On October 10, 2023, Liberians exercised their fundamental rights to choose their president, 15 Senators and 73 members of the House of Representatives and commends all Liberians for conducting themselves peacefully. ECC calls on all Liberians to remain calm and await the official announcement of the election results by the NEC.
These elections were the fifth consecutive elections since the end of the civil war in 2003 and in 2017. Liberia made history with the peaceful transition of political power one democratically elected president to another. The peaceful conduct of these elections will further consolidate the country’s democratic gains. If no candidate obtains at least 50 per cent plus one vote of the valid votes, a run-off is foreseen between the two leading contestants within 14 days from the announcement of results by the National Elections Commission,
This preliminary statement is based on reports that the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) received from 1,145 out of 1200 stationary election day observers deployed to polling places proportionally nationwide to observe the 2023 General Election process. The statement includes findings on the voting process, closing and counting at polling places. This statement is delivered before the completion of the entire electoral process. Critical stages remain, including tabulation of results and adjudication of electoral petitions. As a result, the content of this statement is based on observation undertaken to date, and ECC will later publish a final comprehensive report, including full analysis and recommendations for electoral reform. Nonetheless, the ECC may make additional statements on election-related matters as and when it considers it appropriate.
The elections took place without any significant reforms to the electoral laws and regulations and were held within a highly polarised and a divided political environment characterized by forms of social inequalities. In a positive development, these elections were nationally owned with
resources largely provided by the Government, electoral security provided by the Joint Security Taskforce and the entire electoral process managed by the National Elections Commission with minimum technical support from international development partners. At the same time, NEC lacked clear, timely and comprehensive communication with the broader public, creating uncertainties and reducing stakeholders’ trust in the institution.
The campaign, for the most part, was peaceful. However, it was characterized by inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that contributed electoral violence which led to injuries and deaths in District Number 9, Montserrado County, Foya, District Number One, Lofa County, and District Number 12, Montserrado County. However, during the campaign period, freedom of movement, assembly and expression were largely respected. Media discourses helped citizens to make informed decisions but some political parties did not attend presidential debates which led to personality driven rather than issues-based campaign.
The laws on campaign finance are clear but enforcement remains a challenge thereby undermining transparency around the use of resources.
On election day, the ECC released its situational statement covering the opening and set-up of polling places observed. The data shows that voting generally commenced on time, had the sensitive voting materials present with an improved deployment of women poll workers. However, there were certain counties that experienced delayed opening due to the late delivery of voting materials. Additionally, observers reported an improved coverage of national security deployment and the presence of party agents in most of the locations observed. This report covers the voting, closing of polls and the counting of results. The ECC is currently deploying 19 tally observers at the NEC’s 19 magisterial offices to observe the processes in the tabulation of results.
Based on reports from ECC observers deployed to polling places in all 73 districts, Liberians turned out peacefully to vote with few instances of tension at some precincts because of overcrowding. ECC observers noted that voters remained in long queues through the night in order to vote. ECC commends Liberians for turning out in their numbers to vote.
ECC stationary observers observed the entire election day process in their assigned polling places starting with the opening, set-up and continuing through the voting, closing, counting processes and the announcement of the results. Observers reported using an observation checklist and sent reports through coded text messages to a central database system at the ECC’s Data Center.
Within their polling places, ECC observers witnessed NEC staff generally following voting procedures even though there was lack of some sensitive materials at some voting precincts coupled with the lack of proper queue control in most places observed.
The queue control and management was not effective throughout the voting day in 13% of observed voting precincts. This had partly to do with the relatively high number of voters who were registered to vote in certain polling places. The lack of good management of the queues, combined with the long lines and long waiting, led to tensions in some locations and to violence in certain instances.
In 99% of polling places observed, voters were systematically asked to present their voter registration (VR) card before being allowed to vote and ECC observers noted that the finger of every voter was inked after voting in 99% of observed polling places.
ECC observers reported that the ballot papers were systematically stamped before being handed to the voter.
In 98% of polling places observed, the voting screen was placed in a way that guaranteed the secrecy of the vote. However, observers in 2% of observed polling places noted that the voting booth did not come as part of the material and polling staff had to use other methods to ensure secrecy of the vote.
In its midday statement, the ECC commended the NEC for ensuring a valuable participation of women as polling staff. Observers noted that only 25% of polling places had a woman as presiding officer, therefore, efforts remain to be done in ensuring women are filling a leading position at the polling places.
Closing and Counting Process
In 91% of observed polling places, there were still voters in the queue at 6:00pm, which on one hand demonstrates the high interest of Liberians in exercising their right to vote but on the other hand raises questions about the threshold for distributing voters to polling places.
