september 9, 2005
Talking Points
Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris
Chair of the National Elections Commission




r    training for polling


The first level of training in preparation for polling day began in Monrovia on Thursday, September 8, 2005. 18 Assistant Magistrates and their UNMIL counterparts are undergoing a three-day training of trainers on the Polling and counting procedures. Following a cascade model of training, the Assistant Magistrates and their UNMIL counterparts will train their county teams, who in turn will instruct the polling staff on the procedures to be followed on polling day.


r    recruitment of polling staff underway


The nationwide recruitment of polling staff in all counties is in progress. Local communities have been informed through meetings with local leaders and opinion leaders, who in turn have been briefed on the dates and venues for recruitment, testing and training by NEC County Electoral Supervisors and UNMIL Electoral Support Officers. Recruitment is to be completed by September 23, in order to ensure that by October 7, all 18,600 Polling staff throughout Liberia will be trained.


r    DC 101 to broadcast interviews


DC 101 will re-broadcast UNMIL radioís interviews of presidential candidates. These will be played once or twice a day, until DC 101 catches up with UNMIL radio, who have been airing these interviews since September 1, with the broadcast being done twice daily of the same candidates. The coverage area of DC101 is restricted to Monrovia, but the station is very popular and has a good number of listeners. Airing it on this station means voters who missed it on UNMIL radio get a third chance to hear the interviews with the presidential candidates.


r    copies of guidelines to be produced


To complement the process of accrediting Observers and Political Party Representatives, 5000 copies of Guidelines and Code of Conduct for Representatives of Political Parties, Accredited Coalitions and Alliances, and Independent Candidates are to be widely disseminated throughout Liberia. The documents which will be provided by IFES to the NEC will be available by this weekend.


Political Party and Independent Candidatesí Representatives are urged to commit themselves through a signed declaration, to abide by the laws of Liberia, and regulations and guidelines issued by the National Election Commission. 10,000 Declaration forms will be availed for this purpose.


r    Update on tour of Six Counties


Giving an update on her recent 7-day tour of Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Bong counties, Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris said she was able to meet with NEC local staff and their UNMIL counterparts in the six counties, and assess their preparedness to conduct/supervise the polls.


The Chair inspected the NEC county offices and was briefed on the amount of work accomplished, which includes confirmation of polling precincts and places, commencing the recruitment of polling staff, and training of Assistant Magistrates in Monrovia. She also held meetings with local leaders and addressed some of their concerns regarding the large number of presidential candidates, the manner in which electoral districts were demarcated.


The Chair and her team distributed Civic/Voter Education materials to the local people and sensitized them about the electoral process and on the importance of electing good leaders.


The tour afforded the Chair an opportunity to personally experience and understand some of the difficulties and challenges facing NEC staff and other electoral workers in the field. She noted that due to deplorable road conditions, particularly in Lofa, some areas have become inaccessible. She also cited logistical difficulties caused by frequent breakdowns of Magistratesí vehicles. Cllr. Johnson-Morris however indicated that UNMIL Engineers have been doing a great job in rehabilitating some major roads and repairing damaged bridges.


r    Summary of Questions and Answers


Asked whether inaccessibility of some parts of Liberia due to bad roads will hamper the movement of election materials in time for polling day, the Chair said she was optimistic that NEC staff with support of international partners would succeed in having the required polling materials in place on schedule.


The Chair said the staff have always shown commitment and dedication to their duties, and she believed they would strive to overcome the odds, even if it meant trekking from village to village to deliver polling materials. She emphasized, though, that the success of the October 11 elections rests upon the cooperation of all Liberians and urged them to do whatever they can to support the process.


Requested to clarify rumors circulating that the ballots will be taken outside of Liberia to be counted, the Chair stated that the rumors were completely false. She said the ballots will be counted at the polling places right after the close of the polls, in the presence of local and international observers and representatives of political parties and independent candidates.†††


In response to a question about whether the election results will be announced progressively or kept until the total comprehensive results are available, the Chair said the NEC has not yet made a decision about how and when exactly the results will be announced. However she said the Commission will ensure that it upholds the Election Law requirement that the results be announced within 15 days of the polling date. The Chair explained that results of each polling place will be made available to Political Party Representatives assigned at the polling place and present during the counting of the ballots.


Asked to explain how the results will be forwarded to NEC Head Office from the Magistrate Offices, Cllr. Johnson-Morris said the Commission will use various mediums of communication including e-mail, telephone, etc.


In response to concerns that IDPs who did not make it to their county of origin by Election Day will be disenfranchised, the Chair responded that a substantial number of IDPs had returned home since registration, so the numbers involved are not too high. She also added that those who are still in IDP camps are being provided the opportunity to vote for President, so they are not completely excluded from the process. She stated that the International partners responsible for returning IDPs to the homes are continuing with this task and it is the NECís belief that the involvement of IDPs will be substantial on polling day.