Let The Winner Be Democracy


By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 14, 2005


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It is not unusual that the journey to the end of an elections campaign period is always shrouded in uncertainty. Ours is not an exception. The electorate is often faced with many questions, several of which may not get answered before casting their votes, yet they still exercise their rights to vote, however cloudy the choice.

All promises by the candidates are so much the same that the electorate would wish it had a crystal ball to foretell which candidates would be true to their words. Unfortunately that wish is unattainable, unless one believes in Zoe. Zoe is the only one said to have crystal ball powers.

It is inevitable that many will not find their preferred candidates elected.

Let Every Vote Count.
We have disagreed across the national spectrum, from the streets to the classrooms, from the villages to the towns, to the cities, on candidate qualifications. Several arguments and counter arguments have faced off. The frustration is evident on all sides, as there are no clear winners in the debates. Such is the nature of some national issues, that in the absence of any Constitutional bearings on them, their resolutions simply remain hanging in the air, pending introduction plus ratification of bills, or Constitutional amendments to finally put them to rest.. Neither mediation nor arbitration is available in such cases, however reliant our national well being is on them. But, as these debates relate to elections, our votes become the final arbiter. There in lies the importance of making every vote count. Let each vote count for its intended beneficiary; the sanctity of the individual ballot must be honored.

No one in a position of authority shall abuse such to the detriment of free and fair elections. No one with a larger than usual war chest, shall use same to high-jack these elections. We hear tales of a ‘hidden hand’ (Synonymous to Uncle Sam) , having already decided the vote before a single ballot is cast. We just hope that these are not just tales but “fairy tales” as well. Now, why would an uncle want to treat his nieces and nephews like that? Off The Wall, that’s what that is. Let the people decide.

Monitoring Elections, Counting Ballots.
Ensuring the integrity of the polls is paramount. Accounting procedures must be applied. The number of ballots ordered per “sealed container (s)“ must be verified, before a single ballot is removed from such container (s). The number of ballots distributed to each polling station, ‘spoiled ballots’ if any, must all be logged. If it is feasible, the services of an Independent Accounting Firm needs to be contracted to carry out this check mechanism.

All stakeholders - party representatives, NGO’s (both national and international), the media, ECOWAS, UNMIL, EU, representative civil servants - must work as a single entity. That is, every leg in the voting process, from standing watch, to counting votes, must not be performed without the presence of a single stakeholder. The NEC’s role is to facilitate, not to dominate the process. This is a necessary caution to ensure neutrality. If the NEC decides that some stakeholders will be allowed only to watch the casting of ballots , thereby excluding them from the counting of ballots, it will definitely raise eye brows. The count arguably needs to be the most transparent exercise in the entire election process.

Why it will require 15 days before announcing the results of an election in which the ballots are expected to be counted on the spot at each polling station simply does not sound right. We are talking about a provision in the Constitution that was phrased to allow time for some ‘heavy hand’ to “tweak” the count. Didn’t the CPA suspend such provisions that cramp the transition, provisions that are strong candidates for future Constitutional amendments? Why the unnecessary wait then? Allay all fears of possible foul play by announcing the results within, at most, FOUR to FIVE days.

Let the first step (Free And Fair Elections) in our quest for Democracy take a strong hold. It all begins with passing the test of making every vote count. After all, in the end, it is the integrity of the polls that lends solace to the losers; it is that which places their faith and hope in ’the next time’; it keeps us out of the courts and allows us to concert our efforts to focus on our next steps in the journey.

It is only when Democracy reigns that we have access to peaceful means to solve our problems . When we say “No More War”, what we are saying in essence it that we all want to solve our problems by peaceful means, Democratic means. Solutions to our problems need not shoot out the barrel of the gun. Getting rid of corruption, equitable distribution of dividends from our rich endowment in natural resources, tapping our human resources to work in various segments of a development plan, saying goodbye to impunity, enforcing the rule of law, respect for human rights, and all the good things that accrue to us for just being Liberians, will all not be possible when we fail to adhere to Democratic principles. Let us then mean what we say, by letting Democracy reign in our land. This is not a Utopian Dream; many nations that have traveled the same path are living the dream today. Can we also live that dream? Yes, but only if we let Democracy win.

That we have a fair, and hence peaceful transition of government, may very well be more important than who wins the presidential race, or who gets elected as a legislator. That we set in motion the wheels of Democracy, turning in the right direction, is bigger than anyone who emerges as the president in this race.

The Legislature is key in this journey to Democracy, more so than the Presidency. The Legislature represents the people’s will and means to bring about any form of change.
It has to be a new day, a new beginning, for this body representing the people. Rubber-stamping for the president, formation of saboteur cliques, should all be left behind.
The Legislator is simply a bearer of constituents’ sentiments. Taking seat in Monrovia, and pushing personal agenda in Parliament is not what the people intend when they vote one in as their representative. Hitting the road and conferring with constituencies is why the people’s money was lavishly spent to buy those Cherokee Jeeps for Members of the Legislature.

To the Legislature: Prove to the people that all that money spent, along with their trust placed in you, is not in vain. Get in those jeeps and reach out to the people. Every vote you cast should reflect the conscience of the people. And do us a favor. The next time the president makes an attempt to bribe you to pass a budget or a bill, IMPEACH him.

If we are to get anything good out of “This Election Thing”, let us all be winners.