The Carter Center has released a pre-election statement warning the National Elections Commission, political parties and the candidates against things that will be inimical to the outcome of the October 10,2017 elections.
It summarizes key findings from the campaign period and pre-electoral environment in the lead-up to Liberia’s presidential and legislative elections on Oct. 10.
It reads: Political parties should refrain from releasing parallel results prior to the publication of provisional results by the NEC. Further, both the political parties and the NEC should be clear in informing voters that only results reviewed and released by the NEC are official. While stakeholders have the right to gather and disseminate information regarding the process of the election — including results collected from polling stations — any results released by a political party before the official results are finalized have the potential to increase confusion and misunderstanding and could unnecessarily cast doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome. It is likely that discrepancies will arise because of differences in the speed and location of unreported results, the additional checks the magistrates will be conducting during the NEC’s official results tabulation process at the county level, and the different methods for gathering the information. Refraining from releasing early and unofficial results will help limit confusion among the electorate and avoid inflaming tensions.
The statement is the latest in a series, all part of the Carter Center’s comprehensive long-term international election observation mission in Liberia. The current phase of the mission includes six long-term observers who have been deployed across the country since August, and a core team of electoral experts in Monrovia. In the coming week, they will be joined by about 30 short-term observers who will help observe the voting, counting, and tabulation processes.
The Carter Center delegation will be led by H. E. Catherine Samba-Panza, former president of the Central African Republic; Jason Carter, chairman of the Carter Center Board of Trustees; and Jordan Ryan, vice president of the Carter Center’s peace programs.
In its statement, The Carter Center offers several recommendations on steps to increase public confidence in the election and flags a few issues that could prove problematic, including several that could be addressed prior to election day:
· The NEC should consider using all media and telecommunication options to communicate the availability of the SMS voter list verification tool to voters, which would contribute to the public’s confidence in the quality of the list and help familiarize voters with the location of their polling places.
· To further its commitment to transparency, the NEC should publicly post the lists of people selected as polling station staff so that the names may be scrutinized by the community.
· The NEC should continue its efforts to explain the tabulation process and the provisions for ensuring adequate access for party agents and observers, and any other safeguards it is implementing. Further, a clear outline of the planned timetable for releasing results would help prepare political parties and the general public for the days following election day.
· The police and political parties should continue the commendable cooperation they have shown to date.
· All parties and candidates should reiterate their commitment to a peaceful process and respect one another’s right to campaign.
· Candidates should exercise caution in their rhetoric and remind their supporters that no matter their ethnic group or heritage, they and their opponents are all Liberians.
· In order to assure voters that they can cast their ballots free from intimidation and that the secrecy of the vote is fully protected, all parties should refrain from gathering voter identification numbers in the time before election day. In addition, the political parties and the NEC should assure voters that it is not possible to determine how a voter cast his or her ballot based on an identification number, and that persons who have collected voter identification numbers will not be able to determine how a voter cast their ballot.
· Parties with concerns about the misuse of state resources should document possible violations and file formal complaints with the relevant authorities.
· Authorities should allocate time and space for campaigning in the final days in a manner that provides all parties with equal opportunities and assures that events are organized in a manner to avoid confrontation between supporters.
· The NEC should prepare itself to respond to questions about the number of voters who were allowed to vote on election day when they showed up with a valid voter registration card but were not on the published list.
· The NEC should instruct its staff to strictly enforce the law regarding who is authorized to be present in polling places.