Liberia: Liberia: 2011 Elections Face Legal Bottleneck

Liberians intended the August 23 National Constitutional Referendum to address some of the legal hurdles that face the smooth conduct of the 2011 presidential and legislative elections. It is too early to tell, but if by any chance the early results are any forecast, then Liberians undoubtedly stand to go through a series of legal battles before they go to the polls. The Analyst has been looking at the preliminary results of the referendum released by the National Elections Commission (NEC).


 Early poll results of the August 23 National Constitutional Referendum have forecasted the failure of propositions 1, 2, and 3, to say nothing about what appears to be a turnout that is short of the constitutional passage requirement.

The results also show that Proposition 4 has taken an early lead with 120,596 votes tallied nationwide.
The constitution requires the amendment of the constitution to obtain the affirmative vote of two-third majority voters of the total registered voters for the voting period – in the case of the 2011 presidential and legislative elections, the total registered voters is 1.8 million.

The results, which reflect the decisions of 120,596 voters, come from 935 of 4,457 polling places spread across the 1780 voting precincts in the country, representing nearly 21% of total vote cast.
According to NEC, all 72 polling stations in River Gee County have submitted their ballots while 97.3% or 76 polling stations in River Cess also submitted their ballots with two outstanding.

In Grand Kru County, 39 stations, or 51.3% of polling centers submitted their ballots while no station has reported any ballot as of yesterday from Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties.

In Lofa County, 135 of the 243 polling stations, or 37.7%, have reported while only 69 of 1,408 polling stations in Montserrado County have reported.

Of the 120,596 early votes tallied, 55,137 voters want to change the residency clause from ten to five years while 50,128 voters want the clause remains as provided for under Article 52(c). Of that number also, 43,825 want to increase the retirement age for the chief justice and associate justices of the Supreme Court by five years; but 61,851 refused, preferring it to remains as provided for under Article 72(b).

Of the 120,596 early votes tallied, 57,646 want to move the Election Day from the thunderstorm October month to November, which is the onset of the Dry Season; but 47,612 preferred to have it unchanged as provided for under Article 83(a).

Those who want to maintain the absolute majority rule as provided for under Article 83(b) are 38,191 while nearly twice as much, 66,170, wants to change the rule for legislative elections.

The good news, observers say, is that the results are provisional, but they say that NEC has revealed very vital little information about total voters tallied, polling centers, precincts, and electoral districts, has heightened anxiety about the referendum’s success.

Notwithstanding the fact that the preliminary results have raised more questions than provided answers, NEC says nationwide reports indicate that the referendum went smoothly with an isolated police incident in the provincial capital of Barclayville City in Grand Kru County in Southeastern Liberian.

“There have been no reports of serious electoral violence during the referendum. However, an isolated case was reported where two persons are undergoing investigation by the Liberia National Police in Barclayville for allegedly inciting elections violence at the Sasstown High School Voting Precincts Number 18017,” a NEC statement said yesterday.

The Commission congratulated the voters, noting that the peaceful conduct of the referendum was indication of the citizens’ desire to see the nation’s emerging democratic experiment flourish. It also praised representatives of political parties, international and national observers and the media for observing what it called the “important process in the democratization of Liberia”.

According to the commission, it has accredited 371 international and 1,578 domestic observers to monitor the referendum and presidential and legislative elections.
“Apart from local journalists there was an additional team of foreign journalists who also covered the referendum poll,” NEC said.

The commission said it has posted 19 election magistrates across the country to handle possible complaints of poll and counting irregularities within 24 to 72 hours as of the end of voting on August 23, 2011.
NEC said it would announce the final results of the referendum on Wednesday, September 7, 2011, by which time the commission would have tallied and certified all results


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