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Carter Center Reports Open and Transparent Voting Process; Encourages Liberians to Await Final Results

CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, +231 (0)880 326 379 or

Carter Center election observation mission to Liberia's national elections,
October 2011 Preliminary Statement.

Executive Summary

The Oct. 11, 2011, presidential and legislative elections mark an important test for Liberia's transition from civil war to democratic, constitutional government. Despite considerable challenges, Carter Center observers reported that the voting process was peaceful, orderly, and remarkably transparent. Although the process of tabulating final results is ongoing and preliminary results have not been announced, the electoral process to date is a positive sign of Liberians' commitment to democratic development. All Liberians should await the announcement of final results by the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the resolution of formal complaints in order to ensure that the will of the people is expressed.

Key findings of the Carter Center mission in regard to the voting process include the following:

  • On election day, voters and poll workers displayed considerable enthusiasm, patience, and a high level of civic engagement as they cooperated to make the voting process as smooth as possible. Voters queued in long lines to vote at 4,457 polling places across Liberia. In spite of concerns about the possibility of conflicts, election day was calm and free from reports of violence.
  • Poll workers performed admirably, with a few exceptions, conducting themselves in an impartial and professional manner as they checked voters' names on the register, issued ballots, and conducted the sorting, counting, and reconciliation processes.
  • The credibility and transparency of the voting and counting processes was greatly enhanced by the presence of party agents, in particular the widespread presence of agents from the two main parties in all counties. Carter Center observers noted party agents at 99 percent of polling places they visited. In addition, the transparency of the process was reinforced by the presence of domestic observers at 75 percent of these polling places.
  • Although Carter Center observers noted a number of minor procedural irregularities, none were considered significant enough to affect the overall integrity of the vote. Observed irregularities included polling places where secrecy of the ballot was not strictly maintained, inking procedures undertaken out of order, and ballot papers folded improperly.
  • Carter Center observers noted that detailed procedures for reconciling and counting ballots, including completing the record of seals form, were not always adhered to, and standards for assessing valid versus invalid votes were not consistently applied in some polling stations. Nonetheless, Carter Center observers saw no evidence of any systematic irregularities, nor problems that would affect the overall credibility and integrity of the voting process.
  • The Carter Center calls on all political parties, independent candidates, and Liberian citizens to exercise patience and civility while the NEC completes the process of tabulating election results. Until the NEC issues preliminary results, political parties and candidates should refrain from any public statements that might undermine the process.
  • In the event of problems or irregularities, the Center calls on parties and candidates to follow established procedures to resolve electoral complaints. The Center urges the NEC and judicial authorities to thoroughly examine and address any complaints in a fair and expeditious manner.
  • The Carter Center calls on the media to exercise professional standards in reporting and calls on the government and political parties to respect freedom of expression.
  • Carter Center observers' findings about election day should be placed within the context of important concerns previously reported by The Carter Center about the existence of a level playing field during the campaign period. While parties and independent candidates were able to travel and assemble freely and to communicate their messages to potential voters, the Center noted a number of instances where opposition parties were denied access to public facilities or when state resources were used for campaigning purposes. These represent violations of the electoral legal framework. In the event of a runoff, all such violations should be investigated and appropriate actions taken to ensure accountability.

The Carter Center will continue to assess the conclusion of counting and vote tabulation and observers will remain in Liberia to observe the post-election environment.

In the longer term, the task will fall to the next government to reexamine the legal framework for the elections and to pursue reforms that will promote a more inclusive, democratic political process.

The Carter Center election observation mission has been in Liberia since Sept. 1, 2011, at the invitation of the NEC. Eight long-term observers from five countries were deployed in mid-September to assess campaigning and election preparations. For the period surrounding election day, The Carter Center partnered with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) to deploy an integrated Carter Center-EISA observation mission, comprised of 55 observers from 25 countries. Carter Center-EISA observers visited 282 polling places in 15 counties to assess the voting and counting processes. The Carter Center team was led by General Dr. Yakubu Gowon, former head of state of Nigeria, along with Dr. John Stremlau, Carter Center vice president for peace programs.

The Carter Center's assessment of Liberia's elections is based on obligations for democratic elections contained in Liberia's Constitution, Election Law, and other relevant parts of the legal framework, as well as its commitments under international law. The Carter Center conducts its election observation mission in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which was adopted at the United Nations in 2005.

The full preliminary statement is available at (PDF). A final report, including detailed recommendations, will be published within four months after the end of the electoral process.


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

Read the full preliminary statement (PDF) >

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