Liberia: Election Observation Group Hints Coercion, Intimidation in Just Ended By-Elections

Monrovia — The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) has declared that the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government 'grossly' violated the Code of Conduct during the just ended November 20, Sinoe County senatorial and Montserrado District #13 by-elections.

LEON in its post-election report also stated that government officials and CDC supporters were constantly involved in the acts of intimidation and coercion of voters especially, in Sinoe County.

LEON is a platform of four Liberian civil society organizations including, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and the National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD).

Addressing a news conference on Monday, November 26 in Monrovia, LEON said the government breached Article 5.1 Code of Conduct which bars all officials from using government properties during political campaigns.

Article 5.1 of the Code of Conduct states that "All officials appointed by the President of the Republic shall not engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices; use government facilities, equipment or resources in support partisan or political activities and Serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate."

In the statement read by Naomi Harris, President of NUOD on behalf of the election observation group, the group claimed that CDC officials on election day tried to interfere in the process and influence the voters at seven precincts in Sinoe in favor of their candidate, Augustine Chea who was running against three other contenders, including Romeo Quioh of the United People Party (UPP), Kiahn Gboloh Jarbah of Victory for Liberia's Transformation (VOLT), Othello Doe Nagbe of CLP.

The statement: "LEON is appalled by the high level of coercion, intimidation and interference from government officials in Sinoe. LEON observed serious incidents of coercion and intimidation at seven polling precincts by CDC government. These included campaigning and instructing voters who to vote for... "

"At Karquekpo Town Hall, precinct 30911, local government officials were also campaigning for CDC and there were reports of Assistant Superintendent for Fiscal Affairs going from place to place coercing people to vote at Jedeadpo Magisterial district."

Error Over Counting and Results Tallying in Sinoe

According to LEON, counting in both elections was well conducted at the polling places that its observers were deployed; however, during counting presiding officers did not complete the worksheets correctly at five polling places in Montserrado and 15 polling centers in Sinoe County.

This, the group said, led to some party agents' refusal to affix their signature to the result protocols.

On the first day of the tally in Sinoe, LEON in its report claimed that its observers witnessed the County Superintendent dressed in an army-like uniform with a convoy of three pick-up filled with CDC supporters heading towards the tally center in Greenville at 11:am; however, the group noted that with the help of the Liberia National Police, the convoy was intercepted and made to turn back.

The group condemned the superintendent's action; noting that someone in such high office should not be engaging in activities that are likely to cause tensions or that are in breach of the law.

In Sinoe County, the group recorded that precinct 39054 PP#1 in Jarpuken Public School in Jedeapo Statutory District was quarantined because more votes were recorded than the actual number of voters recorded on the voter registration roll; however, a recount was conducted, and the error was rectified.

But the CLP and the UPP have refused to accept the results from Jeadepo Stautory District citing late arrival of voter material and the alleged meddling of Sinoe County Assistant Superintendent of Fiscal Affair in the electoral process in the area.

The group further recorded series of errors during the counting and tallying but noted they were not enough to change the overall result of the election in Sinoe.

It recommended that the series of errors indicated that more times needed to be devoted to training of polling staff on counting procedures.

Recommendations

Meanwhile, the election observation group, in its recommendations called on the National Elections Commission to speedily investigate the complaints emanating from the November 20 by-election in Montserrado and Sinoe Counties, called on the LNP to investigate the November 17 campaign violence between supporters of the CDC and UP candidates in Montserrado District #13.

The group also called noted that it is troubled by the gross disrespect for the Code of Conduct in the just ended elections and petitioned the government to ensure that all laws are respected.

Meanwhile, the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) has declared Cllr. Augustine Chea of the Coalition for Democratic Change, CDC as the winner of the Sinoe senatorial by-election despite earlier claims of ballot stuffing.

The Board of Commissioners, through its Chairperson, Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya said the decision follows an investigation conducted by its Magisterial team in Greenville City after its system detected that at polling place #1, with precinct code 39054, Jarpuken Pulbic School, the number of votes recorded on the record of count exceeded the number of registered voters at that polling place.

The NEC had earlier declared Edward P. Flomo as the winner of the Montserrado District #13 polls.

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