International Observers’ Reports Raise Very Serious Questions About The validity and legitimacy Of Ambassador Weah’s Claims That He Was “cheated”
By Mohamedu F. Jones
November 16, 2005
Seven of the 29 observer missions have issued statements posted on the Commission’s website regarding how they saw the elections. It is worthwhile to examine some of these statements to reach an informed judgment (for those of us looking at Liberia from afar) regarding the legitimacy and credibility of the elections.
The African Union reported that the “holding of transparent, free and fair elections is one of the cornerstones of establishing democratic governments and advancing good governance principles on the continent.” The Union’s observers were deployed in Montserrado, Nimba and Margibi Counties and visited 100 polling stations in these counties. The Union concluded that “the conduct of the second round of the Presidential run-off election has been free, and transparent under the watchful eye of domestic and international Observers. Everywhere the secrecy of the polls was assured, the officials adhered to procedures, and the candidates representatives were present at all the polling stations that the African Union Observer Team visited.” The African Union recommended that the candidates and people of Liberia accept the results of the elections, noting that its Observers had free access observing the voting and counting process.
The European Union has preliminarily reported that Liberians “were provided with a choice between two candidates in a genuinely competitive election process.” The European organization stated that “procedures were generally well followed and the secrecy of the ballot was generally well maintained.” Importantly, representatives of Ambassador George Weah and Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf “were present in virtually all polling places visited by EU observers, [in some cases two representatives, rather than the stipulated one stipulated were present]” contributing to the transparency of the process. The EU concluded that the National Elections Commission “administered the presidential run-off election in a professional and impartial manner.” An important observation by the EU is that Ambassador Weah, who had publicly questioned the results of the October election failed to send a representative to an Inter Party Coordination Committee meeting organized by the National Elections Commission, before the run-off, “thereby reducing the inclusiveness of the consultative process” after the October elections.
In its preliminary statement, the International Republican Institute (IRI) from the United States reported that its “election observation delegation monitored more than 170 polling places in Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado and Nimba counties.” The Institute stated: “IRI's delegation witnessed an orderly and peaceful process, one that reflects Liberia's commitment to build a democracy. IRI's observers again saw election officials who were serious-minded, professional and recognized the importance of the task before them. Officials clarified key procedural instructions that resulted in a measurable improvement in secrecy of the ballot.”
As we judge the legitimacy and validity of the Ambassador Weah’s allegations of “cheating” and “fraud,” the findings of the Republican Institute ought to be considered: “Party agents from the competing parties were in all polling places visited by IRI observers. Independent observation groups were also present in many of the polling stations IRI visited. These large numbers were critical to the transparency and legitimacy of the election and should dispel any allegations of cheating.” The IRI concluded that “[A]lthough not affecting the election outcome, IRI's delegation took note of a few procedural issues that should be addressed to ensure clarity in voting procedures.”
Visions in Action, a not-for-profit American delegation accredited to observe the October and November elections stated that it observed voting and counting in Nimba, Bong, Margibi, Grand Basssa and Montserrado counties. The organization concluded that its team found the overall process “to be free, fair and transparent.” Visions further reported that the “counting process went smoothly and quickly, at the polling stations and the one tally center it visited. In all the places, this organization monitored, the sole problem reported was at a Totota, Bong County polling station where one party’s representative felt that party representatives were sitting too far from the table where voters’ ID and lists were verified. The presiding officer offered the representatives standing positions behind the ID processing staff, and solved that problem. VIA even went further and recommended that election staff should be retained and utilized in future elections.
The United States Embassy and ECOWAS also issued reports on the elections and made similar findings that the election process was free, fair and transparent. The US Embassy stated unequivocally: “It is the view of the Official U.S. Observer Delegation that the procedures observed for reconciling the number of ballots used and for counting of ballots resulted in an accurate vote count.” ECOWAS also reported that “the counting and tallying of votes were carried out in a transparent manner.” It is significant that the reporting agencies uniformly indicated that the National Elections Commission had conducted proper elections in October and November 2005.
Reviews of the reports submitted by these international observers raise very serious questions as to the validity and legitimacy of the claims proffered by Ambassador Weah that he was “cheated” because of “fraud.” It is recognized the world over that one way to promote free, fair and transparent elections is to allow international observers and monitors unfettered access to the electoral process; this is clearly what happened in Liberia on November 11 2005. Based on the reports of these international observers, it is also abundantly clear that one can reasonably reach the conclusion that Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of the Republic of Liberia in good and proper elections.
The levels and standards of proof that Ambassador Weah needs to meet to show otherwise are with a preponderance of clear and convincing evidence. There is no indication that he can meet the required standard of evidence, but only because the facts show that election changing “cheating and fraud” did not occur, and he cannot change that facts no matter how many times he says he was cheated. By rejecting the outcome and the findings of these observers out-of-hand simply means that Ambassador Weah and his supporters have assumed the position that if he did not win, it was because he was cheated, and if he lost, it was because of fraud. Losing elections is a required necessity of democratic elections; accepting the loss is a required necessity of electoral democracy.