JNB Spits Fire, Rejects Lofa By-Election Results -Wants NEC Board of Commissioners “Scrapped and Replaced”

MONROVIA – Former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and Standard Bearer of the Unity Party, Joseph Nyuma Boakai yesterday, Tuesday, July 5, 2022 made a bold statement on the outcome of the just concluded Lofa County Senatorial bye elections, when he called for the scrapping  of the current Board of the National Elections Commission as constituted to be replaced by “a competent and partisan free NEC to prepare for 2023 general and presidential elections” while rejecting the entire results as not being representative of the wishes of the people of Lofa County and alerting NEC that the party’s legal team will be communicating with the electoral body to state its final position on the bye election.

Delivering the response of the party in a prepared statement read at the National Headquarters of the Party on Broad Street, Mr. Boakai who said from the reports submitted by representatives of the party, UP won 4 of the 5 districts declared that the conduct of the senatorial elections was marred by many irregularities, some of whom according to him were outright illegal actions that impacted the results and placed them into three main categories.

Under the first category which falls under the heading Pre-election malpractices, he said during the period leading up to the campaign, the National Elections Commission conducted the replacement of lost and damaged voter registration cards only in Voinjama and Kolahun and did not include the other three electoral districts which they demanded at the time that the National Elections Commissions extend the exercise throughout the county to allow full participation.

“This demand was not heeded and that action resulted into many Lofains not being able to participate in the election process. There has been no justification for this action from the NEC. The independent Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) has also highlighted this in their report. We believe this selective replacement of VR CARDS only in two districts leaving out the others disenfranchised many other legitimate voters in Lofa County”, he said.

The UP number partisan said the their second pre-election malpractice observation that was also noted with grave concern was the publication of the final voter roll on the eve of the elections. He said that the publication of the voter roll is intended to allow interested parties to observe several things, including names that were left out of the roll that should be there, names that were posted that should not be there, duplicated names, names without photographs or clear identification etc.

“The publication of the final voter roll on the eve of the elections means that there was no time to make corrections or to authenticate the roll. We see this as an abuse of power. It is the use of government authority with impurity, in order to put the opposition in a disadvantageous position since manipulation of the roll is made easier when no time is allowed for proper inspection”, he said.

On the elections day malpractices which was the second category of the irregularities, Boakai said the UP poll watchers observed that there were many voters with valid voter registration cards that were denied the right to vote because their names were not on the final voter roll, noting that this was also observed by independent observers of the elections. He said the practice in the past has been to allow these voters to cast their votes provisionally so that the votes are included after verification and said in most instances that was not done.

He said on the other hand, UP poll watchers also observed that selective voters with no voter registration cards were allowed to vote and that this resulted in inflation of the number of votes and made the elections unfair in at least thirty percent of the polling places.

“We also observed vote buying on elections day. Some politicians were interfering with the elections by offering to pay voters who took pictures of their votes and presented them as evidence of how they voted. This act is illegal and we call on the authorities to immediately investigate this and bring the perpetrators to justice. Unity Party offers to work along with this investigation in this regard.

“We also observed that on the day of the elections, there was an unusually heavy presence of armed officers of the Armed forces of Liberia and the Liberian National Police in Lofa County. The manner in which they conducted themselves was intimidating to the local people and it resulted in many voters shying away from the polls. Again, we point to the abuse of power by those in authority with the intent to impact the elections. The heavy presence of armed men was unprecedented and unnecessary and in our opinion only used to intimidate voters. We call on the authorities to justify this abuse of power”, he said.

Speaking further, Mr. Boakai also touched on the post elections incidents which was discussed under the third category of the irregularities and said that on Thursday, June 30, 2022, the National Elections Commission announced provisional results from the by-election where during the night hours of the same day, the results were posted on the website of the commission and that was posted shocked many Liberians and international observers. He said a very capable technical team from the party quickly observed some discrepancies in the results posted on NEC website.

Giving breakdown of the discrepancies, among others,  he said results from some centers, for example Foya Market Hall in District 1, were doubled thereby presenting more votes per candidate than the total number of registered voters, that results posted from many of the centers had candidates Joseph Kpator Jallah and Mariamu Fofana names appearing at least two times each and showing that they had gotten different vote totals at the same polling place and that candidates who contested in previous elections were also listed as having won votes in these elections even though they did not participate. Some candidates from 2020 were listed, and in one instance a candidate from 2011 was also listed.

