By Gideon Nma Scott, Jr.
It seems that Liberians are poised to once again to go the polls on the second Tuesday in November to elect a President and Vice President in a runoff election following a well contested first round of election on October 10, 2023.
During a press conference at the headquarters the National Elections Commission (NEC) on Friday, October 20, 2023, the chairperson of NEC, Davidetta Brown Lansanah, announced that about 1,833,189 votes from 5,8890 out of 5,980 polling places were tallied, summing up to 99.3 percent which puts President George Weah of the ruling Coalition for Democracy (CDC) ahead of his main contender, Amb. Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party with 43.80 percent while the latter accumulated 43.44 percent.
Both the ruling CDC and opposition UP will face each other in what most people referred to as a “POLITICAL KNOCKOUT” on Tuesday, November 7, 2023, to sort things out once and for all.
The two parties have been at each other’s throat since 2005 when the CDC was then in the opposition. On two occasions, (2005; 2011), the CDC contested the presidency and failed but came to power in 2017 on the matrix of change and to give power back to the people.
It has been five years since the CDC came to power and many Liberians including opposition political parties hold as a tramp card accusations that the George Weah-led government committed extra-judicial and ritualist killings; blaming it for the deaths of five auditors, the mysterious disappearance of three boys at St. Moses Funeral Parlors, feculent corruption and imputation of dangerous and narcotic drugs in the country as well as extravagant life styles on the part of some government officials.
The charge that Mr. Weah and his officials have reduced ordinary Liberians to abject poverty, the youthful population into drugs and prostitution; and jobless parents into petty traders and beggars just to survive are allegations the ruling CDC has graveling to dispel.
President Weah in his quest to demonstrate innocence diverts the argument by maintaining that his government has done more in terms of economic and infrastructure development across the country than any President in the history of Liberia noting that the CDC government has empowered more young people through jobs creation and employment, build roads and other infrastructures as well as boost the country’s international image.
Howbeit, the quest for power by the two lead contenders in this year’s election has put many persons on their toes as the atmosphere in the country gets tensed by the hour with many citizens deciding to leave or have migrated to nearby countries with this belief that the outcome of the rerun election will brew more tension as each party may not easily succumb to the other.
Throughout the elections season, there has been political statements and threats from both sides; each accusing the other of attempting to instigate violence in the country and are counting on the NEC to continue doing the ‘honorable thing’ by maintaining its neutrality throughout the process.
On October 10, 2023 it was alleged that at the Beo-Lontuo polling precinct in District 4 Nimba County, while polls workers were about to sort out, reconcile and tally the votes, some persons believed to be partisans of the ruling CDC under the instructions of the head of the Weah-led Governance Commission, Garrison Yealue and the former County Inspector of Nimba, Reginald Meih stormed two polling places following the elections and took away the boxes containing ballots that had been casted.
According to the NEC, seven persons were arrested and charged by the police and should be awaiting prosecution in the courts.
But considering voters’ appetite across the country, what is yet to be determined is whether the Commission itself has created the necessary civic education amongst that voting population on why there must be a rerun in the first place.
Again, on October 13, while displaying dossier of records of the counts, the opposition UP claimed that it was in a commanding lead at the polls and was set to win the elections on the first ballot while on October 15, the CDC said it won 11 out of 15 counties and was also claiming a ‘one round’ victory.
I believe that while every party is claiming to be in possession of the initial tally accounts, the results from the November 7 elections will test Liberia’s already fragile peace and democracy and be a defining moment for the country’s progress or retrogression because hypothetically the results from the rerun could dent the chance of either party thereby causing neither of them to accept a loss at the polls following the runoff.
The October 10 Liberian elections should not be a replica of the June 24 elections held in Sierra Leone wherein today, the international community including our regional bodies are still trying to mend the political wounds created as a result of the diplomatic terminology that they must always say, the elections were ‘Peaceful and free’ when in actual sense, they being the same observers were all on the ground and witnessed the unfairness and fear instilled in the voters couple with the insincerities from the government yet want a party to unconditionally accept a compromise on the basis of ‘country first.’
Whatever, it is with the slogan ‘country first’ that even today the great United States of America stands to allow its democracy thrive, it is also incumbent on all of us, the election management bodies, political parties, voters as well as local and foreign partners to do all in our power to ensure that we do not have a situation that allows us remember our ugly past lest to envision retrogressing as a nation.
Like it is often said, “Liberia is all we have” and we must do everything within our reach to jealously protect our democracy and our hard-earned peace.
*The thoughts of the son of a “CERTIFIED KRU” woman.