5 October 2017

South Africa: NEC Approves ANC in Dispute With Up Over October 7 Rally Date

Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), has advised the Unity Party (UP), which has planned to conclude its campaign rallies on the 7th of October, to look at other options as the Alternative National Congress (ANC) is the party scheduled by NEC to hold a grand rally on that date. "In the interest of public safety, the NEC has informed the UP that it should look at other options for holding its rally," he said, noting that, "the Commission has written a letter to the UP asking them to reconsider their decision and we are certain that they will do the right thing in the interest of peace."

Speaking at the NEC regular press briefing yesterday, Cllr. Korkoya said the official campaign period ends on Sunday, October 8, at 11:59 p.m. and, going forward, including Tuesday October 10, no campaign will be allowed anywhere in the 43,000 square miles of the country. "Section 5.1b of the Regulations and Guidelines relating to political parties and independent candidates advises that all political campaigns end midnight on Sunday, 8 October 2017," he noted.

Addressing other electoral issues, Korkoya maintained that preparations for the holding of the elections as time-lined by the NEC are on course and will remain as announced. "The final batch of ballot papers for the House of Representatives is scheduled to arrive on today (October 4). The delay of bringing into the country remaining ballot papers was largely due to the irregular size of the ballot papers in few electoral districts in Montserrado County that have up to 28 candidates," he said, noting further that the problem has been resolved and all ballots are printed and will be in the country. The arrival of those final ballot papers, as noted by the NEC chair, concludes the procurement of external elections materials for these elections.

He said the deployment of elections materials is ongoing ad security for them is tight at all warehouses across the country.

"We are aware of news reports that some individuals, including some politicians, have questioned the integrity of our electoral systems in the media regarding the number of ballot papers printed. Although we have sufficiently addressed this question prior, the Commission would like to, once more, reassure political parties, all stakeholders and voters that there is no question related to the integrity of the number of ballot papers being deployed," he said. He added that printing contingency ballots are consistent with industry standard practice.

Korkoya assured the general public that there are full accountability mechanisms in place to account for every single ballot paper. "Every ballot paper will be accounted for at opening and closing of polling places. Those that will be used, not used and spoilt will be fully accounted for in a transparent and consistent manner," he emphasized.

He reported that the Commission has also taken delivery of a shipment of electronic equipment from South Africa including a set of photocopiers that is part of building a stronger institution. "I would like to thank the government and people of South Africa for this donation," he said, adding that the pieces of equipment were donated to the NEC through the kind request by President Sirleaf to the government of South Africa. "I would like to thank H.E. the President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for her formal request to the government of South Africa for these equipment on her official visit there," he said.

He said the training of 17,000 polling staffs, including presiding officers is ongoing across the country and will end on October 6 and 7.

He admonished all political parties, independent candidates and every other individual to keep it in their minds that it is only the NEC is clothed with the constitutional authority to announce official results of elections. "The NEC is also pleased with news reports that the campaign spokesperson of the CDC recognizes that the NEC is the only body in this country that has the powers to release official elections," he acknowleged.

Responding to reports about the commissioners' recent meeting with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her private residence, before she departed for the UN General Assembly in the US, Korkoya told reporters that there was no need for the public to harbor any fear ahead of the October polls.

"President Sirleaf is not a terrorist. She is still our sitting head of state, who has a fish to fry in these elections," Korkoya said.

He said the NEC's security, finances and logistics are provided by the national government, which is headed by the President, to whom respect is due.

"During the meeting," he said, "we pleaded with the President to meet with our magistrates, so she could reiterate her resounding call for transparency, credibility and fairness in these elections. Nothing more as speculations out there may have it. I say it makes no sense for someone to think that we have been intimidated or influenced by Madam Sirleaf to do anything negative with these elections," he noted.

For his part, a member of the Board of Commissioners, Boakai Dukuly said if Liberians continue to not trust themselves as a nation that good things can happen, it means that the nation is headed to nowhere.

"If we don't have confidence in ourselves that we can be like the Ghanaians, Americans and others we so dearly respect here, we will not build this country," he said.

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