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Poll Monitoring Group Hails ‘Peaceful, Inspiring’ Liberia Vote

Ma-Fanta Konneh, 60, casts her vote for president at a polling station in Kendeja Community School in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 11, 2011.
Ma-Fanta Konneh, 60, casts her vote for president at a polling station in Kendeja Community School in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 11, 2011.

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  • Clottey interview with Dr. John Stremlau, vice president for peace programs at the Carter Center

Peter Clottey

A top official of the U.S.-based Carter Center says Liberia’s National Elections Commission did a “fine job” in organizing the just-ended presidential and legislative elections.

Poll monitor John Stremlau, who is a vice president for peace programs at the Carter Center, says his group will officially issue its preliminary report Thursday, two days after the poll.

“It’s just inspiring to see this determination to demonstrate that they have made such progress since the terrible civil war,” said Stremlau. “This is the first election they have run themselves, and the National Electoral Commission has done a fine job as we can tell, and we are very heartened by what we’ve seen.”

Stremlau said Liberians defied a heavy downpour to vote.

“We saw with great patience people waiting hours and in good spirits,” said Stremlau. “I have seen such dedication by poll workers who have not been fed all day and are making absolutely certain that all parties that wanted to be represented are here…They are being absolutely scrupulous and making certain that the votes are counted and counted accurately.”

The Carter Center’s poll observer delegation comprises 55 members from about 25 different countries that monitored Liberia’s general election.

Some analysts expressed concern there could be violence following reports of heated rhetoric from partisans in the run-up to the vote. But, Stremlau praised both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union for playing a key role to ease tensions, ahead of the polls.

“What has impressed us in the last days of this campaign where we have been here is how civil the parties have been to each other,” said Stremlau. “The rhetoric earlier in the campaign raised some concerns in West Africa and brought special ECOWAS envoys to Liberia to urge restraint, to urge civil discourse, [and] to urge a free and fair election. I think that really had a positive impact.”

Stremlau also said he is encouraged by the way Liberians peacefully conducted themselves during the voting process. He also praised the electoral commission for organizing a peaceful vote despite what he called “some shortcomings” in civil education, ahead of the vote.

“We are going to review our findings from having [to] discuss with them, but my overall impression is they performed exemplary,” said Stremlau.

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