We want to address you today on the just-ended Senatorial Elections in Lofa County and to explain what Unity Party’s own position is regarding our observation of the conduct of the elections. First I want to start by thanking the great people of Lofa County for their continuing support for Unity Party and for myself in particular. Our party representatives have submitted their reports to us and from the reports, we observe once again that Unity Party has won four of the five electoral districts in Lofa County. We extend our sincere appreciation to all of the people of Lofa County for the level of maturity they exhibited during this period. We received no reports of violence as the people of Lofa once again chose to be peaceful in their lives and in their politics.
We also want to thank those who worked along with us in our collaborative efforts in Lofa. We want to thank Hon. Benoni Urey and the men and women of All Liberian Party who braved the bad road conditions to visit Lofa during the very crucial time. We equally want to thank Hon. Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence and the men and women of Liberty Party, including Senator Darius Dillion of Montserrado County who spent time and tremendous effort in this regard. Our thanks also go to Senator Jonathan Boychild Sogbie of Rivergee County and Representative Yekeh Kolubah of District Number 10 Montserrado County who visited Lofa to show support and solidarity for Unity Party. These are all very good signs of the opposition coming together to achieve our objectives of building a better Liberia. To the national leadership of the Unity Party and the Lofa Chapter, we also say thank you for everything. We also want to extend thanks and appreciation to Hon. Brownie j. Samukai and the campaign team for a splendid job in Lofa.
The reason why senatorial elections in Lofa at this time was necessary is known to many of you. On June 28, 2022, the people of Lofa County went to the polls to elect a senator to fill the vacant senatorial seat created as a result of the Supreme Court of Liberia’s imposition of hurdles on Brownie J. Samukai, who legitimately won the special senatorial election in 2020. Since the period from 2020 to now, Lofa County has been without a second senator as authorities of the government have exerted all efforts to prevent Mr. Samukai from taking his seat. The seat was declared vacant through a process that was clearly not legitimate. The will of the people of Lofa was trampled upon and they were requested to choose again in the just-ended senatorial elections. Although we were not entirely happy with this arbitrary declaration of a vacant seat in Lofa, we nonetheless decided to participate in the process since our people had been without a senator for two years out of the nine-year term. We submitted the name of Hon Galakpai Kortimai as our candidate to take part in the elections. This was immediately objected to by our former allies who insisted that we could not field a candidate because of our previous disputed arrangements in the CPP. In order to get this cleared up, our legal team had to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Liberia. All of these obstacles were put in our way to prevent our full participation in the senatorial race and to prevent Unity Party from retaining the seat. We frown on this kind of political manipulation on the part of the authorities. Our recent history has shown that those in authority have to exercise their power lawfully and fairly as the reaction of the people to being mistreated can be harsh.
Now that the elections have ended and the National Elections Commission has declared a winner, it is our duty as a party to let our partisans and supporters know the response of the Party and what action we have decided to take.
We declare that the conduct of the senatorial elections was marred by many irregularities. Some of these were outright illegal actions that impacted the results. We have placed them into several categories:
- PRE-ELECTION MALPRACTICES
During the period leading up to the campaign, the National Elections Commission conducted the replacement of lost and damaged voter registration cards only in Voinjama and Kolahun and did not include the other three electoral districts. At the time we demanded that the National Elections Commissions extend the exercise throughout the county to allow full participation. This demand was not heeded and that action resulted into many Lofains not being able to participate in the election process. There has been no justification for this action from the NEC. The independent Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) has also highlighted this in their report. We believe this selective replacement of VR CARDS only in two districts leaving out the others disenfranchised many other legitimate voters in Lofa County.
Our second pre-election malpractice observation that we also noted with grave concern was the publication of the final voter roll on the eve of the elections. The publication of the voter roll is intended to allow interested parties to observe several things, including names that were left out of the roll that should be there, names that were posted that should not be there, duplicated names, names without photographs or clear identification etc. The publication of the final voter roll on the eve of the elections means that there was no time to make corrections or to authenticate the roll. We see this as an abuse of power. It is the use of government authority with impurity, in order to put the opposition in a disadvantageous position since manipulation of the roll is made easier when no time is allowed for proper inspection.
- ELECTIONS DAY MALPRACTICES
Unity Party poll watchers observed that there were many voters with valid voter registration cards that were denied the right to vote because their names were not on the final voter roll. This was also observed by independent observers of the elections. The practice in the past has been to allow these voters to cast their votes provisionally so that the votes are included after verification. In most instances that was not done.
