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NEC Complicates Reasons For Runoff

Contrary to its earlier pronouncement, the National Elections Commission has hinted on a possible runoff in October’s Presidential and Legislative Polls, from within Liberia’s elections management body.

On Tuesday, August 29, 2023, NEC Boss, Davidetta Brown-Lansannah, informed the Liberian Senate that a run-off election could only be conducted if the Ministry of Finance disburses the remaining $3.2 million.

Making the statement during an appearance before the Senate, while ballot papers were being printed out of the country, the Head of the Election Management Body said at the time that the Ministry has remitted slightly over $49 million of the $53 million budget approved by the Legislature.

She announced that there was not sufficient funding for an imminent run-off in the upcoming Presidential and General elections scheduled for October, alluding her comments to what she termed as a shortfall, due to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning’s efforts in providing $3 million less than the amount required by the NEC.

At the time, Madam Lansanah put it squarely that “Regarding the availability of funds for a potential run-off, I must say no, as we still require the remaining $3.2 million to reach the $53 million budget for the elections,” a statement that continues to draw public attention to an apparent endorsement of the one round win slogan that is being preached by some presidential candidates and their political parties, since the campaign period began.

Like the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), the Liberian People’s Party (LPP), Unity Party (UP), and the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), are all canvassing for votes for a first round victory. 

But NEC’s Director for Political Affairs, Ignatius B. Wesseh, who dropped the hint on behalf of the Commission, seemed to sway the debate by stating that a runoff is possible, instead of a first round win, and did not base his argument on funding, rather, on the number of presidential candidates.

He stated, among many things, that for a political party to win on a single majority or round one, it might have to receive over 1. 2 million votes of the total ballots of the 2.4 million registered nationwide, but from the look of things, that seems impossible.

He alluded to the fact that the three previous elections held post-civil war, have all gone to the second round, with no one candidate being able to get 50 percent of the votes for an outright victory.

Besides the 1997 Elections, which was held on a proportional representation quota and won by National Patriotic Party (NPP), he named the 2005, 2011 and 2017 as reference points, for which the upcoming polls will most likely be decided in the runoff.

In the interim, Wesseh went further that the commission should be or is preparing for a runoff; therefore, an appeal has been made to the Government, mainly the Finance and Development Planning Ministry, to begin preparations to make available the needed funding.

Liberia is conducting its fifth polls in almost 34 years since December, 1989, and is being fully funded by Liberians themselves from taxes paid, but the exercises are curiously being monitored by both the local and international communities, with the results set to go a long way in determining just how peaceful and stable the country is.

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