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November 01, 2011

Liberia's Opposition CDC Issues Demands Days Before Runoff Vote

by James Butty

Liberia’s opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party has outlined a number of conditions it says must be met before it will participate in the November 8 presidential runoff election.

George Solo, a CDC spokesman and deputy campaign manager, said the demands include a 50-50 representation by the CDC and the ruling Unity Party on the National Elections Commission (NEC) which is organizing the vote.

“We talked about the process of the reconstitution of NEC and the commissioners.  We talked about the executive of the whole institution being held accountable and change for transparency.  We want [it] to reflect representation of the political stakeholders on the board,” he said.

The CDC said the ad-hoc members should have voting rights and be compensated like other members.

“All the commissioners carry the mandate for voting rights and the ad-hoc commissioners should have the same so that, in the event of a tie, they can come in [and] break the tie,” Solo said.

The CDC also said it wants international election monitors to be not mere observers, but fully involved in the process.

“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,” Solo said.

CDC presidential candidate Winston Tubman told a news conference Monday that the party would take part in the runoff now that elections commission chairman James Fromayan has resigned.

The CDC had accused him of supporting incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the first round vote.

Solo said, if their demands are met and the party sees a semblance of a fair and transparent electoral process, the CDC will take part in the ballot.

"The general assumption is that you either meet our demands or approval or you don’t.  So, the portions of it [CDC demands] that we find to be the most relevant obviously will be highlighted to be resolved,” said Solo.  “But, if all of it is not resolved and we have a semblance of a free, fair and transparent process, we will engage,” he said.

Solo brushed aside criticism by some who say the CDC was making these last-minute demands in order to avoid contesting the runoff election.  He said the CDC is not afraid of participating in the election.

“We are afraid of no one.  We have numerical strength.  We have the campaign mechanism that was never deactivated.  We stand ready and able to prove the will of the Liberian people through the voting of the Congress for Democratic Change,” Solo said.

He said, if the ruling Unity Party also believes it has the numerical strength, it should join the CDC in calling for the reconstitution of the NEC.

The CDC also calls for the United Nations Mission in Liberia [UNMIL] to provide security for all election materials, and that the both parties should have full knowledge of the locations and accessibility of all election materials before, during and after the election.

Solo said this demand is necessary because the CDC documented evidence of ballot tampering during the first-round vote on October 11.

“We presented pictures of people playing around with ballot boxes in the middle of the night.  If you’ve seen those pictures on Facebook, or in reality, there’s no need to question the validity of having those ballot boxes being secured,” Solo said.