Provisional results are trickling in from polling centres across Liberia following Tuesday’s peaceful general elections in the West African country.
Results are expected from 5,390 polling units in 2,080 centres across the 15 counties that make up the country. It is not clear yet how many people participated out of the 2.1 million voters registered for the election, but media reports said turnout was high.
A correspondent in Monrovia reports that polling stations in and around the capital were packed with eager voters, including the aged, many of whom queued up before dawn. Voting started on schedule in the 19 polling centres visited by NAN, but there were reports of late arrivals of materials in some rural areas due to bad roads and poor weather.
It was observed that voting was a bit disorganised in some polling stations in Monrovia as many voters had difficulties locating their voting points. Many, who had spent hours on a particular queue, were directed to other voting points when it was their turn to vote, leaving them frustrated.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia said the exercise was generally successful, but some political parties have expressed reservations about the process. The parties that expressed reservations included the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), whose presidential candidate is ex-football star George Weah.
Also raising an eyebrow is the Alternative National Congress (ANC) represented in the presidential elections by former Coca-Cola executive, Mr Alexander Cummings. Local media quoted Cummings as saying that he was informed of voting hitches in several places that prevented Liberians from exercising their franchise. He said in some counties, ballot papers arrived after 3 p.m. and many voters with valid voter cards were turned away for many reasons including their names not being on the voter register.
Speaking to reporters while monitoring the elections on Tuesday, Mr John Mahama, the head of the ECOWAS Elections Observation Mission to Liberia, said there were some lapses mainly on the part of electoral officials.
Mahama, who toured polling stations in several counties, attributed the situation partly to late training of presiding and electoral officers. But he lauded the National Elections Commission and the presiding officers for conducting the process peacefully and urged it to learn from the mistakes.
The chairman of NEC, Mr Jerome Korkoya, admitted the flaws while addressing a press conference at the commission’s headquarters in Monrovia on Tuesday.
Korkoya said, “One of the issues was caused by voters joining the queue without consulting the queue controller, and going straight to a polling place without checking if they are in the right place in the polling precinct.
“Affected voters assumed that because they registered in a particular room in a centre, so they went to that particular room during voting.
“In many cases, your name will not be in there but in another room because the precinct where you registered will be spread out into various centres during elections, and your name may be in one of the centres within that precinct.
“A second issue was in cases where a voter is registered twice. These individuals are registered at the last place of registration in line with our policy. You will not be at the original place.’’
On voters not finding their names on the register, the NEC chairman said any one legitimately registered with the commission, who had a valid voter card and was not disqualified should be allowed to vote. He said affected voters would be compensated with more time, and advised other aggrieved parties to file their complaints to the commission for a redress.
Twenty candidates are in the race to succeed the incumbent president and Nobel Prize winner, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who has served out her two terms of six years each. Among the contenders is the incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party.
Elected for the first time in 2005, Johnson-Sirleaf inherited a country that was devastated by 14 years of civil war. She is lauded for restoring order and sustaining peace in the country in her 12 years in office.