7 November 2017

Liberia: NEC Absorbs UP in Liberty Party's Case

Photo: Liberian Observer
Annie Dao Leenah, of Sinkor, says life is getting unbearable for her and her three children every day.

The Board of Commissioners (BOC) of the National Elections Commission (NEC) late yesterday granted the Unity Party (UP) an opportunity to serve as an intervening party of the alleged electoral fraud as claimed by the opposition Liberty Party (LP) before its hearing office.

It may be recalled that Cllr. Muana S. Ville, NEC Chief Hearing Officer on October 31, ruled against UP's motion to intervene.

Cllr. Ville cited the late arrival of UP's legal team to plead on behalf of their client in the case as a shortcoming, which warranted the dismissal of the party's request.

After the ruling, UP took an exception with the hearing officer and appealed to the BOC requesting for a re-look into its case.

The BOC, therefore, took advantage of yesterday's afternoon period and looked into the case and handed down its ruling, after listening to arguments from lawyers representing the Commission and the Unity Party.

NEC Commissioner Jonathan Weedor, who read the ruling said, "After listening to both the respondent and defense counsels as well as taking into consideration the ruling handed down by Cllr. Ville, the BOC has overturned the hearing officer's ruling and grants UP to be a part of the LP's case as requested."

He noted that the hearing officer should have considered civil procedures law sections 5.6 and 6.1 instead of Article 83 (C) alone, to deny a party from intervening in a case of interest to it.

Sections 5.6 and 6.1 of the Civil Proceedings law state that intervention is a matter of discretion and interest of related factors connected to a necessary party which also becomes a matter of right.

Article 83 states that "Voting for the President, Vice-President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year.

"All elections of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second ballot shall be conducted on the second Tuesday following. The two candidates who received the greatest numbers of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the runoff election.

"The returns of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than fifteen days after the casting of ballots. Any party or candidate who complains about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission. Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections.

"The Elections Commission shall, within 30 days of receipt of the complaint, conduct an impartial investigation and render a decision which may involve a dismissal of the complaint or a nullification of the election of a candidate. Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall not later than seven days appeal against it to the Supreme Court.

"The Elections Commission shall within seven days of receipt of the notice of appeal; forward all the records in the case to the Supreme Court, which not later than seven days thereafter, shall hear and make its determination. If the Supreme Court nullifies or sustains the nullification of the election of any candidate, for whatever reasons, the Elections Commission shall within 60 days of the decision of the Court conduct new elections to fill the vacancy. If the court sustains the election of a candidate, the Elections Commission shall act to effectuate the mandate of the Court."

Cllr. Varney Sherman, leading the UP's legal team, argued earlier that the NEC has no political injury to sustain should UP be given the permission to intervene in an election case, particularly so when it is a necessary party.

Attorney Cephas Tee Wia, representing Cllr. Musa Dean, head of the NEC's legal team, said the hearing officer's ruling was legal and should be held as provided.

Liberty Party early yesterday got a nod when the Supreme Court ruled by making the temporary stay order permanent until NEC looks into their complaint filed before it.

Meanwhile, hearing into the LP's case is expected to kick off today at 1 p.m. at the Commission's headquarters in Monrovia.

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