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IRI's Preliminary Statement on Liberia's Presidential Election Runoff

November 9, 2005

Monrovia, Liberia – Following a successful first round of elections in October, yesterday's runoff marked a major turning point in Liberia's democratic future. As citizens of the oldest independent republic in Africa, Liberians once again showed their determination to participate in the democratic process by casting their ballots for a new Liberia.

IRI's election observation delegation monitored more than 170 polling places in Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado and Nimba counties.

Under extraordinary circumstances, the National Elections Commission (NEC) executed a runoff election 28 days after the country's historic October 11 elections.  IRI's delegation witnessed an orderly and peaceful process, one that reflects Liberia's commitment to build a democracy.  IRI's observers again saw election officials who were serious-minded, professional and recognized the importance of the task before them. Officials clarified key procedural instructions that resulted in a measurable improvement in secrecy of the ballot.

Party agents from the competing parties were in all polling places visited by IRI observers.  Independent observation groups were also present in many of the polling stations IRI visited.  These large numbers were critical to the transparency and legitimacy of the election and should dispel any allegations of cheating.

Once again, the presence of the United Nations Mission in Liberia and of the Liberian National Police contributed to stability and security on Election Day.

While these accomplishments mark a significant step forward for Liberia, a successful election is one step in creating a viable democracy.  This election is the beginning of a long process, and all Liberians will need to come together to rebuild their country.

Although not affecting the election outcome, IRI's delegation took note of a few procedural issues that should be addressed to ensure clarity in voting procedures. Intended as a voter education tool, sample ballots sometimes were posted inside the voting booths and were marked for specific candidates.  To their credit, presiding officers quickly removed the documents when they became aware of the problem. Although party agents played an important role in the process, there were more agents than the regulation allows in several polling places.  These issues were minor and should not take away from the tremendous work by the NEC, the thousands of dedicated poll workers, and their partners.

IRI congratulates both candidates for the critical role they played in guiding their supporters to act responsibly and refrain from violence.  IRI encourages them to continue.  The international community must sustain its support of the Liberian people and their efforts to build a democracy.  IRI staff will continue to monitor the count, and will issue a full report of its findings.  In the coming months, IRI will maintain its work with political parties and newly elected officials to strengthen democracy in Liberia.

IRI's delegation was led by Charles Twining, former U.S. ambassador to Cameroon and Cambodia. Other delegates were Honorable Margaret Ateng Otim, member of the Ugandan parliament; Kassim Sule Afegbua, director general of the National Democratic Party of Nigeria; Robert F. Krill, retired diplomat and instructor in public diplomacy at the Foreign Service Institute; Kwesi Jonah, acting head of the Governance Center at the Institute for Economic Affairs in Ghana; Robert Lloyd, professor of International Relations at Pepperdine University and chair of the International Studies & Languages division; Nesbit "Marty" Ryall, former chairman of the Arkansas Republican party; Jason C. Roe, chief of staff to Congressman Tom Feeney of Florida; and David Woodruff, manager of government and industry relations for Volkswagen of America, Inc.

IRI staff also served as monitors and assisted in the mission.  IRI staff was led by Georges A. Fauriol, Senior Vice President of IRI and Paul Fagan, Deputy Director for IRI's Africa division.

In May 2004, IRI established an office in Liberia to provide capacity building and other resources to political parties to prepare them for the October 11 elections.  Earlier this year, IRI fielded a pre-election assessment mission to observe the progress of voter registration and the overall election environment and participated in a mission that observed the campaign period.  IRI monitored the first round of elections.  Delegates found the October elections to be "an important step towards finding the reconciliation and opportunity that the Liberian people deserve."  Now that the November 8 election has concluded, IRI takes this occasion to wish Liberia full success.

IRI has monitored more than 130 elections worldwide since 1983.