Liberian opposition makes new demands ahead of runoffBy KEMO CHAM and TAMBA JEAN-MATTHEW | Thursday, November 3 2011 at 07:10
Just days after Liberia's opposition leader Winston Tubman dropped his threat to boycott next week's run-off, his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party has issued fresh demands if it is to take part in the election.
Party spokesman George Solo said they want a new National Election Commission (NEC), and for new checks and balances to be implemented to ensure ballot boxes and voting papers are not tampered with.
Mr Solo, who is also described as the party's deputy campaign manager, said their demands include a 50-50 representation by the CDC and the ruling Unity Party on the NEC.
On Monday, Mr Tubman dropped his threat to boycott the runoff election. He told a news conference that his CDC party changed its mind because NEC chairman James Fromayan had resigned.
Incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf defeated Mr Tubman in the first round of voting by a margin of about 8 per cent. But she has been attracting crucial backing that boosts her chances in the runoff.
Fourth-placed presidential contender Charles Brumskine (5 per cent), has followed on the trail of former warlord Prince Johnson in endorsing her.
Justifying his decision, Dr Brumskine explained that it was as a result of a close examination of the two leading candidates: President Sirleaf and Mr Tubman.
“Both of them are friends of mine and I have great deal of respect for them, but at this point in time and with all things considered, we have concluded that the (ruling) Unity Party has an edge over the CDC in terms of moving our country forward,” he added.
The CDC has been insisting that it won the first round, and that its results were transferred to the incumbent.
A leaked letter which states that the CDC received the highest total votes in the first round caused the sacking of the former NEC communications chief, Mr Bobby Livingstone.
NEC officials scrambled to insist the communication was “an error.”
Amid expression of concern of violence, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced an increase of 50 monitors to its 150-strong observer mission to monitor the runoff.
Mr James Victor Gbeho, the head of the ECOWAS Commission, says the regional bloc anticipates a peaceful, transparent and a credible vote.
“Our observers will be arriving there to observe every aspect of the election. We are sending them earlier, because observation is not only done on polling day. We will satisfy ourselves that the arrangements being made are fair and credible,” he said.
But among the CDC’s latest demands is that international election monitors be fully involved in the process rather than being mere observers.
“There’s a strong disparity for us between observers and monitors. Monitors carry a little bit more responsibility. [They] can actually critique and correct issues in the process while it is going on. We want monitors, not observers,” Mr Solo said.
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Beyond the ballot