boakai of the UP.

The October 10 process did not only result in a run-off; it also produced the highest number of invalid votes ever with rural Liberia producing the most. This has prompted the CSO Council, which is the apex body of all civil society organizations in the country, to announce the decision to complement the effort of the NEC in creating CVE awareness.

But in so doing, the Council has craved upon the Commission to share some of the invalid ballots with her (Council) to enable the Council to properly design CVE messages leveraging common mistakes by providing the needed information to the public ahead of the pending Presidential Run-off election in an attempt to curb the high number of invalid votes.

NCSCL in a statement issued at the weekend under the signature of Chairperson Madam Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai, pointed out that the need for CVE must be considered by the NEC as a key priority, and as such, the CSOs’ umbrella body is willing to contribute its quota to the national process.

“From what was reported by the NEC in the just ended 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections, the numbers constituting invalid votes are appalling and so the issue of CVE must be treated as a matter of urgency. Therefore, the National Civil Society Council takes this time to urge the National Elections Commission and its partners; both local and international, to boost the effort of CVE ahead of the November 14 Presidential run-off election,” said the Council.

“This needs to be done across the country and all sectors using different platforms and approaches to touch base with every Liberian including marginalized groups. As a Council, we are willing to offer our service to buttress this initiative, but we are calling on the Commission to share some of those invalid ballots with us so that we can in turn give the people  clearer picture of what constitutes invalid while providing the awareness,” NCSCL furthered.

At the same time, in a bid to ensure the peacefulness of the ensuing process, the Council urges the CDC and UP to control their respective zealots in line with the Farmington River Declaration.

NCSCL maintains that this will further help to avoid the recurrence of the violent clashes that ensued during the general process including the bloody clashes between supporters of the CDC and All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP) and the Foya incident between the CDC and UP, both of which resulted to the loss of lives, injuries and damages of properties.

“Liberia is the only nation that we, as Liberians, have to live. As we head towards the last crucial democratic process, the joint security, including the CDC and UP must take charge of the peace and security of this country, which is above all else.”

The Council also called on the joint security and NEC to investigate allegations of voter card buying by the CDC in counties such as Nimba, Bong, Lofa, and Gbarpolu.

Also, in the same vein, the Council wants NEC to carry out early preparation for the November 14 process by endeavoring to transport all sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the various polling precincts and places in a timely manner.

“If possible, these materials should be protected against damage and additional costs, especially in cross-river communities. The NEC temporal staff managing the elections at the various polling precincts and polling places should be given the needed incentives timely to be more committed to this national duty,” NCSCL added.

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