On the other hand, our poll watchers also observed that selective voters with no voter registration cards were allowed to vote. This resulted in inflation of the number of votes and made the elections unfair in at least thirty percent of the polling places.
We also observed vote buying on elections day. Some politicians were interfering with the elections by offering to pay voters who took pictures of their votes and presented them as evidence of how they voted. This act is illegal and we call on the authorities to immediately investigate this and bring the perpetrators to justice. Unity Party offers to work along with this investigation in this regard.
We also observed that on the day of the elections, there was an unusually heavy presence of armed officers of the Armed forces of Liberia and the Liberian National Police in Lofa County. The manner in which they conducted themselves was intimidating to the local people and it resulted in many voters shying away from the polls. Again, we point to the abuse of power by those in authority with the intent to impact the elections. The heavy presence of armed men was unprecedented and unnecessary and in our opinion only used to intimidate voters. We call on the authorities to justify this abuse of power.
- POST ELECTIONS
On Thursday, June 30, 2022, the National Elections Commission announced provisional results from the bi-election. During the night hours of the same day, the results were posted on the website of the commission. What was posted shocked many Liberians and international observers. Our very capable Technical Team quickly observed the following discrepancies in the results posted on the NEC’s website:
- Results from some centers, for example Foya Market Hall in District 1, were doubled thereby presenting more votes per candidate than the total number of registered voters.
- Results posted from many of the centers had candidates Joseph Kpator Jallah and Mariamu Fofana names appearing at least two times each and showing that they had gotten different vote totals at the same polling place.
- Candidates who contested in previous elections were also listed as having won votes in these elections even though they did not participate. Some candidates from 2020 were listed, and in one instance a candidate from 2011 was also listed.
- Following an immediate highlighting on social media of the unimaginable results posted by the Elections Commission on its website by our Technical Team and the resulting public outcry by Liberians in and out of Liberia, the National Elections Commission quickly shut down its website to the public. Hours later when the website was restored, we saw that different results were posted. The NEC would later inform the public that there were attempts to hack its website.
- In accordance with international electoral practice, a declaration of bulk election results is usually associated with rigged elections. To ensure transparency, election results should be disaggregated to enable the key stakeholders to obtain comprehensive information regarding the process. The bulk result announced by the NEC is a clear indication that there were somethings going on that were unusual. This is made more evident by the fact that the commission has up to fifteen days to announce the result. That is sufficient to make the announcement in detail as to polling place and number of votes per candidate.
- We continue to observe that the numbers published by the elections commission do not add up and that the totals and the percentages are not making sense. Members of the public have observed that attempt to print from the NEC website results in completely different information being printed. This has led us to believe that the information provided to the public could be different from the actual figures that the NEC has in its possession.
- We are greatly troubled by the NEC statement that there were attempts to hack its website beginning on the 30th of June when as a matter of fact the results of the election were announced after this date. Was the hacking successful? Or was there any hacking at all? These are legitimate questions that we asked in light of all the things that have been done in these elections. We submit to you, fellow Liberians, that what was posted by the Commission on its website was the product of NEC itself and these efforts are geared towards changing the results of the election.
Fellow Liberians, we cannot list all of the many data-related glitches that we have uncovered here. These two deliberate violations stated above clearly cast doubts on the validity of the results announced by the National Elections Commission and undermine the sanctity, credibility and integrity of the votes cast in Lofa County on June 28, 2022. Unity Party and her allies take these many violations seriously as they have the effect of NEC selecting a Senator of Lofa County. How insulting to Lofa County!!! The people of Lofa county deserve better than an irregular and mistake-prone process presided over by National Elections Commission. Over and over, we have questioned the credibility and capacity of this NEC to conduct free and fair elections in Liberia. Their open display of partisanship is also a troubling matter. We do not believe that the Commission as currently constituted can hold credible elections in Liberia in 2023.
In view of the foregoing, the Unity Party and its allies are convinced that the current Elections Commission is not representative of the people’s interest and should therefore be scrapped and replaced by a competent and partisan free NEC to prepare for 2023 general and presidential elections. Our country has come through so much and cannot continue to trade peace with a disorderly election. We, therefore, ask our partisans, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, and all friends of Liberia to ensure the future of our country in this endeavor. Meanwhile, our legal team will be communicating with the National Election Commission to establish our final position on Lofa
Again we are grateful to all those who one way or the other contributed to our campaign.
Main Photo: Joseph Boakai