A local daily in Liberia is warning the leader of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah about the intentions and the plethora of sudden endorsements from some political leaders and organizations in the run-up to the second round of the Presidential Election scheduled for Tuesday, December 26.
In an editorial entitled Weah, Be Careful of Endorsements published on Tuesday, the Daily Observer newspaper cited as “puzzling”, Weah’s recent endorsement by Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) political party and three executives of the Liberty Party (LP) which included Ben Sanvee, Party Chairman, Harrison Kanwea, the running mate of its Presidential candidate Counselor Charles W. Brumskine and the former Campaign Manager of the LP Mr. Musa Bility .
The LP executives, prior to their endorsement, did not consult or obtain the consent of their party leader Counselor Brumskine. In a rather bizarre endorsement stunt on last Thursday in Monrovia, the three UP executives announced their endorsement of Senator Weah and displayed t-shirts with the photos of their Standard Bearer and Vice Standard Bearer and the super-imposed image of Senator Weah to insinuate that the Liberty Party hierarchy had fully endorsed its rival Senator Weah of the CDC.
The Liberian newspaper, in questioning the growing list of endorsements for Senator Weah noted, ” What does this reaction entail in the stream of endorsements the CDC political leader continues to receive from people in the pending runoff election?” In warning the CDC leader, the paper cited what it called the “deceit” perpetrated by the LP executives in presenting their party leader as endorsing Senator Weah and the CDC.
Counselor Brumskine who was out of the country when the endorsements were announced but has now returned home has termed the “endorsements” of his party officials as an attempt to embarrass him.
“The first deceit Weah and the CDC should note is that these men have presented Brumskine as being in support of Weah, contrary to what Brumskine has said. The LP standard bearer did not even know of Weah’s endorsement by three of his (Brumskine) closest allies. Another thing Weah needs to be warned of is that while these men have their constitutional right to choose whomever they may, they have visibly demonstrated some level of insincerity and unfairness by plotting against their political leader by taking such a major decision without his knowledge, and doing it so hurriedly that they could not even wait until he returned to the country. The average observer would consider this nothing short of a stab in the back,” the Daily Observer maintained in its editorial.
Senator Prince Y. Johnson
According to its editorial, the Daily Observer noted that, “The euphoria became exceedingly high when Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson, standard bearer of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), endorsed Weah following the October poll”.
On the record of the LP Vice Presidential candidate Mr Kanwea who endorsed Senator Weah, the paper wrote “… So, what hope can you, Mr. Weah, have for votes in a man whose county refused to support him in a national election in which he was a vice presidential candidate? Moreover, Mr. Kanwea and his group are clearly demonstrating the plot that occurred between the Roman emperor Julius Caesar and Brutus. Are you, Mr. Weah, taking note of the kind of people from the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration joining your party?”
The Daily Observer reminded its readers about the prior statement of the LP Chairman Ben Sanvee against Senator Weah. “…During the 2014 special senatorial election, Ben Sanvee was your main contender who is still on record for boldly stating that “Weah makes mistakes in every statement and sentence he makes. Today, Sanvee has, without consulting his political leader, endorsed you with this statement, “Weah has been blessed to conquer the world using his legs.” Yes, he trusted his feet, as the emphasis indicates, but does Sanvee think Weah also trusts his head to deliver? What made Sanvee change his mind?” the paper questioned.
In concluding its editorial position on the endorsements, the Daily Observer warned that “…Now Weah’s popularity among the grass rooters has grown to the peak, and the officials who worked in government are flooding into the CDC.
Yes, we cannot be unmindful of the well-known fact that “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” But consider this other age-old dictum: “A hint to the wise is quite sufficient.”
It can be recalled that the LP led by Counselor Charles W. Brumskine, following the first round of voting on October 10th and coming third in the polls, alleged that the process was tainted by “fraud and irregularities” and filed legal suit to challenge the result and the conduct of the run-off elections.
