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    ECOWAS Increases Number of Poll Monitors for Liberia Run-off Vote

    Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) President James Victor Gbeho during a news conference on the election dispute in Ivory Coast by ECOWAS in Nigeria's capital Abuja, January 4, 2011.
    Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) President James Victor Gbeho during a news conference on the election dispute in Ivory Coast by ECOWAS in Nigeria's capital Abuja, January 4, 2011.

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    • Clottey interview with Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, president of the ECOWAS Commission

    Peter Clottey

    The top official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the group’s poll monitors will begin arriving in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, Wednesday to observe the November 8 run-off.

    Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, president of the ECOWAS Commission, says the sub-regional bloc anticipates a peaceful, transparent and a credible vote.

    “Our observers will be arriving there to observe every aspect of the election,” said Gbeho. “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.”

    ECOWAS will deploy 200 observers across Liberia. It deployed about 150 poll monitors in the first round of voting. Gbeho says the group will also coordinate with other international observing groups to monitor the poll.

    “Obviously, we cannot be in every polling station, but I can assure you that we will be in every province of Liberia,” said Gbeho. “We will hold consultations with the Carter Center of the United States [and] exchange views with them.”

    He expressed optimism about the conduct of the poll, but also said there’s some anxiety.

    “The country had a long history of conflict from which it has just emerged. And the aftermath of the first round showed that some of them were poor losers and are contemplating bringing everything to a halt if they do not win,” said Gbeho. “I have publicly appealed to them to accept the verdict if we adjudged it to be free fair and transparent so that we break this cycle of always challenging election results because you are on the losing side.”

    The sub-regional bloc described the first round vote as free and fair. But the opposition dismissed the final result, claiming voter irregularities, which they said undermined the credibility of the poll.

    Their claims of voter fraud, some observers say, forced National Elections Commission Chairman, James Fromayan to resign ahead of the run-off.

    Gbeho said ECOWAS is working closely with the two remaining parties to ensure their concerns are addressed before the vote.

    “I have a special envoy Major General Seth Obeng… and he has been in daily almost hourly touch with the United Nations mission there, UNMIL, as well as other organizations [to ensure a peaceful vote],” he said.

    He expressed hope that Liberians will prove that democracy is maturing in the country.

    “It was necessary to give the peace message to them so that we all are on our best behavior on that day, so that there are no conflicts and that this can prove the maturity of Liberia,” said Gbeho. “This will prove that Liberians can change government peacefully, from one peaceful government to another, and so we are all looking forward to that day.”

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