MONROVIA – As the second phase of the Biometric Voters Registration being conducted by the National Elections Commission (NEC) to qualify eligible voters for the ensuing general election takes off today, pundits have made some projections that the outcome will produce at least 1 million registrants which will come close to the 1.4m voters recorded in the first phase conducted in 6 counties just as there are reported stories of enthusiasm and excitement in the 9 counties where the second and final phase of the exercise will be held.
According to NEC, the nine counties where the last lap of the exercise to be conducted are Bong, Lofa, Rivercess, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, Sinoe and Grand Gedeh Counties and will be done simultaneously as it was done during the first phase in the 6 counties.
Pundits who are projecting a higher figure which could hit a million voters mark premised their assumptions on the lessons learnt from the first exercise, massive mobilization and awareness campaigns by NEC, local authorities as well as the huge investment being made by aspirants to transport some of their citizens back home to get registered to vote for them when the proper election takes place come October 10, 2023.
According to the pundits, despite being regarded traditionally in Liberia as votes rich counties, Bong, Lofa and Nimba are expected to further increase their numerical strength as the result of the enthusiasm being shown by the citizens in those counties towards the political ambitions of some of their finest sons and daughters who are either aspiring to become president or vice president in the next dispensation.
“We expect huge turnout in those three counties we traditionally called vote- rich counties in Liberia because as it stands some of their notable sons and daughters are in the race to become either president or vice president in forthcoming general election.
You will know that former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai who hails from Lofa and it is not a guess that the people will be lining up behind him with their numbers. He got a large count from there in 2017 and since then, the county has been regarded as his stronghold.
“Bong on the other hand has the current Vice President, Madam Jewel Howard Taylor. In 2017, she was influential in winning the county for the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and has been a force to reckon with as far as Bong politics is concerned. So far, no known politician has ever come up to vie for the presidency or in the running to become a running mate to any aspirant in the race. She has been mobilizing and leading awareness campaigns for the voters registration exercise around the country especially in Bong County where she has told her people that she is on the ticket for the CDC and in order to win, the people have to register enmasse and turnout during voting.
“We cannot rule out Nimba County being on the chase to increase their voting strength given the fact that there is a presidential aspirant already in Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe, a prominent son of the county and a high probability of Senator Jeremiah Kpan Koung going as a running mate to former VP Boakai. There has been a long clamor for a citizen from the county to become president in the country and it is noted for turning out in their numbers whenever a citizen from the county is in the race for the president. Don’t forget that Nimba is the second most vote -Rich County Next To Montserrado and the people are passionate about politics”, a political analyst who did not want to be named in the papers said.
In 2017 according to records from NEC, out of the 2,183,683 registered voters, the three counties, Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties contributed the total of 655, 277 voters from their individual counts of 208,150, 279,572 and 167,555 voters respectively.
The pundits also believe that in similar token there is a possibility of a surge in voters turnout in the Southeast which could be attributed to the huge number of top government functionaries hailing from the region from where President George Manneh Weah, equally a southeasterner has had massive support since his political sojourn in 2005.
“Still basking from the euphoria of a high figure recorded in the recent National Population and Census, the southeast consisting of Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, Sinoe, and Grand Kru is expected to produce an improved voting strength in similar fashion. Besides, the region has been the strong pillar of President Weah since his entry into politics and continues to be even into his presidency.
“His re-election bid has been energizing them to go all out to get their people to register and vote for him. Despite the bad road connectivity in the area, the people still feel that the President’s re-election will be the solution to the level of underdevelopment in the region and so they will come out to be registered”, said Wilson Wisdom III, a researcher in governance and politics with a local think tank in Monrovia.
Information gathered from the 2017 voters register, the five counties, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, Sinoe and Grand Kru counties had a total of 239, 537. “The combined figures from Bong, Nimba and Lofa (655,277) and 239,537 put the figure in 2017 at 894,814, which gives a strong indication that the figure from the last lap involving 9 counties will come up to at least 1 million registrants”, said Thomas Patee Normon Jr, a retired secondary teacher in Monrovia.
Checks by The Analyst have revealed that there has been mobilization of citizens from the southeast to return home to register for the 2023 and such initiative is said to be gaining traction as a number of them have been seen around the Redlight/Parker Paint end of Paynesville City, venue of parking spaces for vehicles heading to the Southeastern part of the country.
Investigations conducted by our correspondent have it that most of the journeys are being sponsored by aspirants who are contesting various legislative seats in their respective counties and see that as a way of bolstering their chances of winning the race come 2023.