Casting  carts  before  horses: The case of Liberia’s premature election victory declarations

The race for elected offices in Liberia has come to a near end, with vote counting ongoing after a tense voting process accounting for a huge turnout, according to election observers.

On Tuesday, Oct 10, the general election started at 8:00 am and ended at 6:00 pm, featuring 20 Presidential candidates, including the incumbent president, George Weah. 

Liberians also voted to elect 73 members of the House of Representatives and 15 Senators.  Hours after voting has ended in the West African nation, many candidates and surrogates have taken to social media pages declaring victory.

The self-declaration from these candidates and surrogates has generated huge engagements on Facebook, including likes, comments, and shares. 

People who have done these are representative candidate Emmanuel Dahn of electoral District #7 in Montserrado County, Karishma Pelham Raad, a representative candidate in D#10 Montserrado County,  Rep. Francis Saidy Dopoh I, who is contesting the Senate in River Gee. 

Others are Cornelia Kruah-Togba of District 13 Montserrado and sitting representative Acarous Moses Gray.

Rep. Gray had this to say: “TEAM GRAY speaks to the media today at 2pm from his Plumkor Campaign Office with facts from the tallied results coming from all polling centres in the district. Go and sleep as victory is ours yah. You can’t defeat an Hon Acarous Moses Gray.”

Elsewhere, Cornelia Kruah-Togba said, “We have few polling places left but from all indications, we’ve lost.”  On the other hand,  Rep. Francis Dopoh said, “River Gee County spoke!” as he received tons of best wishes from well-wishers.

“The people have spoken,” said Dahn. “As we await NEC to validate the records, we call on our supporters to go out and celebrate.” 

Karishma Pelham-Raad of electoral district #10 conceded without NEC’s official result. “Congratulations to Hon. Yekeh Kolubah on being re-elected as the next Lawmaker of District #10,” she said.

None of the claims from these candidates or surrogates came with a scintilla of evidence or backing from the electoral body. This has alarmed many observers, including the media in Liberia. 

Amidst the outpouring of congratulatory messages from them and Facebook commenters, DUBAWA looks behind the scenes, zooming in on the violation of the electoral laws that oppose early declarations.

What law does it violate?

The National Elections Commission, according to Liberian laws, is the only legal institution charged to conduct national elections in Liberia and announce results.

Research on the new elections law of Liberia found that under ‘Election offences,’ Section 10.1a says: “The following act shall constitute malfeasance, punishable under this chapter (a) influencing or attempting to influence the results of any election.

A senior official of the National Elections Commission who preferred anonymity due to his sensitive role at the NEC decried the actions of the political actors.

“It is a serious crime and obstruction, and manipulation of elections results will soon lead to conflict and chaos.”

In addition, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), in its 3rd statement on the Oct.10 elections following observers reports, urged all parties to wait on the election body for results.

“We call on all stakeholders to exercise tolerance and trust in the electoral system while we wait for the collation, counting, tallying and final declaration of the results by the National Electoral Commission,” the statement said in Monrovia.

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