MONROVIA, Montserrado – Unofficial provisional results from Monday’s joint legislative by-elections in Montserrado suggests that the popularity of Weah’s party, Coalition for Democratic Change has reduced as compared to recent elections.
Thousands of Liberians voted in the by-elections to fill the vacancies created in the legislature by the death of Montserrado’s Senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff and Representative Adolph Lawrence of the county’s 15th district.
The National Elections Commission has not yet begun releasing official results of the elections, although the tally was expected to officially commence at the elections body’s headquarters at 12:00 noon on Tuesday.
However, journalists in the field reporting from official tallied results posted at voting precincts are reporting that Liberty Party’s Darius Dillon and Telia Urey of the All Liberian Party who are also the choices of the opposition collaborating political parties (Unity Party, Liberty Party, the All Liberian Party, and the Alternative National Congress) are so far in the lead.
According to the reports, Dillon leads all other candidates in several districts, including Montserrado’s sixth district which hosts President Weah and another senatorial candidate, Samuel Enders. Urey, the ALP candidate, is also reported to be doing extremely well in Montserrado’s 15th district by-election, although the results so far appear more mixed.
This is the first time an election result in Montserrado has been so shocking against the CDC since 2005. The county is viewed as a stronghold of the ruling party.
NEC disclosed that there are 778,291 total number of registered voters in Montserrado, according to the 2017 final registration roll. It said 39,005 of the total registered voters are in Montserrado’s fifteenth district, where the representative by-election was held.
On Tuesday morning, Liberty Party held a press conference at its party headquarter ahead of NEC’s official vote tallying, where Dillon was referred to as “senator-elect.”
On his Facebook page, Dillon himself expressed hope that he had won: “We deployed Poll Watchers. They have reported to us. The results from the polling places cannot change or be changed.”
Another senatorial candidate, Kimmie Weeks, already officially conceded to Dillon via his Facebook page.
For her part, the ALP candidate in the district by-election thanked supporters and promised to make a full statement later.
“Thanks for all the messages and love! We did it,” she wrote.
A local observation network, the Liberia Election Observation Network or LEON, which deployed long-term observers in the elections, reported that majority of polling places opened on time, but 18 percent opened more than half an hour late due to either missing polling materials or late polling staff.
“All six polling places in Duport Road, Baptist Church, Precinct 30120, opened after 10:00 a.m. due to rain destroying the tarpaulin roof. Polling staff worked together to reconstruct it,” LEON reported.
It said turnout was generally low mostly because of rain, while some voters were unaware of the new election date. It said despite the lack of queues, poor line management was still observed in 13 polling precincts.
“Opening procedures were generally followed correctly, as were polling procedures. The new instruction to polling staff, announced by the NEC chairman on Monday, to call out each voter’s name as they are identified, was not generally or consistently followed. Party agents were often reminding the Voter Identification Officer to call the names and were not being permitted to stand near the VIO to verify the names for themselves,” the observation group noted.
“LEON had welcomed the new procedures from the NEC, especially given the new attacks on the credibility of the [final voter registration roll], so it is disappointing that many staff were not properly instructed. Despite this, LEON observers rate 90 percent of polling places as good or very good.”
According to the group, almost 20 percent of polling places were not accessible for persons with disability or the elderly, while voters needing assistance were observed in one-third of polling places.
“They were mostly helped to mark their ballots by a person of their choice, as per the polling procedures. However, in 17 Polling Places observed, a member of the polling staff assisted them,” it added.
LEON observers also reported witnessing two separate incidents of fights between voters in the queue, with one involving a senior government official, but the incident was successfully dealt with by police.
Observers reported that in Logan Town, Montserrado’s 15th district, a man was arrested for trying to vote twice, while three voters at Marvii Sonii School in Montserrado’s 14th district were denied from voting despite their names being on the voter list exhibited at the precinct.
Featured photo by UN Photo/Staton Winter