15 August 2014

Liberia: Legislature to Allow Judiciary Interpret Election Postponement

Monrovia — The House of Representatives has resolved that the decision to postpone the special 2014 Senatorial Election be interpreted by the Judiciary branch of government.

The Lawmaker's decision comes days after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote the legislature requesting an audience to discuss the National Elections Commission recommendation for postponement of the 2014 senatorial election to a later date.

In the President's communication to the Legislature, she said, the NEC recommended that in the wake of the Ebola outbreak the conduct of a free, fair and transparent election cannot be possible because some of the preventive measures required for the Ebola fight will be violated.

The NEC recommendation according to the President in her communication to the legislature also claimed that because of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia there wouldn't be international observers coming to observe the election process, something she said could hang a dark cloud on the free and fair manner the election will be conducted.

In response to the President's communication the House of Representatives invited the Chairman of the National Elections Commission Jerome Korkoya to appear before plenary on Thursday, August 14, which he adhered to but hearings were conducted behind closed door.

At a news conference with Legislative Reporters Thursday, Deputy House Speaker Hans Barchue who presided over the day session said, the plenary of the House of Representatives has agreed to allow a meeting with the Executive branch of government and that the issue of election postponement be interpreted by the Judiciary Branch of government.

Deputy Speaker Barchue said: "The postponement of the election has constitutional implications as article 46 and 87 of the Liberian constitution is somehow contradictory and only the legal minded people can interpret it to help us make the right decision."

Part of Article 86 of the constitution gives the President power to suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms guaranteed in the constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in the chapter.

Article 87 of the constitution also prohibits suspending or abrogating the constitution, or dissolving the legislature, or suspending or dismissing the judiciary. It also speaks against making constitutional amendments during the state of emergency.

The House deputy speaker also told reporters that the plenary decision to allow the judiciary to interpret the constitutionality of the decision will serve as a case study for future occurrences of such incident that may lead to the postponement of National election.

"The issue of Ebola is no secret we are all aware that it is affecting every fabric of the country, but we are not going to use that as an excuse to bridge the constitution don't forget this is a new phenomenon that is happing in our country the decision we take now will serve as a case study", the lawmaker said.

NEC justifies postponement

Early last week the Chairman of the Commission, Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya said the NEC may be unable to deploy staff in the field to conduct Civic/Voter Education as well as recruit and deploy 25,000 polling staff at polling centers in Liberia. Chairman Korkoya said the Commission's recommendation is also based on the fact that the Ebola outbreak would hinder the smooth conduct of campaign activities by candidates who are desirous of contesting the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election.

He said the health emergency in Liberia may affect the conduct of free, fair, transparent and credible election on October 14, 2014. The NEC Chairman made the recommendation Wednesday at a meeting with political parties and individuals whose names were recently published on the provisional list of candidates for the Election.

The Commission recommended that the election be postponed to the first week in December, 2014. In response, attendees of the meeting, however noted that due to the constitutional nature of the Special Senatorial Election, the Commission should take the appropriate steps to ensure that such recommended postponement is done in line with the laws of Liberia.


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