MONROVIA: In a joint statement issued yesterday, Tuesday, October 17, 2023 the Civil Society Organizations of Liberia (CSOs) recommended to the NATIONAL Election Commission to enhance efficiency and expediency in counting and reporting/announcing the election results as well as respect time announced for commencement of the daily press conference, show understanding and empathy when addressing concerns from journalists and to fully implement guidelines and regulations governing the elections, including but not limited to sanctioning candidates and political parties that will contravene established laws.
The Civil Society Organizations further requested that NEC should clearly inform the public about reasons why some districts are yet to be completed, especially in accessible locations.
The press statement which also urged political parties to respect the electoral rules and guidelines and refrain from individual and collective actions that could undermine the credibility of the elections as well as incite violence and jeopardize the peace of the country, also admonished stakeholders and other Civil Society groupings to Continue their engagements with the electoral process, working collaboratively with NEC to ensure a free, transparent and credible process.
In the statement titled “Maintain the Integrity of the Elections and Preserve the Peace: CSOs Call on NEC and Political Parties and Candidates, the CSOs’ joint statement accentuated the voting process was conducted in a peaceful and free manner as observed by both local and international observers.
“Access to the voting centers and ballot-counting process allowed civil society, the media, representatives of political parties and independent candidates [as well as] international partners to closely observe the process,” the statement indicated, added this level of accessibility on the election day increasing the elections’ inclusiveness, transparency, and credibility.
Delivering the Statement during a press conference in Monrovia, a spokesman of the CSOs disclosed that the National Elections Commission has been tallying and announcing provisional results from the elections, in largely transparent and open manner, which they said are notable positive developments and signs of the growth of Liberia’s democracy.
Despite the success of the voting and ongoing announcement of preliminary results, the Civil Society Organization we are concerned about multiple issues associated with the elections including firstly the pace of the counting and announcement processes which they considered very slow, especially for highly accessible areas.
The CSOs maintained that with increased anxiety and brewing tension among citizens, political parties, and candidates, NEC needs to be more efficient in tallying and announcing final results to calm down nerves.
“After nearly one week, the tallied votes and results from some counties and districts are still below 60%. This is concerning. Additionally, it is concerning to observe the confrontational approach taken by NEC Commissioners when interacting with journalists,” the statement inferred.
The Civil Society Organizations furthered that this observation adds to the very late start of daily press conference, 5pm instead of the 4:30 pm schedule publicized, noting that unexplained delays in announcing final results from electoral District #8 in Montserrado County, District #2 in MaryLand County, and District #4 in Grand Bassa County raises concerns.
“We acknowledge the 15-day window stipulated in Article 83(c) of the Liberian Constitution; however, we also observe the slow pace with which results are announced, as well as the delay in releasing results from places that are obviously accessible in favor of more remote areas without any reason given by the Commission,” the CSOs further observed.
They said the more the results are delayed, with no clear information and explanations, the more people will speculate about alleged wrongdoings or foul play. “It is in NEC’s best interest, as well as the integrity of the elections and peace of country, to timely process and announce all results from the elections,” the CSOs further maintained.
The CSOs, in their joint statement, finally said they have received distressing reports of violence and storming of the tallying centers in Montserrado and Nimba Counties by supporters of some political parties and candidates, especially the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
“This is extremely troubling, as it could be interpreted as attempts to manipulate/undermine the integrity, transparency, and independence of the votes counting process,” the stressed, noting that they are furthermore deeply concerned about some candidates and political parties declaring themselves as winners, when NEC is the only institution mandated by law to do so.
“This is a recipe for violence, as it may incite overzealous partisans and supporters to act in ways that jeopardize the peace of the country. Calm and maturity are needed, as we await the final results from the National Elections Commission,” the CSOs intoned.
Signatories to the joint statement include the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Integrity Watch Liberia (IWL), Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Women NGO Secretariat (WONGOSOL), and Public Health Initiative of Liberia (PHIL).
Others are Accountability Lab Liberia (Alab), Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), Sister AID Liberia Incorporated (SALI), Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform, and Kids Educational Engagement Program (KEEP Liberia) amongst others.
The CSO community, which says it has been very active during these elections, disclosed their involvement to cover in part through conducting civic and voters’ education; monitoring/observing campaign promises and finance, and electoral violence, including those targeting women and disadvantaged groups, voting, etc.
“We recognize cordial working relationships mutually-benefiting partnerships with the National Elections Commission, media, and other stakeholders that made these contributions possible,” they said.
They Civil Society Organizations in the joint statement concluded by calling on all candidates and political parties as well as the general public to remain calm, peaceful, tolerant, and closely observe the process.
“We urge individuals and groups with grievances to address them through established mechanisms. The rule of law must prevail at all times in Liberia, especially during these elections,” the advised, saying “Let’s work to preserve the peace and show to the world that we are capable of managing our electoral and other key processes, with the required levels of inclusiveness, transparency, fairness, and integrity.”