Head of the ECOWAS 71-member Election Observation Mission to Liberia, John Mahama has commended Liberians for seizing the opportunity of the October 10 crucial elections to “exercise their sovereign right to decide who leads them.”
“This Mission believes thus far, that with the environment in the lead up to the elections, voting day activities, sorting and counting of the ballots, Liberia is on track to achieve a credible poll,” Mahama, Ghana’s immediate-past President said in Monrovia on Wednesday while reading the Mission’s Preliminary Declaration on Tuesday’s presidential and legislative elections.
By Thursday, results of the polls were being expected from across Liberia’s 15 administrative Counties, where some 2.18 million registered voters cast their ballots in a generally peaceful environment.
The ECOWAS Mission urged Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC), “to approach the concluding phases of the process with fairness and transparency until the proclamation of the results.”
It also called “on the political leaders, the candidates, their followers and the media to maintain the same posture of restraint, serenity and patriotism until the collation and announcement of the results.”
“The ECOWAS Observation Mission urges NEC to expedite action on the proclamation of the provisional results to prevent further anxiety with the polity,” Mahama urged.
“In light of the few challenges identified by the ECOWAS Observers in the field,” the Mission made seven recommendations, including the need for relevant and early training of electoral officials, and provision of adequate financial resources to NEC in a timely manner to facilitate its operations.
The ECOWAS Mission also recommended timely voter verification exercise to be conducted by NEC in accordance with the law, to enhance voter identification; improvement in the Final Registration Roll (FRR) by arranging names in alphabetical order and ensuring that photos match serial numbers of voters.
There should also improvement in the provision for vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, nursing mothers, persons with disability and the aged, by giving them priority to cast their votes, the Declaration said.
The Mission “noted with concern the isolated cases of violence during the electoral process in some parts of the country,” and commended the security forces, especially the Liberia National Police for arresting the situation.
It specifically congratulated the NEC leadership and officials for the “professionalism demonstrated throughout the electoral process,” and also lauded the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for its support to NEC, particularly with the airlift of electoral material to Counties that are inaccessible by road.
The Mission equally “congratulated the candidates, their parties, supporters and the electorate for their maturity during the campaign and the voting process.”
It appealed to all candidates to put Liberia first by maintaining peace, and “to gracefully accept the will of the people and in the event of genuine grievances to resort exclusively to legal means to seek redress.”
Among dignitaries at the event, were the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Liberia Farid Sarif, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Head of the African Union Observation Mission to Liberia Erastus Mwencha, and Prof. Mahmood Yakubu President of the governing board of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), and Chair of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
There were also representatives of other International Observer Groups, including the European Union (EU), Carter Center, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Mano River Union (MRU), and the Women’s Situation Room, working for peace and non-violent elections in Africa.
Twenty candidates – 17 sponsored by political parties including the only female, and three independent flag bearers, are seeking to replace out-going Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, while more than 980 candidates are contesting for the 73 parliamentary seats at stake through the October 10 elections.
Liberia has an estimated population of 4.5 million with 2.18 million registered voters and the elections were held in 2,080 Polling Precincts (Centres) with 5,390 Polling Places (Stations) nationwide.