28 November 2017

Liberians Yearn for Runoff Election

Photo: Boakai Fofana/AllAfrica
Queuing up to Vote (file photo).

With recent ruling by the Board of Commissioners at the National Elections Commission (NEC) in the fraud and irregularities complaint filed by the Liberty party (LP) and Unity party (UP), some Liberians are yearning for the runoff election.

The quest for the runoff follows an announcement of an appeal announced by the two parties. But despite the announcement, some Liberians here say they are looking forward to judges of the Supreme Court to lift the prohibition placed on the runoff election, hoping that the pending opinion of the Supreme Court on the Board's ruling downplays a rerun.

On 6 November 2017, the Supreme Court of Liberia urged the NEC to expeditiously dispose of the complaints filed by the LP, seeking for NEC to undo the results of the October 10, 2017 presidential and representative elections and have a rerun.

NEC has ever since on November 20, 2017 terminated the case at the level of the chief hearing officer of the commission who ruled that the two complainants failed to prove the allegations of fraud, gross irregularities and violations of both the Constitution of Liberia and the new elections law, thereby rejecting and dismissing the request for a rerun of the October 10 elections.

However, late Wednesday November 23, the complainants filed a separate Bill of Exceptions to the Board of Commissioners against the ruling of the hearing officer of November 20, 2017 and a Joint Motion of Recusal for the chairman of the commission.

Immediately, and in keeping with the spirit of speedy and transparent justice, the Board assigned the hearing into the appeal for the morning of the following day November 24. Subsequently, both the motion for recusal and the bill of exceptions were executed on that the day. The motion was first heard and a few hours later the Board ruled in favor of its Chairman, Jerome Korkoya, to preside as chairman. There and then, the hearing into the appeal commenced.

Following intense and lengthy arguments by the three sides, the matter was suspended and resumed the following day November 25, at which time the Board confirmed and affirmed the ruling of the hearing officer who had denied and dismissed the complainants of both the parties for a rerun of the October 10 elections.

One may recall the marathon case commenced on October 27, 2017, and it took the LP, the primary complainant, just two days to rest oral and documentary evidence with 12 witnesses, including its chairman and national campaign manager Benjamin Sanvee and Musa Bility respectively.

The UP, tributary complaint, who filed a motion of intervenor on October 28, just at the foot of the conclusion of the LP's argument, was allowed into the case on November 6, 2017 following the Board's decision to overturn the hearing officer's ruling of denial. Interestingly, it would take the secondary complainant 12 days to rest oral and documentary evidence, producing 11 witnesses, including the party's national chairman Wilmot Paye and former NEC chairperson Francis Johnson Alison.

NEC took a few hours on November 18 to produce just two witnesses and rested on both oral and documentary. In the view of the defense counsels, NEC did not need much time or witnesses, giving that the complainants grossly failed to prove their allegations of fraud and irregularities.

The NEC is said to be urging voters and the entire citizenry to remain patience with the court process. However, a cross session of Liberians speaking to this paper say though the two parties, after the BOC's Friday ruling, announced an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia, they pray the high Court would go ahead to confirm and reaffirm the decision of the NEC to avoid further delays of the runoff election, which was earlier set for November 7, 2017.

They believe that the parties could not prove their allegations after almost a month-long legal battle. They said much as some voters encountered difficulties on voting, the situation did affect all sides and that it did not amount to cheating as claimed by the LP and UP.

Meanwhile, NEC says it awaits the outcome of the Supreme Court's opinion on its ruling following which a determination will be made on the lifting of the prohibition on the election. The prohibition was ordered on November 6, 2017.

Liberia

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