21 November 2017

Liberia: Why Ellen's Presidency May Likely Continue Beyond January 15, 2018

Photo: Liberian Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

There are celebrations in some quarters of the Liberian society where those who opposed to what seems an inevitable victory of CDC's George Manneh Weah at the polls are entertaining themselves with the argument that as long as elections are not held up to January 15, 2018 there would be an interim government in Liberia because the presidential tenure of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would have expired.

The proponents of this argument which is now being led by certain individuals in the All Liberian Party(ALP), Unity Party(UP), Liberty Party(LP) and the Alternative National Congress(ANC) believe that the surest way to achieve this illegal and undemocratic process is to ensure that the current hearing of the Liberty Party's complaint at NEC is belabored with too many mundane arguments and unnecessary procedural technicalities to frustrate any attempt to hold the presidential runoff elections between the ruling Unity Party and the CDC up to and including January 15, 2018.

For now, the strategy is at play and the noise attending the proceedings is gathering pace at every stratum of the Liberian society so much that the proponents of this campaign believe that the country is again heading for another interim government. Of late, there's an addendum to this campaign and it is strangely coming from the Unity Party, which is now openly saying that there should be no elections conducted under the leadership of President or to aptly put, elections should be held when Ellen is no longer in charge. What must be noted is that Ellen will be charge whichever side the political debate turns, and when that happens, Ellen will be and will still remain a constitutional

President of this Republic even beyond January 15, 2018. There are three ways Ellen could remain in power if the presidential runoff is not held up to the expiry of her tenure come January 15, 2018. Here is the reason why. Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution vests in the President the executive powers of the Republic who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The attempts to undermine the holding of the presidential runoff which is being openly promoted by the ruling Unity Party, All Liberian Party, Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress could lead to a serious constitutional crisis, and as Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the President could see and threat such exercise as a "clear and present" danger to the current democratic process and thereby proceed to invoke Articles 85 and 86 of the 1986 Constitution by declaring a state of emergency, in which case the 1986 Constitution would be suspended beyond January 15,

2018 and onward. The constitutional statute of limitations regarding the expiry of the tenure of the President will cease to run until the state of emergency is lifted.


Article 50

The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and  Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The president shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.

Article 51

There shall be a Vice-President who shall assist the President in the discharge of his functions. The Vice-President shall be elected on the same political ticket and shall serve the same term as the President. The Vice-President shall be President of the Senate and preside over its deliberations without the right to vote, except in the case of a tie vote. He shall attend meetings of the cabinet and other governmental meetings and shall perform such functions as the President shall delegate or deem appropriate; provided that no powers specifically vested in the President by the provisions of this Constitution shall be delegated to the Vice-President.

Article 64

Whenever the office of the President and of the Vice-President shall become vacant by reason of removal, death, resignation, inability or other disability of the President and Vice-President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be sworn in as Acting President until the holding of elections to fill the vacancies so created. Should the Speaker be legally incapable or otherwise unable to assume the office of Acting President, then the same shall devolve in order upon the Deputy speaker and members of the Cabinet in the order of precedence as established by law. The Elections Commission shall within ninety days conduct elections for a new President and a new Vice-President.

Comments and Analysis By Sayma Syrenius Cephus


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