Ebola-hit Liberia has suspended its nationwide Senate polls after the election commission admitted it would not be able to stage the ballot safely, according to a government statement.
Almost three million voters had been due to go to polling stations on Tuesday but organisers said there was no way a “mass movement, deployment and gathering of people” could go ahead without endangering lives.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was exercising powers under a state of emergency announced in August “to suspend… any and all rights ordinarily exercised, enjoyed and guaranteed to citizens,” the foreign office said in a statement issued late Wednesday, quoting a presidential proclamation.
Liberia, which has seen more than half of the almost 4,000 deaths so far in the outbreak ravaging west Africa, had been due to elect half of its legislative upper chamber.
The election commission said in a statement it had recommended the postponement because it could not conduct “a free, fair, transparent and credible election” because of the epidemic.
It added that it would consult political parties and candidates with a view to fixing a new date, before the end of the year if possible.
Chairman Jerome George Korkoya was quoted as saying the outbreak prevented training and deployment of 25,000 staff needed for 4,700 polling stations across the country.
The election would also require 365 “educators” to raise awareness of the polls in 73 electoral districts across the country as well as 400 election supervisors.
Computer engineers would not be able to go around the country setting up Internet connections for the transmission of results, and the turnout would be extremely low in any case, Korkoya added.
“The commission is required to internationally procure ballot paper printing services for the printing of 2,640,000 ballot papers, 78,750 mock ballots and 5,000 polling kits, all of which have to be flown into the country,” he said.
“The timely delivery of these materials, most of which are sensitive, cannot be guaranteed in the wake of the current wave of the suspension of flights to Liberia.”
Modelled on the American system, Liberia’s upper house is composed of 30 senators, two representing each of the country’s 15 counties for staggered nine-year terms.
Fifteen senators were elected in 2011 and another 15 seats in the chamber were supposed to go up for election this year.