MONROVIA- The aftershock of the just-ended senatorial by-election in Lofa County continues to reverberate, although a winner, Cllr. Joseph Jallah has been declared, however, the statement from the National Elections Commission (NEC) amidst numbers posted on its website, finally stated that its site (website) was hacked, raises more questions than answers.
In an exclusive interview with KOOL program, The HEAT Tuesday, July 19, 2022, District #4 Representative Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis said the statement from the Chairman of NEC, Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah that their website was hacked, showed gross incompetence and big charade, indicating that, then how did Jallah get those numbers that propelled him to victory?
Representative Dennis said while it is true that she supports women’s leadership, the performance of Madam Lansanah in the senatorial by-election in Lofa sends a worrisome signal for the grand finale in 2023 wherein a whole lot will be expected of the entity she controls that must be devoid of partisan’s flavor and favoritism, instead be totally imbued with free, fair and transparent for the participants, the citizens and our international partners.
Asked how she would rate the manner and way in which the electorates vote for their lawmakers and later cried in their names abandoning them in their quest to have them do those things required of them upon their ascendancy, the District #4 Lawmaker responded that despite the political tutorship rendered the electorates on what to have as their trump cards for voting for vote seekers, it is equally so hard to fight for the electorates because they won’t subscribe to the real things told them rather they will end up doing something different that will bring them to regret in the end.
Moreover, the Center for Development and Election Management (CEDEM) Director General James M. Fromayan has continued to call on the National Elections Commission to manage the electoral process with credibility and transparency in accordance with international best practices in order to earn the respect of the Liberian people and those of the International community.
Mr. Fromayan, former Chairman of NEC noted that notwithstanding CEDEM’s numerous calls, the NEC under the leadership of Davidetta Browne- Lansanah has adamantly continued to administer the electoral process of Liberia in a manner devoid of credibility and transparency.
He said, hence, it is clear that Liberia is firmly on the road to chaos as was the case in 1985 when the Emmett Harmon-led Elections Commission laid the foundation for the fratricidal civil conflict that engulfed Liberia on 24 December 1989.
The recently concluded Lofa County by-election of 28 June 2022 has once more demonstrated Liberia’s Electoral Management Body’s incapacity and lack of integrity to ensure a safe electoral landing for Liberia comes 2023 he noted.
CEDEM’s Director General pointed out that the disgraceful conduct of the National Elections Commission in Lofa County is a clear reminder of the NEC’s actions that relegated it to the level of a party to the conflict when the Musa Bility’s faction of the Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) filed a legal action at the NEC against the withdrawal of the UP and the ALP from the then Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
He said it is important to emphasize that the NEC, both at the levels of its Hearing officer and the Board of Commissioners, firmly ruled at the time, that UP and ALP did not have the right to disassociate from the defunct CPP even though Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia do guarantee said right.
According to him, as was widely expected by the majority of Liberians, those rulings by the National Elections Commission were dismissed by a unanimous decision of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia.
However, it is glaring that the NEC did not learn lessons from the repudiation of its actions by the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court evidenced by the unprecedented procedure violations that characterized the announcement of the results of the Lofa County By-Election.
Fromoyan indicated that this is troubling, alarming, and disturbing in view of the fact that this is an electoral body that Liberians and the International Community expect to lead and manage a very crucial electoral process in 2023. It cannot be over-emphasized that the elections of 2023 constitute a major test for the consolidation of Liberia’s democratic experiment and the survival of the Country’s prevailing fragile peace,
By its actions in Lofa County, the current composition of the National Elections Commission has again demonstrated its lack of integrity, fortitude, competence, and capability to conduct peaceful and credible Presidential and Legislative elections in 2023, said Fromoyan.
He also observes that indeed, there is no more doubt that the NEC is an extension of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change. As such, maintaining the Commission in its current form until the 2023 Electoral process without the involvement of counter-part Commissioners comprising of representatives from ECOWAS, the ALI, the UN, and the EU would result in chaos in 2023.
