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-Massive Turnouts Recorded But Voting Process At Slow Pace

Liberians trooped to polling centers across the country as early as Tuesday October 10, to exercise their franchise to elect their next President and members of the House of Representatives.

2017 elections peaceful3x2The vote is a climax of months of hectic political process marred by a long campaign period to enable candidates reach out to the voters across the country.

The Liberian Constitution sets aside the second Tuesday of October of an election year for Liberians to go vote their leaders in a democratic process.

According to the National Elections Commission (NEC), Liberia’s electoral body, about 2.2 million Liberians registered in these elections to elect a new president who will take over from outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The first democratically elected female president of Liberia and Africa, she has been in power for the last twelve years.

This is the first time in 73 years Liberia will be transitioning peacefully in a democratic process from one a sitting president and another. Early Tuesday, voters streamed to polling centers where they registered to cast their votes.

According to reports received from our reporters across Monrovia and other parts of the country, the process has been peaceful, free of violence, though there are reports of delay and slowness in most places.

Some polling centers opened as early as 8:00am while others delayed to open due to some minor constraints such as setting up poling precincts and organizing election materials.

It is gathered that some centers opened as late as 10:00am while voters had already queued to cast their votes. Slowness in the process was also observed and reported at most polling centers due to “verifications of voters’ name and code.”

At one polling center in the D. Twe High School on the Bushrod Island voters complained the way they were being pulled around by officials.

A voter whose ID number or code did not match any of the precinct codes had to walk away in anger, and vowed not to vote again.

“I have been here this morning; when I reached to the place and they checked my card, they will tell to go another place; when I get to the place they asked me to go, my code is not matched and they asked me again to go another precinct,” Ms Ernestine Clark said in frustration as she left for home not to vote again.

“I am going home and I will not come back here; I am tired of being pulled around.” Ms Clarke’s case was just one of similar cases voters suffered. A Polling Officer (PO) told this paper they should not be blamed for the problem because they were only acting on instruction.

Security officers at the D. Twe High polling center had to intervene in an altercation when a voter whose name could be found on the voter roll began to agitate, insisting it was impossible his name is not on the roaster because he registered there.

But after thorough check of his ID code, it was traced to another polling center several years away. Besides, a major reason identified for the slow pace of the process was voters’ inability to identify their candidates on the ballot papers.

Voters are given two ballot papers, one for presidential candidates, and the other for representatives. 20 persons are on the ballot paper for president and some voters, mainly unlettered ones, will have to look though the paper to identify the candidate they want to vote for.

At some polling centers, those with voting cards whose names could not be traced on the ballot papers are made to write their names on a separate sheet before they are allowed to vote.

”The major issue here is that most of the voters’ photos are not where they believed to have registered. This is causing commotion in District #4 at the Samuel Bright High School,” one of our reporters said.

“Because of the situation, most voters including pregnant women, baby mothers and old people are standing in line for the longest.” Dozens of observers and monitors for each of the political parties were seen comfortably watching every action, from verification of voters’ identity on roaster to perforation and marking of the fingers.

At one polling center in District 10 Montserrado County, commotion erupted when voters resisted what they term “unfair process” on the part of election officials.

According to our reporter, George Kailondo, an executive of the ruling Unity Party (UP), pushed his way through to vote without getting in the queue as others were. He alleged his life had been threatened and so needed to vote right away. He did not say who threatened his life.

It can be recalled that Mr. Kailondo was invited by the Liberian National Police in 2016 following the death of Dan Oragun, the manager of Guranty Trust Bank.

His action displeased voters who insisted he should not be given chance. He was however allowed to vote. In vote rich Nimba County, our reporter said the process went well with no any incidence, except for a heavy downpour of rain which stalled the process.

According to report, Presidential contender, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party cast his vote in Grand Bassa County this morning in a place calls “Upper Buchanan.”

The main contenders, George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai of the Unity Party (UP) cast their votes in the Rehab Community.

In a brief chat with reports, Ambassador Boakai confidently ruled out there would be a second run, but said he would avail himself to a second if there would be any.

“My first plan will be to thank the Liberians and to show them that this is time for real business. We are not going to be a donor driven country, Liberians themselves are going to build this country,” he said.

The UP standard-bearer pledged he would accept the outcome of the elections if it did not go his way. He was one of those tipped to win the elections.

Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) cast his vote around 16th Street in Sinkor at about 11:00 local time.

Polls are expected to close at 6:00pm but there are apprehensions voting could extend to extra hours because of the slow pace of the process.

Our reporter in the Duport Road Community quoted voters as even threatening to block roads to stop any official from leaving due to the undue delay to process them to vote.

This is Liberia’s third election since the last conflict in 2003 that forced former President Charles Taylor out of power. Liberians have been commenting on the process thus far. “Mount camel institute on the GSA road polling station did not start up to 9am. Voters who have gone to cast their ballots as early as 3, 4 N 5am early Tuesday morning were very angry, something which led to them chanting "we want vote, we want vote" and banging on the gate of the voting center,” a voter said.

This also led to fighting among voters foxing their way to enter the center in oder to cast their ballots, saying time is running out Speaking to this paper, David Tarpeh, a voter who has gone to cast his ballot since 8:00 expressed deep frustration.

"I been here since 6:00 o'clock this morning and according to news the process should have started at 8am but up to present NEC are yet to commenced the process," Tarpeh to journalists.

Tarpeh stated that he is very discourage about the entire process and want to abandon his quest to vote, thus, there are not even signs of the NEC of starting the process soon.

Tarpeh who is a business man and a student at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University said he feels very proud of exercising his civil right.

Another voter believe to be in his 60s who had also been at the polling station since 5:00 am, Pennie Flomo said he and his brother had been out since 5 to cast their ballots but the process is yet to started.

"We are still here looking up to NEC officials to tell us why up to present the process hasn't started yet but not a single person has come out to talk to us," he said very angrily.

When contacted official of the NEC, the head of the voting center who refused to call his name said the delay is due to the late coming in of party's officials at the polling station.

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