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Mood Of Liberians On Eve Of Runoff Election
Tuesday 8th November 2011

Voters in Liberia are expected go to the polls again on Tuesday,  8th November to elect a leader for the next 6 years since all the 16 presidential candidates who contested in the first round of the elections held on October 11 did not t attain the constitutional requirement of  50 %+1 vote to be declared winner.

 The ballot paper for tomorrow's poll will include incumbent president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party and former UN Ambassador, Cllr. Winston Tubman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

 The two weeks period between the first round of elections and the runoff has been marked with what others called dramatic events in the electoral process. The first was the allegation made by the opposition CDC accusing the National Election Commission (NEC) of being biased in favor of the ruling UP including allegation of fraud in the results tabulation.

While those allegations were yet to be addressed by the NEC, the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. James Fromayan sent a letter to the CDC in which he declared that the party won in the first round of elections amongst the 16 presidential candidates contrary to the official results of the elections as announced by him. Mr. Fromayan said it was a mistake after the opposition CDC was claiming the communication as evident of their allegation of frauds, something that finally led to the dismissal of the Communication Director of the Commission and the subsequent resignation of head of the electoral body. 

 The CDC however insist that the resignation of the NEC chair was not sufficient to prevent further cheating in the second round  and does  not think that the process would be fair for which  it has advanced several "administrative arrangements" amongst  the Board of commissioners.

CDC Standard Bearer, Cllr. Tubman who also did not campaign for the second round of the Tuesday poll    called on his supporters barely  four days to the runoff  to  boycott the process citing unaddressed demands by the NEC. Although he maintained that his party is willing to participate in the runoff provided their concerns were addressed. 

 However, the decision of the main opposition CDC to stay away from the process has triggered debates across the country and in the international community that has urged the CDC to ignore its concerns and participate in the process.  

 Mr. Thomas Du, Senior Preogrammes officer of National Democratic Institute (NDI) believes the demands by the CDC were unrealistic and undermines the whole electoral process. "Tubman is a lawyer and should know the electoral dates, the appointment of a new NEC chair and board takes a long time, and the constitution is clear on these matters and cannot be done within two weeks. They should have still campaigned whiles they wait for their grievances to be resolved", adding that granting them some of their demands will set a bad precedent for the nation as most of their claims of electoral irregularities were not substantiated by any evidence.

 The NDI executive noted that the Tuesday election will be a legitimate election as all the other parties are in in favor of the process and majority of Liberians are showing goodwill and readiness to participate in the process.

 The boycott has led to bitter exchange of words between the president and the CDC political leader. The Liberian accused Cllr. Tubman of "forfeiting the right to the finals because he fears defeat." And his actions are in violation of the constitution. And Tubman in turn responded by saying "to call for a boycott is a constitutionally guaranteed right ... an expression of my free speech." And believes the president is trying to intimidate him.

 But Mr. Dan T. Saryee, Executive Director of the Liberia Democratic Institute (LDI) noted that the exchange of harsh words between the two leading candidates does not augur well for Liberia's budding democracy, stressing that the opinion of the opposition should be dealt with in a conflict sensitive manner, something he believes would lead to building a vibrant democratic process in the country.

He however described the withdrawal of the opposition as not being healthy and believe that it erode the democratic credential the country is striving for.

 Another Civil Society actor, John Kollie of the Liberia Media Initiative (LMI) is also of the opinion that boycotting the election as announced by the CDC would affect the democratic dispensation in Liberia, saying although the result would be accepted by the International Community, a section of the Liberian population would be disgruntled, something in his view would not have a positive reflection on the election.

 Mr. Kollie however asserted that the CDC partisans are Liberians and their voices need to be heard, stressing that they have the constitutional right to express themselves freely. "But their demands are not justifiable since they participated in the first round of the elections and accepted the legislative results.

 He reckoned that the CDC should have participated in the campaigning for the second round while at the same time exploring other means to resolve their complaints.

For his part, Professor Joe Mulbah of Mass Communication Department of the University of Liberia said under the constitution, the runoff process could go on regardless of the CDC boycott citing the 1955 presidential election as a precedent, where according to him, former President William V.S.Tubman went into the election along and was declared the winner.

 Prof. Mulbah however urged that the president after the election should reach out to the opposition parties, especially the CDC to form a government of national unity which according to him would win over all Liberians. A cleric, Reverend Boima Freeman of the Liberian Christian Council said the CDC's boycott should be ignored and the process should go ahead. 

 Mark Bushall, an executive of the Liberia Media Center said the election process has so far been free and fair, adding that the runoff has to go ahead. According to him, government coming out of the runoff would be legitimate because voters would turn out to voted but at the time added that it would be an embarrassment to the government if there would be a low turnout.    

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