Bopolu is the capital of the mid-western county of Gbarpolu. Considered an urban city, Bopolu is home to roughly 2,900 people. Being stationed in this very rural town, with my amazing observing partner, Humphrey, in the middle of the rainforest in Liberia for my observation area with the Carter Center was a dream come true. Having the chance to be immersed in the atmosphere of such a rural town, and being able to compare the life there to the city life of Monrovia was amazing and something I will never forget.
I spent four days in Bopolu, and surrounding towns in Gbarpolu county, observing the election process. The 3 days before Election Day, we spent time observing the deployment of materials, poll workers, police (LNP) and UNMIL officers to the rest of the county. We talked with the local NEC Magistrate about how the pre-Election day process was going, and what possible problems could arise. We also met with the police chief at the Bopolu LNP station about security risks, and plans for deployment of his officers.
One of my favorite and most memorable times in Bopolu was going into the UN compound and talking with the Election monitoring team, the UNMIL, and the UNPOL regarding security and logistics for Election day. Humphrey and I became good friends with the great people working at the UN, and on our last day, they even wanted photos with us!
On election day we got up early to drive to a very small town to observe the opening procedures of election day. The poll lines were long, and the people were all very excited to be able to vote. The atmosphere was amazing, people had been lined up for 2-3 hours before the opening, and there was nothing but excitement, and calm amongst the people.
From my own observation, I want to applaud the people of the Bopolu region and Liberians as a whole for such a free, fair and transparent election process. Results from all Carter Center observers, in the preliminary report, is that although there were a few minor problems here and there in the process, the outcome was democratic, free and fair. The NEC and the people of Liberia have taken a leap forward towards a developed democracy and should be very proud.
At the NEC press conference last evening the results from the first 17% of polling stations were announced, with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the incumbent leading the CDC by approximately 19%. This will most likely be a runoff election in November to obtain a majority government. Liberians across the country were calm and free of violence when receiving the preliminary results.