Civil Society Organizations in Margibi, including the Citizen For Sustainable Peace and Development (CsP), Rural Women Network of Liberia (RWNL), United Students Organization (USO), and the Association of Community Chairman and Traditional Leaders in Margibi County refuse to accept the results of the national referendum vote conducted on December 8.
But Ernest McCay, National Elections Commission (NEC) Magistrate for Margibi County warned that such actions have the potential to undermine the peace and security. McCay further clarified that he has been ill thereby blaming himself for the delay in announcing the results of the referendum to the public but promised to be in Margibi soon.
McCay called on residents in Margibi to remain calm as the process of the referendum is transparent.
“The issue of NEC not releasing the referendum results is due to my illness, but let’s say that the process is very transparent; you have the presence of the Liberian National Police, even the very CSO group representatives,” Mr. McCay explained.
According to the NEC, more than 50% of the votes cast in the referendum in Margibi were invalidated. Among those validated, a majority voted “yes.”
Referendum Result for Margibi County, as released by the NEC
The Executive Director of the RWNL, Miatta Sarah Johnson, complained about the manner in which the referendum ballots were counted and also that officials instructed voters to mark “yes” on all propositions for the referendum. She also alleged lack of transparency in the vote counting.
“The Referendum result in Margibi County is not transparent. After the counting of the senatorial candidates’ ballots, all the observers left. So how can we tell that the process was transparent? We have been calling for the rescheduling of this whole referendum issue because we are not satisfied with the process,” Johnson explained.
The United Student Organizations (USO) and Association of Community Leaders (ACL) held a joint press conference to express disapproval of the results in the national Referendum and are calling on other organizations and citizens to reject the vote outcome.
Peter D. Kerkula speaking on behalf of USO in Kolliedede Town called on community leaders, town chiefs and elders of Margibi County to reject the “yes” ballots for the referendum. Kerkula threatened to carry out a campaign to convince residents in Margibi to reject the referendum results.
“We as members of the United Student Organization, a youth organization operating in Margibi County will in no way accept this Referendum result. If NEC wants us to accept it then there must be a recount. We will campaign making our people understand that the just-ended national referendum result was not in the interest of the people, but the interest of elected officials,” Kerkula added.
Voters did not understand the meaning of the referendum
Mary Zawolo, a female Traditional Leader said that the issue of the referendum is unknown to them in Sackie-Ta, a town, bordering Margibi and Bong counties.
Zawolo explained that during the voting process, she was given many papers [paper ballots] which she could not understand, and she left some spaces unmarked on those ballot papers, pointing out that several senatorial candidates have also encouraged people to just vote “yes” on everything without question.
Ivar K. Jones, the defeated CDC senatorial candidate, told us that there was transparency in the referendum results, stressing that observers from his party reported that the NEC completed all of the electoral tallying processes and displayed them before observers were allowed to leave the location.
“Even though we didn’t win the Special Senatorial Election, I think that the result from the National Referendum is encouraging and there was some level of transparency,” Representative Jones said.
“The Referendum result is encouraging, I think it’s good for every Liberian and we call on our people to accept the results and move on,” Princess Macaulay, another defeated independent candidate said.
Rev. Alexander Collins former independent candidate agreed. “Our people should accept the results of the referendum, the reduction of the president’s, representatives’, and senators’ [tenure] is all good for us, Liberians.”
The issue of the referendum in Margibi County has been a major complaint among residents in some parts of the county as some had earlier threatened to boycott the elections. According to the NEC, 33.39% of all the registered voters in Margibi voted in the referendum and 34.52% if the registered voters cast a ballot in the Special Senatorial Elections. The numbers show that almost all the voters cast a ballot in the referendum, however, the vast majority of those ballots were invalidated due to improper marking.