After 25 years of turmoil and 14 years of civil war, yesterday's election was a victory for the Liberian people and an important step towards finding the reconciliation and opportunity that the Liberian people deserve.
The International Republican Institute's (IRI) election observation delegation has collectively observed more than 50 national elections worldwide and monitored more than 90 polling sites throughout Liberia including one camp for internally displaced persons. While the results of the Liberian elections are still preliminary, IRI observation teams found the October 11 elections to be peaceful, with an overwhelming turnout among Liberian registered voters. Liberians stood in long lines for hours in an orderly and respectful way before casting their votes for the future.
IRI observers witnessed Liberian election officials as well-trained, knowledgeable, professional and serious-minded in the execution of their responsibilities. Voting at many sites began late due to a delay in delivery of ballots and other voting applies. However, polling station proceedings were overall orderly, methodical and in compliance with election laws. The National Elections Commission (NEC) should be commended for addressing problems by issuing a midmorning Election Day statement to accommodate the exceedingly long lines of Liberians patiently waiting to vote, and to alleviate confusion over marking ballots. Despite this, IRI observers did note that many voters had not been educated about the voting process and that NEC officials at times went behind voting booths to explain the voting process, which runs contrary to election procedure.
IRI observed that the large numbers of observers from political parties and civil society at every polling station were critical to the transparency and legitimacy of this election and public trust in the process. In particular, the counting process at election stations was done meticulously and adhered to NEC procedures, allowing ample transparency for the many domestic and international observers and contributing to the public confidence.
The presence of the United Nations Mission in Liberia and Liberian national police, which have contributed to stability nationwide, provided confidence of security for voters.
IRI's delegation does express some concern regarding reports from civil society groups that money or other inducements have been offered to secure votes prior to Election Day. However, IRI saw no evidence of such transactions.
IRI observation teams note that in the coming days during which the tally will be finalized, it is important for all candidates to work towards inclusion and avoid disruption to enable the Liberian people to move towards a possible run-off election.
Everyone with an interest in a brighter future for Liberia should be encouraged by the step taken by the Liberian people to build a sustainable democracy. IRI looks forward to fielding another election observation team to observe the transparency of the election process should a run-off occur.
IRI's delegation was led by IRI board member Ambassador Richard S. Williamson, former U.S. State Department Representative for Special Political Affairs to the United Nations; and Constance Berry Newman, former Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs. Other delegates were The Honorable Maimuna Adaji, Member of Parliament of Nigeria for Kwara State; Donald Bogue, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Command Audio Corporation; Geoffrey S. Connor, Attorney, Jackson Walker, LLP, and Founder, Texas Global, LLP; Nicolas Cook, Specialist on African affairs, U.S. Congressional Research Service; Eric Dell, Chief of Staff and Counsel, Office of Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-2); Dr. Kwesi Jonah, acting head, Governance Center at the Institute for Economic Affairs in Ghana; Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director, William R. Nelson Institute for Public Affairs, James Madison University; Gregory Simpkins, Professional Staff Member, U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations; Richard J. Wall, Managing Partner, O'Donnel Waiss, Wall and Meschke; and The Honorable Noah Wekesa, Member of Parliament of Kenya for Kwanza constituency.
IRI staff also served as monitors and assisted in the mission. IRI staff was led by Judy Van Rest, Executive Vice President of IRI, Jeffrey Krilla, Regional Director for IRI's Africa division and Xav Hagen, Country Director for Liberia.
In May 2004, IRI established an office in Liberia to provide capacity building and other resources to political parties to prepare them for the October 11 elections. Earlier this year, IRI fielded a pre-election assessment mission to observe the progress of voter registration and the overall election environment.
IRI has monitored more than 160 elections worldwide since 1983.