In a statement issued July 6, 2022, he cataloged The following as cases that deserve emphasis: At the Forbayman Public School in Foya, according to the NEC website, Candidate Jallah at polling places 1 and 2 received a total vote of 275. However, it is amazing to note that the NEC announced a total of 550 votes for Candidate Jallah instead of 275 and a total vote of 84 for UP’s Candidate Kortimai instead of 42.
Additionally, at the Porluma Town Hall, also in Foya, there were five polling Centers or places. Candidate Jallah received a total vote of 872 at these five polling places, and candidate Kortimai received a total vote of 142. Notwithstanding, the NEC announced a total vote of 1,744 for candidate Jallah and 284 for Candidate Kortimai. More alarming and shocking is the fact that a total of 1,112 valid and invalid votes were cast at the Porluma Town Hall Precinct, but NEC announced a total vote for Candidate Jallah that far exceeded the entire votes cast at the Porluma Town Hall Precinct.
He intoned that there are numerous of these incidents that occurred across Lofa County. Also disturbing is the inconsistency of the NEC in relation to its declaration that those in possession of voter cards but whose names are not on the Final Registration Roll (FRR) would not be permitted to vote.
According to very reliable sources, there were widespread instances across Lofa County where these individuals were permitted to vote. This is shameful and reminiscent of the 1920s when Liberia acquired a Guinness Book of Record Recognition for having conducted the World’s most rigged election he stated.
CEDEM’s Director General recalled that the election, contested mainly by then-President Charles D. B. King, and the opposition Candidate T.J.R. Faulkner had a total voter register of 15,000. Of this number, the Election Commission at the time announced that the opposition Candidate received a total vote of more than 8,000, but disgracefully announced that then-President King had received a total vote of more than 200,000. In this twenty-first century, while sisterly Countries are striving to record progress, we cannot afford to continuously retrogress as a nation to the admiration of our foes.
Another negative occurrence that marked the conduct of the Lofa County By-Election, according to him, is the massive vote-buying by the CDC leadership led by Montserrado County Representative Thomas Fallah which undermined the credibility of the election.
Many credible reports that emanated from Lofa County during the course of the Election quoted Representative Fallah as pledging to pay US$1m (USD one million) to any Electoral District that cast the most votes for the CDC-supported candidate. While this information may appear amazing considering the very difficult economic situation prevailing across Liberia, it is significant to emphasize that there has been no contrary statement by either Representative Fallah or the CDC as a Party.
Since silence means consent, the conclusion is that the ruling party, apparently not confident about its political future come 2023, has embarked upon an agenda aimed at looting the national coffer in order to buy votes to remain in power.
This agenda of the CDC constitutes a potential threat to the peace of Liberia. As such, it must be rejected by Liberians and the International Community. Most alarming is the acquiescence of the NEC to the implementation of this dangerous and unpatriotic agenda of the CDC by its failure to condemn and discourage the VOTE BUYING ACTIVITIES of the ruling Party, activities that were adequately pronounced in Lofa County, he said.
It is troubling that ‘the NEC which has the authority to protect the collective interest as per the electoral process would encourage the violation of the Election Laws in order to protect the narrow partisan interest of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change.
Chapter 10, section 10.4 of the 1986 Election Laws states that bribery as an election offense is where any of the following acts is committed.
Offering or cause to be offered money or anything of value or benefit or promise to give anything of value with intent to induce or influence the vote of a person, the activities of an election officer, a poll worker in connection with an election which in so doing will tend to affect the true results of an election;
Receiving money or any valuable consideration; promise for the purpose of influencing any vote canceling or destroying any ballot paper; ballot box; election writs, a signed register with the intent to defeat the election;
After the close of the campaign, and on the day of an election, anyone who offers money or receives money or valuable consideration for the purpose of influencing the voter to vote or not to vote for a particular candidate.
Any election officer, political party, or the agent of any candidate or any person who does any of these acts is guilty of an election offense and is punishable by a fine of not less than 5000.00 Dollars or imprisonment for not more than five years.
Indeed, section 10.4 (a)(b) of the 1986 Election Laws was blatantly violated by Representative Thomas Fallah and the CDC in Lofa County as indicated above. To quote President George Weah “Liberia is a country of Laws and that no one is above the law”. As such, President Weah and his political party must be protectors of the law and not violators of the law as was the case in Lofa County.