Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Civil Society expresses concern over by-election processl

Civil Society Concerned: By-Elections Slow, Disorganized

The Liberia Civil Society Election Observer Coalition is concerned about the slow progress and the general disorganization observed so far in the Montserrado County senatorial by-elections.
The group in a release noted that the voting process begun very late across the county, including central Monrovia, for a variety of unacceptable reasons, adding, “Late arrival of election materials and poll workers, causing many voters to return home because of frustration, fatigue or the weather.”
The National Elections Commission (NEC) promised that the voters that the process would have began at eight in the morning.
The Coalition, according to the release is also concerned that up to noon of November 10, there were still confusion over polling centers, as many voters did not know where to vote as polling centers have been changed with no information about the changes.
“In some instances, the location of several centers could not be identified, as the voters were repeatedly turned back from the options they had. A particular instance involved voters registered in the 30066 - 30068 series. They voted at the Centennial Pavilion in 2005 and were redirected to the Buchanan Street AGM; later to the JJ Ross High School, where there was no polling; then to the New Housing Bank Building, which was not initially listed as a center; and the Newport Street High School,” the group said.
The coalition notes that polling officers were not properly informed, and were overwhelmed by complaints from voters and party representatives, thereby putting the polling officers away from the voting procedure, and reducing their oversights.
The release further said, centers and facilities were not properly thought out as polling places. As a result, voting took place in private properties and in some instances, school authorities prevented voting (School in Nyanforh Town, Gardnersville; and JJ Ross High School) in their facilities because they have no understanding for the use of their school as polling places. The abandoned Housing Bank, though not cited as a polling place anywhere, is now a precinct.
The coalition however notes the involvement of observers from independent organizations and political parties, as a positive development that should ensure popular participation in the process.
The coalition is meanwhile calling on the National Elections Commission to “take note of the problems observed so far, and take prompt actions to get them under control.”
The coalition renews that “the successful hosting of these elections is an important step in the sustenance of peace and democracy in Liberia,” and calls on all, inclusive of candidates, parties’ supporters, electoral officials and the general public to think of Liberia and commit to making the elections succeed.
The Liberia Civil Society Election Observer Coalition has been organized by Liberian civil society groups with a mission to engage the democratic process, including the monitoring and observation of electoral and political party activities, up to and including the general elections of 2011.
Members of the coalition include the Liberia Democratic Institute (LDI), West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections – Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-PADD), Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives (AGENDA), and the Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP).

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