Liberians Vote in Historic Elections

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Citizens turned out to vote on Tuesday in a historic election in Liberia to see the first post-war transition of power from one elected government to another.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was elected in 2005 as the first female head of state in Africa is expected to end her two terms constitutional limit in January next year.

By 8:00 a.m., the official time for the opening of polling, voters had turned out in huge numbers, especially, Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Nimba, Maryland, Bong and Rivercess where The Bush Chicken’s reporters were present. The presence of security personnel from the Liberia National Police, Liberia Immigration Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency was also observed across polling stations.

Observers representing the Election Coordinating Committee, or ECC an umbrella of civil society organizations with the highest number of local observers, candidates, and political parties were also present at the various centers covered by our reporters.

Some polling centers across Margibi, Montserrado, River Cess, and Bong did not open until up to 8:45, while the process saw a delay in some part of Nimba until up to 11:00 and 13:00.

At some time of the day, rain was an issue in at least four counties – Grand Bassa, Nimba, Bong, and Margibi. In those locations, queues that had been formed for hours were suddenly dispersed as voters sought shelter.

While voting was generally smooth, a vehicle belonging to the Coalition for Democratic Change reportedly killed an observer representing an independent candidate in Bomi, along the Klay-Tubmanburg highway. Morris Kanneh, according to Lisa Diasay, a journalist covering the elections in Bomi, was hit by the car while attempting to cross the street.

There was a report of voters in Harper, Maryland, complaining that at least two candidates hovered around polling centers for over an hour. They were later asked to leave to avoid intimidating the voters. At the same time, several candidates in Ganta were whisked away after being accused of indirectly campaigning.

ELBC Radio also reported that the national chairman of the Movement for Economic Empowerment, Maxwell Kemayah was invited for questioning after he was allegedly seen influencing voters with cash. But Kemayah denied ever attempt to influence any voter.

The major issue observed so far in the election appeared to be that registered voters could not find their names on the voter roll, even if they were at the same location at which they registered.

In one instance, this resulted in a mother carrying a child being taken from one queue to another just as she had reached the front of the line.

Queue controllers at several polling centers in Nimba, Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa were not effective in properly instructing voters

In Gbatala, Bong, the situation led to a commotion leaving young men to block the major highway in a protest. The situation was later brought under control by the assigned NEC’s magistrate.

At the Clipper’s Camp polling center near the Roberts International Airport, at least two voters were denied because their NEC-issued voter cards did not have photos.

The National Elections Commission disclosed in a statement that where there were delays if a voter was in a queue by 18:00 hours, he or she would be able to vote.

“Until they have voted these places will not close,” the statement read.

NEC in the statement also confirmed that people with valid voter cards are on the voter register database.

Despite reports of the ineffectiveness of queue controllers, the commission called on voters to seek their guidance before joining the line to avoid confusion.

“We have advised presiding officers to check names and voter identification numbers in the index of the register before concluding the voter is not on the printed voter register,” the statement read.

The commission said in the instance where a voter is not located on the printed voter register, the voter must seek the advice of a poll worker or call the operations center.

While tally and counting of votes were delayed at some centers to allow voters already in queue to exercise their voting rights, there was a report that the centers at Drims School System in King Gray, Paynesville along the Robertsfield Highway closed without allowing voters who had queued ahead of the 18:00 closing time to vote.

There were also complaints from local journalists of being denied full access to centers during the tallies and counting of votes, although they received accreditation from the NEC.

Meanwhile, official results are yet to be released by the NEC, although journalists and citizens alike are posting pictures of results from the various polling centers on social media.

The European Union, National Democratic Institute, African Union, Carter Center and other international organizations also observed the elections.

Featured photo by Lloyd Massah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is currently a senior student at 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.

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