Liberia Heads to Polls Despite Call to Boycott

Publication Date: 
9 Nov 2011

Incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former United Nations diplomat Winston Tubman were on the ballot November 8, for the presidential run-off election in Liberia.

Despite the boycott announced by Tubman and at least one violent confrontation in an area near the capital, a significant number of Liberians turned up to cast their ballots in a peaceful manner.

Almami Cyllah, IFES Regional Director for Africa, and Shalva Kipshidze, IFES Chief of Party in Liberia, answer a few questions about the election.

Question: How was the second round of the election?

Answer: The polls all opened on time and were generally calm. As it was only a presidential run-off with two candidates, counting was completed quickly compared to the October elections.  

Q: What impact did Tubman’s call for a boycott have on the election?

A: Polling was conducted as planned with all 1,780 precincts opening in the morning.

Q: The Chairman of the elections commission resigned only a week before the run-off election. What effect did this have?

A: Counselor Elizabeth Nelson, Co-Chair of the Commission became acting chair. She and the five remaining members of the Board of Commissioners were responsible for the conduct of the run-off election.  

Q: What was the turnout?

A: Turnout figures will be available as part of the progressive preliminary results, which will be released by the election commission (NEC) beginning on Thursday, November 10. Although, early indications point to an expected drop from the first round, turnout is likely to be higher than it was for the national referendum in August.

Q: What is the complaints adjudication process?

A: The following outlines the basics of the adjudication process:

  • Challenges and complaints will be assessed, investigated and determined under regulations and procedures issued by the NEC
  • Critical issues are heard by a Chief Hearing Officer in Monrovia, who makes recommendations to the NEC’s Board of Commissioners
  • Other issues are investigated, heard and determined by the Magistrate who is assisted by a local hearing officer
  • A decision by the NEC or a Magistrate shall be published on the premises of the NEC or the Magistrate’s office, respectively
  • A Magistrate’s decision can be appealed to the NEC Board of Commissioners within 72 hours after determination by the Magistrate
  • Determination by the NEC Board of Commissioners on a complaint can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Liberia no later than 48 hours after a determination is issued
  • After final results are announced, complaints may be filed with the NEC; NEC decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court

Q: When will results be final?

A: The NEC is required to declare the results of the elections by November 23, 15 days after Election Day casting of ballots, but can be announced sooner.

Q: How was the overall feeling from the population in relation to the election?

A: The general feeling expressed by individuals, press statements and the international community is that Liberia is taking steps forward to build a democratic society. It might be a long process, but people are hopeful.

Q: What has this election shown about Liberia’s democracy — is it getting stronger? 

A: The election has shown that the freedoms outlined in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are respected by the leadership of the country.