Going further with the discrepancies, he said following an immediate highlighting on social media of the unimaginable results posted by the Elections Commission on its website by the technical team of UP and the resulting public outcry by Liberians in and out of Liberia, the National Elections Commission quickly shut down its website to the public. “Hours later when the website was restored, we saw that different results were posted. The NEC would later inform the public that there were attempts to hack its website” he said.

“In accordance with international electoral practice, a declaration of bulk election results is usually associated with rigged elections. To ensure transparency, election results should be disaggregated to enable the key stakeholders to obtain comprehensive information regarding the process. The bulk result announced by the NEC is a clear indication that there were somethings going on that were unusual. This is made more evident by the fact that the commission has up to fifteen days to announce the result. That is sufficient to make the announcement in detail as to polling place and number of votes per candidate.

“We continue to observe that the numbers published by the elections commission do not add up and that the totals and the percentages are not making sense. Members of the public have observed that attempts to print from the NEC website results in completely different information being printed. This has led us to believe that the information provided to the public could be different from the actual figures that the NEC has in its possession.

“We are greatly troubled by the NEC statement that there were attempts to hack its website beginning on the 30th of June when as a matter of fact the elections results were announced after this date. Was the hacking successful? Or was there any hacking at all? These are legitimate questions that we asked in light of all the things that have been done in these elections. We submit to you, fellow Liberians, that what was posted by the Commission on its website was the product of NEC itself and these efforts are geared towards changing the results of the election”, the former Vice President noted.

The politician who is generally regarded as the Father of Lofa County, said that the party could not list all of the many data-related glitches that it has uncovered but according to him these deliberate violations stated in the position statement of the party clearly cast doubts on the validity of the results announced by the National Elections Commission and undermine the sanctity, credibility and integrity of the votes cast in Lofa County on June 28, 2022.

“Unity Party and her allies take these many violations seriously as they have the effect of NEC selecting a Senator of Lofa County. How insulting to Lofa County!!! The people of Lofa county deserve better than an irregular and mistake-prone process presided over by the National Elections Commission. Over and over, we have questioned the credibility and capacity of this NEC to conduct free and fair elections in Liberia. Their open display of partisanship is also a troubling matter. We do not believe that the Commission as currently constituted can hold credible elections in Liberia in 2023”, he said.

“Our country has come through so much and cannot continue to trade peace with a disorderly election. We, therefore, ask our partisans, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, and all friends of Liberia to ensure the future of our country in this endeavor. Meanwhile, our legal team will be communicating with the National Election Commission to establish our final position on Lofa”

He had earlier in his address given narrative of the genesis of the bye election which came about as a result of what he called  the Supreme Court of Liberia’s imposition of hurdles on Brownie J. Samukai, who legitimately won the special senatorial election in 2020 and that since the period from 2020 to now, Lofa County has been without a second senator as authorities of the government have exerted all efforts to prevent Mr. Samukai from taking his seat.

“The seat was declared vacant through a process that was clearly not legitimate. The will of the people of Lofa was trampled upon and they were requested to choose again in the just-ended senatorial elections. Although we were not entirely happy with this arbitrary declaration of a vacant seat in Lofa, we nonetheless decided to participate in the process since our people had been without a senator for two years out of the nine-year term. We submitted the name of Hon Galakpai Kortimai as our candidate to take part in the elections. This was immediately objected to by our former allies who insisted that we could not field a candidate because of our previous disputed arrangements in the CPP. In order to get this cleared up, our legal team had to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Liberia. All of these obstacles were put in our way to prevent our full participation in the senatorial race and to prevent Unity Party from retaining the seat. We frown on this kind of political manipulation on the part of the authorities. Our recent history has shown that those in authority have to exercise their power lawfully and fairly as the reaction of the people to being mistreated can be harsh”, he said.

Mr. Boakai also used the occasion to extend thanks and appreciations to notable opposition politicians who used their time and resources to be part of the campaign period , mentioning Mr. Benoni Urey, political leader of the All Liberia Party(ALP), Senators Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, Abraham Darius Dillon, Jonathan Boye Charles Segboi, Steve Zargo, Representative Yekeh Kolubah, etc.

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