Monrovia- Liberians turnout in dismal numbers in the much anticipated and controversial presidential run-off election yesterday one day after a bloody clash of state police and partisans of the opposition, now come to be referred to as “Bloody Monday”, at the headquarters of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change where state police cracked down on partisans and shot live bullets at the gathering killing seven partisans in counting and injuring several others.
Some polls around the country have to close as early as 12:00 mid-day because there no voters were at the polls, for other polling centers, dozens of voters were seen line in cues to cast their ballots. Several poll workers were seen sleeping because no voters were at the precincts as one poll worker said, “With no voters here and job to do, we eventually get boring”.
Poll workers and the National Election Commission confirmed some precincts have to be relocated because the owners of those facilities refused to allow the commission use their properties.
The low turnout is blamed on the boycott of the opposition party and the Monday violence. One Liberian who refused to vote said, he didn’t vote in protest to those of his fellow Liberians killed by state police in cold blood and others brutalized.
Another Liberian who among a group of bystanders at the other end of the street gazing at a precinct narrates, “we will not vote, how does “Ellen” (President Sirleaf) in her right mind thinks we will go and vote after her police killed our brothers and sisters and others? Let her go and be President, isn’t she wants to be President at all cost even if it means everybody dies?
The opposition Congress for Democratic Change, CDC boycotted the run-off after the Liberian government failed to reach its demands as the party puts it, “their pre-conditions for their participation in the run-off. The opposition party among other things demanded the resignation of former election commission chairman, James Fromoyan, recounting of the October 11th first round ballots, restructuring of the commission to reflect balance, independence, transparency, integrity, trust, and confidence.
The opposition accused the election commission of fixing the result to favor President Sirleaf who was seeking second term. Chairman Fromoyan stepped down under pressure from the opposition and fled into exile to Ghana immediately after his resignation en route to The United where he arrived two weeks ago. Analysts believed the former election chief is beginning his self-imposed exile life in the United States, stressing , he’ll live there for a very long while because they don’t see how he can return to his own country sooner after leaving a grave dilemma inflicted on the country by his ill leadership as election chief of his country crucial election.
The international community scored the first round free and fair and the claims of the opposition as unfounded, noting their complaint of result fixing does not amount to the level of affecting the outcome of the overall result of the election.
Turnout of the run-off is estimated to be as low as 25% of the 1.7 million registered voters, a far cry from the 71% turnout of the October 11th first round vote.
The Congress for Democratic Change which won 33% of the votes in the first round election behind President Sirleaf and her ruling Unity Party which won 44%, were both qualified to go to the run-off since no one to person or party of the 16 candidates who participated in the election on October got the 50% plus one needed to avoid a run-off as required by the Liberian constitution.
Tension of the opposition insistence of boycotting the run-off escalated into violence Monday afternoon after their Standard Bearer made a last minute stand to show his party dissatisfaction when he called on all partisans to dress in white and assemble at the party headquarters to peacefully protest.
The opposition Standard Bearer was shot in the head from live bullet from state police just few second after shoved his boss into the car, taking him out of harm’s way. State police, well armed, descended on the opposition headquarters and a standoff soon erupted between them and the partisans who got nervous of the
presence of armed state police at their headquarters on a peaceful protest on the grounds of the party headquarters. Scuffle broke out between the police and CDC partisans which resulted into stone throwing and the police firing tear gas and live bullets into the gathering, killing seven persons, including the personal bodyguard to the party Standard Bearer, Cllr. Winston Tubman.
Monday bloodbath didn’t deter the Liberian government and election commission but conducted the election as scheduled yesterday. The Liberian government and election commission insisted the conduct of the election was a must conform with the constitution says, “a run-off shall be conducted two weeks after an election is conducted and no one candidate participating in the run-off received 50% plus 1 of the total votes cast”.
Cllr. Tubman narrowly escaped an assassination attempt since a live bullet was directly shot at him but killing his personal bodyguard instantly. The opposition Standard Bearer and running mate, soccer icon, George Weah were also tear gassed by state police and the vehicle carrying the party Vice Standard Bearing fleeing the scene and taking him into safety was fired upon with live bullets from state police firing directly at the car while being taken into safety by his personal security, narrowly escaping assassination as well.
It is being said, Liberia must thank the United nations peacekeeping forces in the country, they spared what would had been a broad day light massacre as they drew their weapons on state security forces, forcibly disarming
them, thereby preventing a bloodbath which could had led to the massacre of lot of Liberians of the opposition party, Congress for Democratic Change.
The Liberian government is yet address the Monday bloodbath and brutality against unarmed and defenseless citizens but the President, coming from voting in her hometown outside of Monrovia yesterday, said she is sorry for the loss and promise a full investigation, amplifying, if re-elected, she will find a way to reconcile the country.
The low turnout of the run-off exacerbates the concern of the international community that if the opposition didn’t participate in the election, President Sirleaf administration won’t have legitimacy and credibility even if voters had turned out in satisfactory numbers.
A government employee who showed his tomb with ink, meaning he has voted said, all government employees were warned to vote and if one did not vote and return to work without ink on their finger, they will be dismissed from their job.
Government employees who were forced against their will to vote by threat of losing their job, carved a sophisticated scheme to mark candidates, President Sirleaf and Winston Tubman, though Tubman boycotted the election but his picture remained on the ballots since they were already printed before the boycott, would then render their votes invalid and their rejection of the runoff protected and on the other hand protecting their job.
There will be lot of invalid votes, a government employee said as the result of our scheme.
If the story of the scheme government employees who deployed this unique scheme, then the 25% turnout estimated would be even more dismal.
Some international and national accredited observers told the acting Chairman of the election commission that they were denied entry into the voting booth by state police deployed at precincts during the reconciliation and counting of the ballots.
The chairman said she did not give or is award of any orders barring accredited observers from precincts or from observing the process.