In order to give the opportunity to vote to voters in line before 6pm, ECC observers reported that 26% of observed polling places closed after 6:30pm and voting continued long into the night in several counties.
Generally, NEC officials followed the procedures for closing and counting. ECC observers reported that there were party agents, representatives of the media and other observer groups present and observing the counting in most observed polling places. At observed polling places, party agents approved and signed the result form in all observed polling places.
At the end of counting, the presiding officer posted a copy of the result on the wall in 98% of polling places observed.
The ECC initially reported that in Sinoe electoral district 02, a center did not open as of 9 am due to the delayed delivery of election materials resulting from transportation challenges. ECC later received reports that the NEC officials were instructed to conduct the voting today, October 11th, since the materials arrived late during the night. A total of seven voting centers are impacted.
Abo At a town in Rivercess electoral district 01, the ECC coordinator reported that the NEC magistrate informed her that the voting process did not happen on October 10, 2023 as scheduled due the late arrival of NEC staff. At the time of the release of this statement, the ECC coordinator could not reach the magistrate by phone to ascertain whether the voting process is happening today. ECC will continue to keep an eye on these rare occurrences and provide any pertinent update.
Seven people showed up to vote at a precinct in electoral district 10 but their names were already listed as having voted, according to a report by ECC staff from the Secretariat. The victims said they waited in line for extended periods only to be told by NEC poll workers that they had already cast their ballots. Later, this problem led to tension, but it was quickly resolved by the state securities present.
An ECC observer in Montserrado electoral district 02 reported serious tension from morning up to evening hours and the security could not effectively control the crowd. The ECC observer reported fighting in the queues. The observer also saw two people lose consciousness due to the crowd, and the voting process was interrupted twice for more than 30 minutes each time. At one of the polling places, the large crowd was still present till 7:30 p.m according to the observer’s account.
Similarly, in the Montserrado electoral district 03, the polling precinct was congested; voters were using two doors to enter the building before going to the various polling places. However, by 5 p.m. the voters ran out of patience and decided to force their way through. This however, was promptly controlled.
An ECC observer in Montserrado electoral district 17 stated that a man was discovered in possession of 24 voter identification cards that belonged to a number of people he had persuaded to double register. The NEC personnel later disallowed one of the perpetrators from voting since they discovered he had registered twice. His mother, a security guard, played a key role in the capture of the individual responsible for the violation. Later, he was detained and turned over to the police. This supports the ECC pre-election findings that people were involved in the buying of voter registration cards.
Tally of Results
The ECC has deployed its 19 county coordinators who are observing the tally/tabulation of results at the NEC’s magisterial offices. ECC will continue to follow the process and provide relevant updates at its conclusion.
Based on its observations and findings, the ECC makes the following preliminary recommendations:
To the National Election Commission:
Provide timely information to the public on the timeline in the announcement of results and if there are challenges with the process, the public should be informed.
Treat all electoral disputes equally and adjudicate them in a timely and transparent manner.
Publish the election results polling place by polling place in an analyzable format and in a timely manner to allow election stakeholders to conduct in-depth analysis of the voting results.
The NEC is encouraged to review the thresholds in the assignment of voters at the polling places to ensure a smoother process, ease the lines and shorten the waiting time.
To political parties, independent candidates, and their supporters:
Refrain from the announcement of results as only the NEC has the statutory mandate to pronounce results.
If any political party or independent candidate has grievances on the outcome of the electoral results, follow the laws and procedures outlined in the Constitution and provisions outlined in the electoral laws
To the Supreme Court:
The adjudication of electoral petitions should be perceived as free, fair and transparent.
To the Liberian National Police and other security agencies:
Demonstrate neutrality and professionalism in dealing with all post-electoral violence.
To the media:
Refrain from disseminating misinformation and disinformation related to the outcomes of the election results.
The ECC has deployed 1592 trained and accredited observers, including 1200 polling place observers, 300 mobile observers, 73 electoral district supervisors and 19 county coordinators covering all 73 electoral districts of the country. Of these, 1200 are proportionately deployed based on the national distribution of polling places within each electoral district. This means that the proportion of polling stations observed by the stationary observers in each district and county closely matches the overall percentage of polling places in each district and county. For example, 34% of the total polling stations are in Montserrado where the ECC is deploying 410 stationary observers constituting 34% of all ECC observers deployed.
This proportional deployment enables the ECC to comment on the process nationally, drawing on data points from every district of the country.
You can download a copy of the ECC’s preliminary statement here: Preliminary Statement October 2023 Liberia General Elections – FINAL