MONROVIA (AA) – Campaigning for special senatorial elections kicked off across Liberia on Thursday, allowing candidates to organize political rallies.
Liberians will go to the polls on December 16 to replace 15 of 30 sitting senators whose tenure will expire in the second week of January, in accordance with the country’s constitution.
The election was initially scheduled for October 14 before being postponed by the country’s electoral body due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed roughly 5,420 people, mostly in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
At least 2,964 of these were registered in Liberia alone.
The House of Representatives set December 16 for the election of new senators after health authorities reported decreasing numbers of new Ebola cases since the beginning of October.
Some 2,640,000 ballots have already arrived from Ghana. Voting will take place in 73 electoral districts of Liberia, with 139 candidates vying for the 15 seats up for grabs.
On Wednesday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called on political parties and politicians to get through the electoral process peacefully.
She said the elections were taking place at a critical time, while stressing that the constitution must be respected.
The campaign period will wrap up one day before the polling.
The national election body said the distribution of ballots and other sensitive election materials to 1,780 polling precincts across the country would commence on December 13.
Electoral campaigning is now in full swing, with a series of meetings and events taking place across the country.
The Congress for Democratic Change, the country’s biggest opposition party, headed by former international footballer George Weah, kicked off its campaign with a thanksgiving service at the party’s Monrovia headquarters.
“The party is going into this election with care and a different strategy,” Agvego Doe, the party’s media officer, told The Anadolu Agency.
“Because of the severity of the election amid the Ebola crisis, the party will be holding a thanksgiving service,” Doe said.
Party officials said starting its campaign with a thanksgiving service was meant to commit the campaign into the hands of God – as the country continues to battle the Ebola virus – and to pray for the victory of all 15 candidates running on the party’s ticket.
“The party has always been a religious political party; the thanksgiving service is simply meant to commit our candidates into God’s hands,” said Doe.
All the party’s 15 candidates, including Weah, gathered in the capital for the service.
The ruling Unity Party, for its part, which is fielding 14 candidates in the race, said it was confident of sweeping the polls.
“We are fully prepared for this election,” Unity Party Secretary-General Wilmot Paye told AA. “All we are asking is for supporters to know that Ebola is still here and we all will be mindful of the activities.”
“We will do nothing to put them at risk,” Paye asserted.
Robert, the son of President Sirleaf, is contesting the race in Montserrado County as an independent against Weah.
He kicked off his campaign tour followed by huge crowds of supporters who blocked traffic for almost an hour.
Twenty female candidates are expected to collectively launch their campaigns later today on Capitol Hill, the seat of the National Legislature, in collaboration with Liberia’s Women’s Legislative Caucus.
The event will bring female candidates together with influential women politicians and their supporters.
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