A Quiet in Monrovia As Liberians Nervously Await Elections Results


By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 12, 2005


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In the words of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General to Liberia, Mr. Alan Doss, “it was a great day for Liberia.” Another international observer said that Liberians have set the bar higher for other countries in terms of campaign and electoral conduct. After six weeks of a mostly civil campaign, Liberian voters went to the polls yesterday to take part in the first post-war presidential and legislative elections.

Lines to the polling centers started as early as 1 am on Tuesday. People went to the polling places and usually “retained” their position in the queue by leaving a stone or a chair in line and went back to sleep to return later around 6: AM. Lines were long and the process started very slowly in some areas. In many instances voting did not start on time because poll workers had to deal with multiple observers representing political parties, news organs as well as international organizations.

Most of the candidates voted in their home counties. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf traveled to Tubmanburg, in Bomi County while Varney Sherman cast his ballot in Robersport in Capemount. George Weah went to ELWA, a neighborhood near the SKD Stadium where he had his most glorious days as a footballer and Charles Brumskine traveled to his hometown.

There were very few incidents throughout of the day of the elections. In a few places, impatience and the heat combined with the slowness of the process lead to voters to try to force their ways into at least two polling places. But things were quickly brought under control by security forces of the Liberian National police and the UNMIL civil police. In a displaced camp, near Monrovia, a man threatened to attack voters in line. A woman was arrested for attempting to vote twice.

The NEC held a briefing on Wednesday and informed the press that it would not release results until all ballots from every corner of the country have been tallied. The Chairman of the Commission, Frances-Morris said that the process could take three to seven days. She however promised that first official results could be released tonight at another briefing, the third of the day. She said results from precincts would be posted at the polling places and only results would be forwarded to the headquarters in Monrovia.

The high rate of illiteracy had a serious impact on the voting process. Many people who woke early and went to stand in line and who could not read instructions posted on the walls found out hours later that they were in the wrong place. This caused some voters to just walk away. The other negative impact on the process was caused by the lack of electricity. Polls were to close down at 6: PM but many remained open until 7 to cater to voters who were already in line. The elections workers then had to start counting ballots in the dark, at candle light or flash lights. Very few of the polling places had generators.

According to preliminary results broadcasted by the various radios stations that have dispatched correspondents throughout the country, Charles Brumskine has emerged as the new horse in what has so far seemed to be a two-person race between George Weah and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Alhaji Kromah of ALCOP has also scored big numbers in Lofa County. As results trickle down, the others surprises are the low turnout for Varney Sherman. Former warlord General Prince Johnson – who arrested and killed President Samuel Doe – stands to win a senatorial seat in Nimba County as an independent candidate. He had tried to run on unity Party ticket but was defeated at the primaries of the party.

Chairman Gyude Bryant will go down in history as probably the only head of state denied the right to vote in presidential elections under his watch. Chairman Bryant and his entourage flew to his town in Cavalla, in Maryland County aboard an UNMIL helicopter. Upon arrival, he realized that he had had forgotten his voter registration card and poll workers refused to make an exception. He walked away and flew back to Monrovia.

The city of Monrovia and campaign headquarters are quiet.