The country’s electoral body, on instructions from the Supreme Court, investigated the LP’s claims of fraud and subsequently dismissed them. The LP then filed another appeal to the country’s highest court but was over ruled with instructions to the National Elections Commission (NEC) to clean up the voters’ roll before the conduct of the run-off vote.
Civil society groups and individuals have requested proof from the NEC that it has complied with the Supreme Court’s instructions to clean up the voters’ roll. In a press statement issued on last Friday, the NEC announced that it is undertaking several measures to comply with the Supreme Court’s mandate and include:
1. Removal of Multiple Voter IDs
…There are 998 voters affected by the multiplicity of Voter IDs- sharing 488 Voters IDs. The proposed solution is to retain existing Voter IDs for 488 Voters (the first voter that registered with an ID retains the Voter ID) and issue new IDs for the remaining 510 voters.
An Inclusion Form (a variant of the OMR Form) is filled for each of the 510 voters, and scanned. The new records generated will be used to replace the existing record on the FRR. This therefor means that the roll that will be printed and displayed at the polling places and also used for the runoff will bear the new Voter IDs for the 510 voters.
A new voter card will be created for each of these 510 voters and would be exchanged for the old Voter Cards at the Polling Places on or before the Election Day.
The new FRR will have an indicator for this set of voters, to ease the identification on Election Day.
On completion of this assignment, a list of affected voters, with their old voter IDs and newly generated voter IDs would be created and shared with the Political Parties.
1. Further de-duplication of the FRR
NEC carried out an initial de-duplication before the FRR was published in September 2017, where 4,567 multiple registrations were removed from the voter roll.
However, with the decision of the Supreme Court to conduct a full clean-up of the FRR, it was agreed that the FRR should be further checked for multiple registrations. Due to non-biometric nature of the voter roll, de-duplication process is quite time consuming as it involves a lot of manual checks and re-checks to confirm multiple registrations before they are removed from the roll.
It has been agreed that due to time limitations, this process would start immediately. This will enable the timely update of the voter roll for printing, in preparation for the publication.
At the end of this assignment, a list of the suspected multiples, the records removed and those retained will be generated and shared with the Political Parties.
2. Publications of the Final Registration Roll
The printing of the voter roll in hard copies will be display at each Precinct and Polling Places Nationwide before the runoff election; is being worked on between NEC and the ECOWAS Technical Team.
3. Availability of FRR in Hard-Copies to Election Magistrates and Polling Places
NEC and ECOWAS are also working on this in accordance with the two procedures above.
4. Limiting the Eligibility to Vote to only those on the FRR
This shall be adhered to. Only voters whose names are on the FRR would be allowed to vote. The necessary documentation will be adjusted accordingly.
5. Limitations of the addendum to FRR to those listed in NEC’s Polling and Counting Manual
This shall be adhered to. Only those on special assignments at the Polling Places around the Country, such as members of the election security sector, NEC officials, international observer drivers and escorts would be allowed to vote in the Polling Places other than where they are registered, using the addendum to FRR. The necessary documentation will be adjusted accordingly.
6. Limiting the eligibility to vote for poll watchers to their being on the FRR and at their Precinct and Polling Places.
This shall be adhered to. Poll watchers will only be allowed to vote at their Precincts and Polling Places. The necessary documentation will be adjusted accordingly.
The joint Technical Team, comprising the ECOWAS and NEC, shall implement the above-mentioned directives of the Supreme Court of Liberia, the NEC announced.
The fifth place holder in the first round of voting, the Alternative National Congress (ANC) says it will not support any of the two candidates in the run-off elections. The ANC’s position has been strongly criticized by a former warlord turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson whose Movement for Democracy and Recontruction (MDR) came fourth in the October 10th polling.
The run-off election will pit incumbent Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP) against Senator George M. Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) on next Tuesday and the winner will replace two term incumbent Ms. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine