Coordinated Election Situation Room (ESR)
October 10, 2023 General and Presidential Elections in Liberia
On the 9th of October 2023, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), and its partners including the National Center for the Coordination of Response Mechanism (NCCRM) and the Liberia Peace Building Office officially opened the Election Situation Room (ESR) at the Sinkor Palace Hotel in Monrovia. This Preliminary Declaration provides a summary of the observations of the electoral process and actions taken by the Eminent Persons in the ESR Decision Room from the pre-to the post-election period.
It will be recalled that WANEP and its partners deployed 150 monitors out of which twenty (20) were Long Term Conflict Monitors in twenty-one (21) identified hotspots to gather data, utilizing structured checklists across nineteen (19) districts in nine (9) Counties including Montserrado, Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Nimba and Margibi.
THE ELECTION SITUATION ROOM (ESR)
The ESR is part of a broader project titled “Electoral Violence Monitoring, Analysis and Mitigation (E-MAM) implemented by WANEP in partnership with National Centre for the Coordination of the Response Mechanism (NCCRM), the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) with funding from the European Union (EU). The project is also designed to mitigate election violence in West Africa through the National Early Warning Systems (NEWS).
The aims of the ESR is to monitor, analyze, report, and facilitate responses to incidents which may threaten the peaceful conduct of the 10th October 2023 General elections. It is made up of four operational sections, namely, Data Gathering, Analysis, Decision, and Communication.
In the ESR, 14 people were engaged to interface with field observers and collate the data using ArcGIS Survey123 tool for data collection. The data gathered were analyzed by seven (7) analysts and the results were subsequently submitted to the five Eminent Persons for decision-making. The ESR Decision Room comprised five (5) Eminent Persons drawn from the Religious Community, University of Liberia, the Security Sector of the Republic of Liberia, and the ECOWAS National Office. Supported by the Executive Director of WANEP, the Eminent Persons used their good offices and expertise to resolve identified threats and mitigated the impacts through high level engagement and preventive diplomacy with relevant stakeholders. The ESR was further resourced by five (5) Fact- checkers who verified information gathered from social media and other outlets.
PREPARATIONS AND OPENING OF POLLING STATIONS
On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, 2,471,617 registered voters comprising 1,237,257 females (50.06%) and 1,234,360 males (49.04%) went to the polls to participate in the elections. Out of the 46 registered political parties, 20 candidates were accredited by NEC to contest the presidency which included two (2) females (representing 10%) and eighteen (18) males (representing 90%). Additionally, there were a total of 886 candidates contesting for 73 seats in the House of Representatives, while 100 candidates including 7 women (representing 7%) contested for the 15 available seats in the Senate. The elections were conducted within 5,890 polling centers and at 2,080 voting precincts across the country.
The ESR observers reported that 74.53% of the polling stations opened on schedule. Only a few places opened between 8:06-9:48am. However, at 12:00 noon, the ESR observers reported that there were some polls yet to opened, specifically in the Tanjuyon J. Milton Teahjay high school, Tokpaville public school and Jacksonville (Wuloken public school) polling centers in Sinoe County as well as in District # 3, Mambo public school in Grand Cape Mount County.
Also, in Caldwell, New Georgia, Montserrado County, it was reported at 11:35 am that voting had not started due to the late arrival of election materials and other logistical challenges.
NEC officials were present in high numbers at the start of voting in most places (97.52%) monitored by our Observers. However, NEC officials (specifically Ballot Paper Issuers) were not present in some places including Montserrado County District #6, polling center #30310 and Lofa County, district #4, Voinjama polling center #21134. Also, in Montserrado District #10 polling center #30134 and Grand Bassa County, District #3 polling center #9153, Verification and Identification Officers were not present at the opening of polls.
Additionally, in Grand Cape Mount County, ballot boxes were reported to have arrived late by 11:40 am resulting to voting starting at 11:49 am. Generally, there was high level of voters’ turnout including women, youths, and persons with disabilities being given special considerations by NEC officials. There was presence of National observers that included the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), WANEP, National Center for the Coordination Response Mechanism (NCCRM), Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) in most of the polling stations. Beyond the AU and ECOWAS there were several other International Observers in most of the stations visited by our Observers
HIGHLIGHT OF INCIDENTS
Generally, the elections were conducted in a conducive environment except for few incidents bordering on voting procedures that led to altercations and in few instances fisticuffs at the initial stages.
1. Smart Academy, District #5 Montserrado County – violent incident among voters erupted due to the late opening of the polling station. This also led to altercation between voters and security personnel.
2. Some voters violated NEC’s rules by using mobile phones at the voting center. Our Observers, reported 7.21% violation of NEC’s rules in the areas observed.
3. Reports received indicated that security was relatively fair. However, there were minor skirmishes. For example, in Grand Cape Mount County, in District #2 at Precinct Jene Brown, where an Independent Candidate was alleged to have incited supporters to disrupt the voting process.
4. In Montserrado County, District #13, Battery Factory at Mother Kebeh Academy polling center, a voter was allegedly caught with two voter ID cards, but he escaped the scene.
5. In Montserrado County, district #10 at the Wells Hairston High School, it was reported that two persons were caught with fake voting cards.
6. In Nimba County, District #1 at Tokay Hill Community, Foundation Academy Daycare Center, a Presiding Officer of polling center number 5 was seen having conversation with a candidate in his car, after which the voters asked that he should be replaced.
7. At Garden of Prayer polling station, Caldwell New Georgia, observers reported that at 11:35 AM, the voting process had not started which resulted to frustration on the part of voters and subsequent confrontation with NEC officials.
8. At Mambo Public School, Mambo Town, District #3, Grand Cape Mount County ballot boxes arrived 11:40 AM and voting process started 11:49 AM.
9. At Marianta School, District #15, Monterrsado County, a voter wearing an Army cap and pretending to be an Army Officer was arrested by the police.
10. At J. Milton Teahjay High School, Tanjuyon, District # 3, Sinoe County, the polling center opened late at 11:39 AM.
CLOSING AND COUNTING OF VOTES
• The ESR observers reported that 95.1% of polling centers closed without major interruptions.
• The ESR observers reported that 89.02% of polling centers monitored closed on the scheduled time, while 10.98% did not close on time due to high voters’ turnout and slow start of the voting process.
• The ESR observers reported that, 90% of those in the queue voted by and before 6 pm while only 10% voted beyond 6 pm in line with the electoral laws.
• Majority of the ESR observers reported that 95% of polling centers commenced counting and tallying after the close of polls. However, some polling stations experienced some delay mainly due to logistical reasons and absence of required number of security personnel needed before the counting.
• ESR observers reported that 90% of polling centers started the counting of ballots in the presence of all required actors, while only 10% reported that some actors were not present during the count. However, the Observers further reported that not all political parties and candidates had representations.
• Also, the report revealed that 98.85% of counting of ballots took place without any interruption and incident. While decision to cancel or validate ballots were made in consultation with all the actors present at the centers.
• An overwhelming number (close to 90%) of ESR observers reported that complaints, challenges, and claims were reported to the Presiding Officer (PO). Some of the complaints reported were the slow starting process and the organization of the voters in the queue.
• All our observers reported that at the end of the counting all candidates’ agents and political party representatives signed the tally sheet in the presence of observers.
Actions taken by the eminent persons in the Decision Room
Eminent Persons in the Decision Room were involved in high level diplomacy and engagements. They elicited the support and cooperation of NEC and security institutions to address key infractions from the field.
a) Over crowdedness at polling places where people with Special needs were rejected.
b) Security situations where hyper youths over-reacted to the slowness of electoral processes.
d) Late conduct of elections-related processes at centers with challenging lighting facilities.
d) Encouraging field monitors to lend support to voters in getting the necessary information on the arrangements and instruction they need.
e) Ensuring that field monitors remain professional during the course of their work.
f) Helping Analyst to contextualize information from the field.
1. Timely and effective communication by the NEC is essential in all phases of the electoral process to dispel rumors and suspicions among political parties, their supporters, and stakeholders.
2. To strengthen collaboration between CSOs and the NEC is necessary to enhance information dissemination at all levels, especially at the community level.
3. Highly trained officials of the NEC, especially with requisite knowledge of the electoral procedures, is imperative for effective management of the electoral processes to enhance credibility and trust in the system.
4. Media professionalism is key in preventing misinformation and disinformation amongst the general populace.
5. The presence of election observers enhances credibility of the electoral process.
6. Presence or lack of sufficient security personnel/system is necessary for the confidence of voters and the electoral process.
1. Lack of effective communication between the NEC and citizens. This led to suspicions and circulation of false information about some electoral procedures and result.
2. The gap in communication between NEC and political party representatives led to the questioning of the credibility of the electoral process.
3. Delay in the delivery of electoral materials in some polling stations affected commencement of the voting process.
4. Delay in publishing the Final Registration Roll (FRR) also affected the trust in the system.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
We commend all Liberians for their patriotism and patience in the post-voting activities. We also applaud the efforts of the NEC, the political parties, the security services, civil society organizations, women, and youth groups for their contributions towards the generally peaceful campaign and voting processes.
We express appreciation to the international and domestic election observers for monitoring the electoral process. We encourage all stakeholders to utilize laid-down procedures to seek redress through established legal channels on any electoral grievance.
Based on our observations of the October 10, 2023, electoral process, we offer the following recommendations to the various stakeholders for consideration:
1. We urge NEC to continue to be professional and sensitive to the choices of the citizens as they timeously release the results in line with the electoral laws.
2. We urge political parties to demonstrate leadership and tolerance in the acceptance of the outcome of the October 10 elections.
3. We appeal to political parties to ensure that future elections are more focused on issues rather than personalities.
4. Political parties are urged to build national cohesion and refrain from political rhetoric that deepen divisiveness in the country.
5. We implore political parties to encourage their supporters to be law abiding and all Liberians to remain peaceful as they await the announcement of the official results by the NEC.
6. The NEC, political parties and other relevant governance institutions should ensure implementation of recommendations from the reports of domestic and international Election Observation Missions (EOMs), to improve the electoral processes in the country.
7. Presidential and legislative debates in Liberia should be encouraged and legislated as a means of engaging and enlightening the citizenry on the manifestos of political parties so that electorates can make informed decisions.
8. Political parties and their supporters are encouraged to desist from using abusive words in expressing their views. They must exercise patience while waiting for the NEC to declare the results.
9. The security operatives should intensify timely and effective response mechanisms to address security concerns during the tallying and announcement of results.
10. We encourage Liberians to cultivate patriotism and embrace civic responsibility in the interest of national peace and security.
Done in Monrovia, October 11, 2023
WANEP Election Situation Room