The New Dawn (Monrovia)

5 September 2014

Liberia: Senate Endorses Election Postponement

Photo: Sando Moore/Liberian Observer
An elderly lady casts her vote in yesterday's elections -October 11, 2005

Members of the Liberian Senate have overwhelmingly endorsed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's request to postpone the 2014 special senatorial election to December, this year. Both President Sirleaf and the senate took the decision as a result of the Ebola Virus outbreak in the country.

The Liberia Senate on August 14, 2014 mandated the Joint Committees of Judiciary, Claims, Petition and Human Rights and Autonomous Commission and Agencies to hold consultations with relevant stakeholders and functionaries of government regarding a communication from the National Elections Commission to postpone the October 14 senatorial election. The Liberian Senate accepts the impossibility of performance as expressed by NEC in its letter. Taking the decision on Thursday during its regular session.

"We note that the holding of Elections in October of 2014 is mandated by the Constitution of Liberia in Article 83 (a).Similarly, the responsibility for the conduct of elections in Liberia is statutorily conferred on the National Elections Commission, which has now explicitly indicated its inability to conduct the Special Senatorial Elections in October of 2014."

The Joint Committee avers that with such expression of inability by NEC for understandable reasons as analyzed, the Liberian Senate should commence immediate discussions with the Executive on advice for the suspension of Article 83 (a) which calls for the holding of elections in October.

The Senator Jewel Howard Taylor committee pointed out that the reasons for such suspension are squarely and perfectly stated in the seven count communication from the NEC; acknowledging that the ongoing Ebola crisis which inarguably is equated to an uncontrollable warfare, has rendered the holding of the October 2014 elections a mission impossible.

The Joint Committee also conceded that Chapter IX, Article 86 (a) of the Constitution of Liberia states that the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained 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.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) is unable to fulfill its statutory responsibilities to hold free, fair and credible Elections, giving the prevailing circumstances as it is unable to conduct pre-campaign and campaign activities; and provide an enabling environment under which local and international observers will be able to attend, observe and state that indeed it is free, fair and credible.

But most importantly, in this environment of fear, hurt and emotional confusion voter turnout could be very low, which would undermine the credibility of the outcome of any Elections.

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