The African Platform for Human Rights and Governance (APHURG) says, ‘misguided statements’ during pre-campaign led to the low turnout in the senatorial by-elections in Lofa County. The organization expressed its concern over recent developments in the County in a release over the weekend.
In a release signed by the Executive Director, Atty. Bowoulo Taylor Kelley, APHURG recounted that in weeks leading to the elections, both the opposition Unity Party (UP) and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) vowed to train militants to provide security for their candidates and party leadership.
The organization believes that in as much as the recent Senatorial by-election held in Lofa County was conducted in a peaceful manner, there was a relatively low turnout of voters inclusive of persons with disabilities and the elderly, which is attributed largely to pre campaign misguided statements by some political stakeholders.
According to the National Elections Commission (NEC), Lofa County has a total of 187,775 registered voters, but only 62,519 (33.29%) turnout to vote in the by-elections.
APHURG believes that processes leading to elections should be void of threats and intimidations as pronouncements of such by political parties have the potential to undermine the democratic space, and frighten citizens from exercising their right to vote.
The group observed that while tactile ballots were available, persons with disabilities especially visually impaired individuals were unable to independently determine their choice of candidate, due to the inability of the National Elections Commission to conduct civic and voters’ education utilizing the appropriate methods and languages to address the aforesaid challenge.
APHURG notes that in some instances, visually impaired persons who turned out to vote were unable to use the tactile ballots because of inadequate voters’ education.
NEC also recorded that there were 60,394 valid votes and 2,125 invalid votes from the just-ended senatorial by-elections in Lofa County.
“They instead were constrained to request a third party to assist them in the process of casting their vote, in contravention of their right to secret ballot. Persons with disabilities like everyone who participate in electoral processes have the same legal capacity to autonomously make decisions,” APHURG said in a release.
The group further said, “Some of the polling stations were not easily accessible to older persons who had gone to cast their ballots. Some of the buildings utilized by the NEC as polling places had high rise stair ways, and lacked support ramp to aid the elderly in accessing those facilities.”
Meanwhile, APHURG is calling on the National Elections Commission to ensure that an all-inclusive process which leaves no one behind is held in the forthcoming 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
The African Platform for Human Rights and Governance also entreats the National Elections Commission to scrupulously implement the code of conduct for political parties, to ensure that processes leading to elections are free from harassment and intimidation.
The rights group expressed its profound gratitude to individuals that mustered the courage to participate in the senatorial by-election referring to them as “true winners of democracy.”
APHURG is a civil society organization that focuses on democratic development and human rights protection and promotion in Liberia. The group presently runs a legal aid program concentrating on access to justice for the most vulnerable in society.