Contender in Montserrado’s First District Concedes Defeat; Drops Electoral Fraud Complaint

BENTOL, Montserrado – Independent candidate Desire Satia of Montserrado’s first district has conceded defeat to the winner of the district’s representative race, Lawrence Morris, another independent candidate.

Satia, who obtained the second highest votes in the district, was among five candidates, including incumbent representative Josephine Francis of the ruling Unity Party, who were protesting the results of the October 10 elections, one week after the polls were conducted.

He announced on Thursday that he has conceded defeat, wishing the new representative-elect well.

He praised supporters and members of his campaign team for their commitment to redeem the district but said he hopes that the new lawmaker will provide good leadership.

“I hope he steers it steadily,” he said.

Satia also disclosed that he has also instructed his team to withdraw the bill of appeal before the National Elections Commission against the decision of the local elections magistrate in Lower Montserrado.

His campaign office alleged that Amos Siebo, the man who was caught conducting illegal voter registrations and banned from participating in the elections publicly, announced support for Morris.

The complaint highlighted that while voter registration cards illegally printed by Siebo before his arrest were not traced or confiscated from the bearers, he might have manipulated the process by issuing the cards to voters in favor of Morris.

“As clear as it is of Hon. Morris acting fraudulently during these elections, polling precincts such as Raymond Camp, Kingsville No. 7, U.L. Palava Hut, Kings Farm, 15th Gate, and Nyhen received a flock of voters who were in possession of the voting cards, but their names, photos, and particulars were not found in the final registration roll,” the campaign wrote in its complaint.

The team also complained that voters’ intentions of marking candidates on the ballot were considered invalid and qualms raised by poll watchers were ignored, especially at the Kingsville centers. It had demanded a re-run of the election at the affected polling precincts.

The NEC hearing officer assigned to the commission’s magisterial office in Bensonville threw out the case in the presence of relevant parties on Wednesday, citing that the complaint was delayed beyond the stipulated statutory period of 48-hours. Satia’s campaign team then filed a bill of appeal before the commission.

Complaints filed by other candidates were also earlier thrown out by the hearing officer, on grounds that they had no merits.

Liberty Party candidate Rugie Yatu-Barry and Liberia People Party’s Edward Dartue had also complained to NEC of the irregularities they observed in the election.

Journalists and independent observers accredited by NEC to cover the October elections were denied access to the hearings of James Kordor, the local elections magistrate.

Marcus Kollie, an official of Satia’s campaign committee, said the action of Kordor and his hearing officer did not promote transparency and its practices against NEC’s own guidelines.

Marcus Kollie is an official of Satia’s campaign committee. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

Kollie also accused the magistrate of having a closed-door meeting with members of Morris’ campaign committee briefly before the dismissal of their case on Wednesday, thus believing that that day’s hearing was highly sentimental and overly emotional.

According to him, Kordor had denied polling officers representing Satia, access to complaint files on the day of the polls when the irregularities were observed.

He also argued that the magistrate’s claim for trashing their case was illegal and out of order.

NEC’s regulations allow complaints to be filed “no later than seven days after the occurrence of the violations.”

Prior to Friday, Kollie had said they would file an appeal before NEC’s Board of Commissioners against the decision of the local magisterial office.

At the same time, Benedict Reeves, an independent observer working for the Independent Election Observer, said the actions of the local NEC magistrate indicated that staff were acting in error and not up to the task.

Benedict Reeves, an independent observer working for the Independent Election Observer. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

Reeves said denying accredited stakeholders, such as journalists and independent observers, access to hearings speaks volume of the violations by NEC officials.

He recommended that the case involving the complaint filed by Satia be transferred to someone else, given the wrong path the magisterial office has proceeded with.

“A lot of things here in our own observation look like everything was already premeditated,” he said.

According to him, while the hearing officer seems not to be up to the task, the magistrate cannot be relied on to get the case to go further.”

But with the candidate Satia now accepting defeat, the decision of the magistrate is final.

Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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