Liberia: NEC Addresses Media Reports

Authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) have cautioned journalists to double check the information or apply a bit of due diligence to their story before publication. The NEC statement comes in the wake of concerns expressed by the four collaborating political parties -- Unity Party, Alternative National Congress, All Liberian Party and Liberty Party -- that the NEC might be secretly registering voters in order to increase the number of votes in favor of candidates on the ticket of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

The Commission has meanwhile called on journalists and those accusing it of wrong doing to give due diligence to fact finding.

"But what this Commission has to say is that those reports and assertions are false and that the public should not take them serious," NEC chairman, Jerome George Kokoya told a news conference in Monrovia.

"That story has no basis in fact; it is false and a dangerous attempt to undermine the electoral process and expose the Commission to public disrepute," he added.

He said NEC does not operate in secrecy and, as such, whosoever wants information on any of its operations should visit the Commission's offices and he/she will get the needed answers.

"Independent foreign partners are closely monitoring our activities and, apart from that, this Commission, under the law, is open to all political actors and citizens or residents with important concerns," he said.

About the replacement of lost and damaged voter cards, Kokoya said NEC is obliged by law to replace all voters' cards that have been damaged or missing before the conduct of any by-election.

He said no new voters' cards were printed for anyone as alleged recently by politicians and some journalists.

On the need for those who lost or damaged their voters' cards to pay US$5, the NEC said it is granted under the new elections law of Liberia, and as such, people who are claiming that the Commission attempted to exploit the electorates were in complete error, and should see the need to investigate the truth for themselves.

"Under the law, as recorded in Section 3.5 (2) of the New Elections Law of Liberia, it says in the event of loss or destruction of voter registration cards after proof has been established, the registrar shall issue a new card for a minimum fee of $5 to be paid in the internal revenue.

Korkoya however said that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) promised to pay for all lost and damaged cards.

"It is the NEC that appealed to the Finance Ministry to facilitate the payment for the lost voter cards, since most of those who showed up to replace their cards did not have money to pay, so those who showed up to be registered the date for the exercise was expired, were denied," he said.

He said that the Commission's extension of the voter cards' replacement period was legally done on the basis to serve all those, who were not served earlier.

"The registrars were overwhelmed by the presence of a huge number of people who wanted their lost or damaged cards replaced. They were not from a particular political camp, but from many parts of the country as citizens qualified by law to get their lost voting cards replaced," he said.

Korkoya said the total number of 1,649 lost and damaged cards were replaced during the last exercise.

"Of the 1,649 cards replaced, 573 came from the Brewerville Election Magistrate's office; 337 from the NEC Bentol's office, while 739 cards were replaced here at the Sinkor NEC Headquarters for the pending by-elections," he said.

He said only individuals whose names were found on the 2017 final registration roll (FRR) were considered for the replacement of lost voters' cards exercise.

Of the 2,183,268 voters registered in 2017 nationwide, 778,291 are from Montserrado County. The number of registered voters in Montserrado Electoral District #15 is 39,005.

"Montserrado has 488 precinct centers and, of this number, 31 are in Montserrado Electoral District #15," Kokoya said.

He added that the voter roll for each center in Montserrado in general and in District #15 will be posted for public viewing by all qualified voters.

He said in the soonest possible time, the Commission will announce the date on which the pending by-elections will be held.

"We are very certain that the date to be announced will not be changed as done with the previous dates, due to certain challenges. Meanwhile campaigns can continue until the Commission announces the next official date for the elections," he said.

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