Monday, November 16, 2009

Liberia: CDC supporters threaten Chairman of National Elections Commission

The chairman of Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC), James Fromayan says partisans of football legend George Weah's Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party have threatened to burn down his house and eliminate him in the process.

“The CDC people in particular have been the ones making threatening statements about me at some polling centers. They said they were going to burn my home. In fact they had hate messages on their FM station, King FM which had a whole of threatening statements about me,” he said.

Fromayan said given Liberia’s recent violent history, he reported the threats to the Liberian police who in turn provided security for him and his wife.

He said his commission will continue to do its work and would not be perturbed by the threats.

“We are doing what we are convinced is the right thing and those who want to come to power by using threats to intimidate us as chairpersons of the National Elections Commission, I think they are missing the point,” he said.

But the opposition CDC said its partisans made no such threats against Mr. Fromayan. Instead the party said the elections commission chairman was being paranoid.

“I just think that the National Elections Commission Chairman is being paranoid. Nobody has threatened his life, and partisans of the CDC are people of civility. They have no intention or objective of threatening his life,” said Acarous Gray, CDC deputy national secretary general.

Fromayan and his commission have just conducted a highly contested senatorial by-election in which CDC party candidate Geraldine Doe-Sheriff won the first round over the ruling Unity Party candidate Clemenceau Urey.

The election had been billed as a referendum on the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and a prelude to the 2011 general elections.

The first round ended with the CDC candidate Doe-Sheriff winning about 36 percent of the total votes cast and the ruling Unity Party candidate Urey obtaining about 30 percent of the vote.

But because no candidate won 50 plus one percent of the vote, Doe-Sheriff and Urey will challenge each other in a November 24 run-off.

“According to our constitution if there is no winner on the first ballot, that is, a winner to obtain an absolute majority, that is 50 percent of the valid votes cast plus one that means we have to go for a runoff involving the two candidates with the highest number of votes,” Fromayan said.

The CDC said its candidate won the first round because Liberians showed their frustrating with the government of President Sirleaf.

“This regime manifested their inability to fight against corrupt officials of government. In fact that’s why under our legislative agenda, we want to carve a legislation that all corrupt or alleged corrupt officials of government, when they are charged this offense will become a non-bailable offense like the issue of rape and that of armed robbery,” said Acarous Gray, CDC deputy national secretary general.

Last Tuesday’s by-election was plagued by several problems leaving some to suggest that unless these problems are corrected, the runoff and Liberia’s 2011 presidential election could be in trouble.

Chairman Fromayan said the elections commission would correct some of the problems before the November 24 runoff.

“We are prepared. Although there is a limited time, but we have been able to identify some of the shortcomings that we experienced in the first round. We have taken some corrective e measures to ensure that there will be no repeat of what happened,” Fromayan said.
One of the lessons he said the commission learned from Tuesday’s by-election is that instead of deploying election staff on the morning of the day of voting, Fromayan said such deployment would take place on the eve of the actual day of voting.

Published with the permission of Voice of America

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