18 August 2017

Liberia: Senate Passes Into Law Four Amended Chapters of Elections Law

The Liberian Senate has voted unanimously into law four amended portions of the Elections Law, following exhaustive debates. The plenary's decision followed a report from the Committee on Judiciary, Claims, and Human Rights and the Committee on Autonomous Commissions and Agencies on an Act seeking clarification on the Powers and Authority of the National Elections Commission with Respect to the Qualifications of Political Parties and Organizations and Independent Candidates for the Ensuing Election(s), Determination of Election Results and Determination of Election Disputes.

The chapters amended include Chapter 2, Section 2.9, (n) and (t); Chapter 4, Section 4.14 and 4.15; Chapter 6, Section 6.9; and Chapter 9, Section 9.1 of the Elections Law.

In their week-long discussions when the bill submitted by Grand Cape Mount County ranking Senator Varney Sherman was redrafted, the draft bill was changed, according to the Senators, to make it an amendment to the Elections Law, and to state specifically which chapters of the Elections Law is/are or will be affected after enactment into law.

Accordingly, the bill now carries the title: 'An Act to amend certain provisions of the elections law to clarify the powers and authority of the National Elections Commission with respect to the qualification of political parties and organizations for elections, determination of election results and determination of election disputes.'

The draft bill reaffirms provisions of the Constitution and the Elections Law, that the NEC is the sole determinant of the qualification of political parties and political organizations and independent candidates for elections and the sole determinant of election results and election disputes, "except that the right of appeal is reserved to an interested party aggrieved by a decision of the National Elections Commission to appeal to the Supreme Court for review."

The draft bill allows at least five (5) days to file a complaint with the NEC, while a period of 15 days is provided for the NEC to review its decision after a petition has been filed. The draft bill also provides for "30 days to file an appeal within which a decision shall be made by the Supreme Court on all appeals to it; otherwise, the decision of the NEC shall be final, binding, and legally enforceable."

Further, the amended Act provides that "appeals to the Supreme Court shall not serve as a stay of decisions of the National Elections Commission, but that the NEC's decisions shall be enforced pending the results of appeals from the Supreme Court."

In a brief engagement with Senate reporters, Senator Sherman, whose Judiciary committee helped to redraft his bill, said the amended law was necessary to avert future recurrence of the 2014 Special Senatorial Election episode, when five Senators suffered several months delay taking their seats after aggrieved candidates took their complaints to the Supreme Court. Senators Sherman, Gbleh-bo Brown of Maryland; Morris Saytumah of Bomi; Jim Tornolah of Margibi; and Conmany Wesseh of River Gee counties later took their respective seats.

On one of the sticky issues, of compensation, Senator Sherman clarified that the bill agrees there should be no back pay for a complainant who suffers a delay in the adjudication of his case.

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