Liberia Consultations on Electoral Process
Tomorrow afternoon (13 December), Special Representative for Liberia and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Farid Zarif is expected to brief Council members in consultations.
Last year’s resolution 2333, which renewed UNMIL’s mandate for a final time until the end of March 2018, requested the Secretary-General to provide an “oral update” after Liberia’s elections by 15 December 2017. Zarif’s briefing is expected to focus on the electoral process. A necessary presidential run-off has been delayed due to claims of irregularities in the October elections. However, a ruling by Liberia’s Supreme Court at the end of last week has now cleared the way to hold the second round.
Zarif is expected to inform members about the holding of the presidential and legislative elections on 10 October. National, regional and international observers determined that, despite some difficulties, the polls had been credible and well-conducted. Since no candidate among the twenty competing candidates secured an absolute majority, a run-off election was scheduled for 7 November, to be held among the top two finishers: George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change, who received 38.4 percent of the vote, and Liberia’s current vice-president, Joseph Boakai, who received 28.8 percent.
Third place runner-up Charles Brumskine, who received 9.6 percent of the vote, filed a challenge with the National Elections Commission (NEC), alleging “massive systematic irregularities and fraud”. His challenge was supported by Boakai’s Unity Party, which accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of interfering in the process, and was also backed by the All Liberian Party. On 6 November, the Supreme Court suspended the run-off until the NEC completed an investigation into the charges. On 24 November, the NEC ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to support the fraud claims and that irregularities did not affect the results. On 7 December, the Supreme Court issued its ruling following appeals by Brumskine’s Liberty Party and the Unity Party, similarly concluding that there was not sufficient evidence of widespread violations affecting the vote’s outcome. Nonetheless, it instructed the NEC to conduct a full clean-up of its voter registration roll before holding the second round. Today, the NEC announced that the vote would occur on 26 December.
During his briefing, Zarif is likely to refer to the international community’s unity in its messaging last month amidst the delay in holding the run-off election. A number of statements released by various actors engaged in Liberia—including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the AU, UNMIL, the EU, individual states, and the Security Council (SC/13084)—highlighted that parties had the right to raise grievances in accordance with the rule of law, while emphasising these should be addressed in a timely manner. Zarif may also refer to divisive rhetoric that had emerged, including around alleged interference by Johnson Sirleaf and her failure to support Boakai, perhaps noting that such rhetoric is common during elections. He may note that over this period there have been no security incidents.
Members are likely to be interested in Zarif’s assessment on the needs and challenges for conducting the second round, especially amidst a condensed time frame to complete the presidential transition. A number of members may reiterate the importance of resolving grievances through appropriate legal mechanisms. Some could be interested in how the recent delays have affected or could impact UNMIL’s withdrawal. In the context of the upcoming departure of the UN mission, which has been present since 2003, some members could refer to the importance of meeting Liberia’s broader needs and continuing international support to ensure a smooth transition once UNMIL has withdrawn. As has been previously discussed in the Council, the UN County Team faces significant capacity gaps in order to implement a peacebuilding plan the UN developed earlier this year for Liberia. This formed part of the discussion of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Liberia configuration at a 21 November meeting, when Zarif also provided an update on the electoral process.