IANSA members monitor elections in Liberia

Thanks to Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons for sharing this update:  

2011 Election Update: Liberia

Background

Liberians lined up in the rain Tuesday October 11, 2011 to vote in the country’s second presidential election since the end of a bloody civil war in 2003. Sixteen (16) candidates representing an equal number of political parties are vying for the presidency, including incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the ruling Unity Party. Ninety-nine (99) candidates are vying for 15 senatorial seats, while 793 are vying for 73 seats in the House of Representatives.

Preliminary Progressive Results

The Fourth Preliminary Progressive Results from the just ended October 11, 2011 presidential and legislative elections announced by the National Elections Commission (NEC) put incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the lead with 44.0% of the total votes received from 4311 of 4457 (96.7%) Polling Places as of 5:00 PM 16 Oct 2011. The NEC has reported a turnout of 1,243,233 (71.4%) out of the 1.7 million registered voters.

According to NEC’s Chairman James Fromayan, Pres. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the ruling Unity Party (UP) received 511,796 or 44% of the total valid votes cast and announced, while her closest rival Winston A. TUBMAN of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) received 374,610 votes or 32.2%. Surprised candidate Prince Y. Johnson of the National Union for Democratic Progress (NUDP) followed with 136,819 votes or 11.8%.

Addressing a news conference in Monrovia recently, National Elections Commission Chair, James Fromayan, announced that judging from the number of votes counted so far, no presidential candidate in the October 11 elections is poised to obtain absolute majority of 50 percent plus one of the total valid votes cast to be declared winner in the first round of the elections as required under the Liberian Constitution.

Post-Election Violence and Threats

Since the close of polling, residents of Monrovia and its suburbs have been reporting incidents of intimidation and threats of violence by unnamed political actors and individuals. The ruling Unity Party on Friday reported the burning of its District #6 office in Paynesville outside Monrovia , which according to the party has left two persons injured. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has directed national law enforcement officials to "vigorously investigate the crime", and urged her partisans to remain calm while the incident is investigated.

In another post-election violence, the offices of the Love TV/FM were razed by unknown men who allegedly threw petrol bomb into the building. The proprietor of Love FM, former Police Director Paul Mulbah told reporters in Monrovia that the technical studio that housed tools and television sets were damaged in the attack. Mr. Mulbah has pointed accusing fingers at the opposition for the burning of the station.

This latest petrol bomb attack brings to four the number of arson attacks during post-election violence. In September this year, a car belonging to Unity Deputy Campaign Manager, Mr. Eugene Nagbe was burnt completely with a petrol bomb allegedly thrown by unknown persons. Another petrol bomb was allegedly thrown at a car belonging to Mr. Alexander Suah, a legislative candidate of the Unity Party in district #5 of Montserrado County . Police spokesman George Bardue says police are pursuing suspects but that no arrests have been made to date.

Meanwhile, tensions are increasing between incumbent lawmaker Regina Sokan-Teah, who is running on the ticket of the National Democratic Coalition (NDC), and her rival from Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Pauline Weah-Nyanford in Montserrado County Electoral District #14. Representative Regina Sokan-Teah, formerly of the CDC, has accused her challenger Pauline Weah-Nyanford of inciting supporters to carry out violence against her (Sokan-Teah).

Riot police have reportedly arrested and detained five persons over alleged disorderly conduct in connection with the incidents. 

Opposition Parties Pull Out of Presidential Poll

A group of Liberian opposition parties said last Saturday they were pulling out of the recent presidential poll and threatened to refuse the results over allegations that election officials were skewing the outcome in favor of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Saturday's statement was signed by eight political parties, including the CDC of second-place challenger Winston Tubman and NUDP of third-place contender Prince Johnson. In the statement, the group claimed "massive fraud being carried out by the National Elections Commission in the handling and reporting of the presidential election results in favor of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Unity Party."

In a turn of events, however, one of the main contenders in Liberia ’s presidential poll, Winston Tubman, later told the BBC that he is prepared to take part in any second-round run-off vote. “We will participate in the run-off because we believe that the figures as they have emerged do not allow for anyone to win the first round”, he told the BBC’s News Hour programme. Other opposition presidential candidates have also rescinded their decision to pull out the poll.

Condemnation of Post-Election Violence and Threats

In the wake of Saturday’s statement by opposition political parties and reports of repeated violence, the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) - a coalition of civil society organizations working in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), has issued a press release strongly condemning post-election violence and recent disturbing public statements made by certain politicians. “These statements are inflammatory and may preempt the outcome of the ongoing collation of results by the NEC. This has the potential to undermine the entire electoral process and the gains made thus far in strengthening democracy and maintaining peace and stability in Liberia . During this critical period of the electoral process, the ECC urges all political parties and candidates to maintain the peace, and wait for NEC to release the final results. Any grievances thereafter should be addressed according to law and through the NEC as the initial course of redress. In the interim, they should refrain from making public statements that could incite violence and undermine the credibility of the elections that have been effectively administered thus far” states the ECC in its press release.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, has also warned Liberian politicians of election violence. Mr. Ocampo's office in The Hague says it is closely monitoring election related developments following the declaration Saturday by nine opposition parties to pull out of the electoral process. "We will pay close attention to the actions and statements of the political class, and in particular to the presidential candidates, including after the elections. Resorting to violence will not be tolerated", a statement from the ICC warned.

Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons (LUEHW) has also condemned recent acts of post-election violence in the country. “Politicians must be mindful that we (Liberians) are not prepared to be plunged into another brutal civil conflict. Already, the country is grappling with the problems of illicit small arms, gender-based violence and cross-border insecurity. Post-election violence and threats of violence must be stopped now”, says Kerian Pelenah, Program Manager of Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons (LUEHW).

Conclusion

The final results of the presidential and legislative elections are expected to be announced on Oct. 26, with a possible presidential run-off on November 8. The 2011 elections, which follow 14 years of civil conflict, are seen as crucial to maintaining and consolidating the peace in Liberia .