1 August 2018

Liberia: Voters Protest

Photo: Boakai Fofana/AllAfrica
(File photo).

Liberians have voted in very poor by - elections conducted in Montserrado and Bong Counties to fill two vacant seats left in the Liberian Senate by President George Manneh Weah and his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor after the last presidency in December.

Polling centers visited on Bushrod Island on Tuesday, 31 July were extremely empty with just very few voters turning out to cast their ballots.The delayed by - election process seems not to have attracted many voters this time, after government's failure to provide funding in time to meet constitutional deadline and conduct the election in May.

Voters who may have been trucked to other counties to vote but reside in Montserrado County may have also contributed to the acutely low turnout witnessed here Tuesday.

In the December presidential runoff won by Mr. Weah, the NEC recorded over half million (508,080) voters in Montserrado County alone, while it also recorded 113,517 as the turnout for Bong County at the time.

Part of the problem for the poor turnout may be criticism against the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) for its decision to push two sitting representatives to contest in these by - elections while it still struggles for money.

Just few days to voting, President Weah told his supporters to ensure that CDC's Montserrado County Rep. Saah Joseph and Bong County Rep. Melvin Cole win the elections to replace he and his Vice President.

In a chat with Polling Officer Mr. Christopher M. Siepoe at the Royal Foundation Daycare in Clara Town at 4pm Tuesday, he described the turn out there as "very poor."

According to him, 300 voters were expected to cast their ballots at his polling place, but just 55 persons had already voted at the time this paper visited there.Another Polling Officer Mr. Abdullah S. Freeman says the process has been very slow due to the low turnout.

The ruling CDC, opposition Unity Party (UP) and some independent candidates' representatives were seen at some of these polling places.NEC workers say police officers were assigned to ensure that security is maintained throughout the process.

Rep. Joseph is in the race against Bernard 'DJ Blue' Benson, Jr., former Montserrado County Rep. Josephine George Francis, Finley Y. Karngar, Mark Augustine Keshen, sitting Montserrado County Rep. Yekeh Yarkpaworlue Kolubah and Michael Doe Tipayson.

In Bong, Rep. Cole is in the race against, Fairnoh Theo Gbilah, Prince Togar Kollie, former Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Henrique Flomo Tokpa and Orando Koimene Zarwolo. Meanwhile, other voters have claimed lack of sufficient awareness as reason for the low turnout, as Bridgett Milton & Ethel A. Tweh, report.

Some voters say lack of sufficient awareness has contributed to the very poor turnout in Tuesday's by - elections in Montserrado and Bong Counties.Liberians voted to fill vacant seats left in the Senate following President George Manneh Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor's ascendancy to the presidency.

But the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is supporting two of its sitting representatives Saah Joseph and Melvin Cole in the polls.There might be another by - election if CDC candidates win both seats.

Senatorial candidate Cllr. Finley Y. Karngar told this paper on Tuesday that the process was very peaceful, but turnout was low.He says he expected the low turnout at polling centers because the government did not live up to its promise to encourage people to vote.

According to Cllr. Karnga, most people are very frustrated and did not have interest in the process.He observes that there was no publicity done for the election and most of the people in government today did not live up to what they tell their people.

Also speaking to this paper at the Kebbah Community Public School in Barnersville, a lady identified as Amie Nagbe says she never knew that Tuesday was Election Day.

"My daughter, I never knew that today was Election Day. This morning, I was getting ready to go [and] sell when my son told me that today is holiday and he said we should vote. I just came to vote because he reminded me," Amie told our reporter at Kebbah.

There was poor turnout in Montserrado County and polling stations in District #11 were seen as ghost camps.People went about their normal business in the area despite government having announced a holiday in Montserrado and Bong for Tuesday's elections.

At the New Life Ministry Polling Station in Barnersville, Jacob Zaybay says Tuesday's election was not encouraging at all."I want to believe that most people did not show up to vote because they were not in the know and moreover, they never had interest in the elections. I just came to vote because I am a diehard member of my party so I came to show loyalty," Jacob says.

But Chris Kortu of the Bend and Stop Community says he was not voting due to lack of interest in the election."Those people that are running just want to enrich themselves but they do not love this country. Some of them we haven't heard their names until during this election. It is better for me to do the thing that will please me or give me money than to go vote," Kortu says.

In Montserrado County District # 17, some residents told this paper that there is no need to vote because there is no development.According to Hawa Davies of the Parker's Corner Community in Brewerville, she has been voting for Senators in the county, but the elected officials would turn their back on the people when there is a need.

National Elections Commission (NEC) workers were seen outside of polling centers in group awaiting voters.A voter identified as Garley Summerville says the voting process was very cool because she did not have to stand in line

She wants whoever wins that by - election to focus on the education sector.She urges those staying away from the process to go and vote for the betterment of the country.

--Edited by Winston W. Parley, additional editing by Othello B. Garblah

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