14 November 2017

Liberia: Commentary - the Constitutional Crisis That Potentially Awaits the Republic of Liberia in 2018

By Rufus S. Berry II, MBA,

Independent Political Consultant & Financial Expert

The conclusion of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidency could unquestionably have a lasting impact on her legacy. A smooth transition of power will ensure that her legacy lives forever, as the first elected female head of state in Africa.

The peaceful and smooth transition of power is one of the hallmarks of any functioning democracy. Therefore, a smooth transition of power will forever buttress the feelings the Liberian people had nearly twelve years ago on the 16th of January, 2006, during President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf historic inauguration. On that day, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf brought much needed international credibility to the Liberian government. Oh Yes, the people of Mama Liberia were ecstatic to elect Madam Sirleaf because they believed that they had finally made a conscious choice to leave behind their turbulent past and pursue a future of hope, transparency, accountability and opportunity.

However, if her presidency ends with a constitutional crisis and perhaps a transitional interim government, it could have a negative impact on her legacy. It's my opinion, based on several of her cabinet appointments, that it's pretty reasonable to conclude that she will forever be remembered as a leader who would put personal loyalty and protection of her friends and family over the national interest of the nation.

As an independent political consultant, it's pretty reasonable to conclude that for a president who believes in loyalty over competence, the worst example of betrayal was President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's decision not to support Vice President Joseph N. Boakai's presidential bid. Perhaps, never in the history of modern civilization has a sitting President supported either directly or indirectly the main opposition party against her sitting Vice President.

The ruling Unity Party, Alternative National Congress and All Liberian Party are collaborating with the Liberty Party in protesting irregularities and massive fraud in the October 10 presidential elections. The National Elections Commission is anticipated to come out with their ruling within the next two days in regards to the collaborating parties claim of massive elections fraud.

Let's look at the time-line and examine the worst-case scenario that could forever damage President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf legacy.

Let's assume the ruling comes on Wednesday the 15th of November 2017. The collaborating parties headed by LP will have two days to either accept NEC's ruling or appeal to NEC Board of Commissioners - if this occurs, it will take us to Friday the 17th of November, 2017.

If NEC's ruling is rejected by the collaborating parties, NEC's Board of Commissioners will at this point have seven days to respond - Now, this takes us to Monday the 20th of November 2017.

However, if the response from NEC's Board of Commissioners is rejected by the collaborating parties, they -- the collaborating parties -- will have seven days to appeal NEC's ruling to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia. This now takes us to Monday the 27th of November 2017. At this point, the Supreme Court will have seven days to render their final ruling on this matter. This now takes us to Monday the 4th of December 2017. If it's rejected by NEC, then we could be given 14 days to prepare for the runoff election.

If the Supreme Court sides with the collaborating parties headed by the Liberty party and the implication of nullification is enacted, this could unquestionably lead the country into constitutional crises with regards to governance of the country.

Note, according to the Supreme Court's own ruling and the implication of nullification is enacted, the court ruled out any notion of a Transitional Interim Government in preparation for re-run of the elections. When the current government's term expires, the Supreme Court ruling states that the first branch of government will still have legislative continuity because of the Senate. This is exactly what the Supreme Court says in the event of the nullification of the October 10th elections.

"V. Implication of Nullification of elections results

Taking our hypothesis into consideration that the elections results are declared a nullity by this Court on December 22, 2017, and the NEC decides to use the entire sixty (60) days period to conduct a new election; said election shall be conducted on February 22, 2018. This means that the tenure of the incumbent president shall have expired and also all of the seats of the incumbent members of the House of Representatives shall be vacated. In such a case, the succession procedure as laid in Article 64 of the 1986 Constitution shall set to fill the vacancy created as the presidency while, in the interest of legislative continuity, the Senate shall remain in session in accordance with Article 46 of the Constitution. Constitutionally, there is no possibility of an interim government arrangement as being feared by or speculated in the public."

In my opinion the re-run requires entire new presidential and legislative elections. This from my perspective will forever damage the legacy of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in regards to her inability to smoothly transition power.

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