Monrovia — The runoff election and the Christmas celebration are going to be quite epic this year, as both political and festive seasons have now been somewhat intertwined.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) on Tuesday, December 12, set the date for the delayed runoff presidential election for Tuesday, December 26, 2017.
The runoff was originally scheduled for November 7, 2017, but was halted by a stay order from the Supreme Court based on a complaint filed by the opposition Liberty Party.
The ruling Unity Party and the main opposition, Coalition for Democratic Congress (CDC) are poised for the runoff election.
The two parties have been given the go-ahead to commence campaign activities, which are expected to end on December 24.
"We call on the two political parties in the run-off election to go about their campaign in a peaceful manner," said Jerome Korkoya, NEC Chairman.
Soccer legend turned politician Senator George Manneh Weah of the CDC, took the lead in the first round of the election with 596,037 votes (38.4%) while Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai of the ruling Unity Party obtained 446,716 votes, which comprised 28.8% of the votes in that election.
Christmas Day is heavily celebrated in Liberia as one of the biggest holidays in the country - coincidentally, the runoff falls just a day after Christmas Day, leading to political parties urging their partisans to celebrate the day with care so as to enable them go to the polls on December 26.
In an interview with FrontPageAfrica, CDC Chairman, Nathaniel McGill, said he welcomes the date set by the NEC, but called on members of the party to make a sacrifice by carefully and cautiously celebrating the Christmas in a way that will not hamper their ability to vote.
McGill said: "We are ready for elections and we welcome the date. We want our partisans to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ and we want them to reduce the celebration. This is the sacrifice we want them to make and we ask them to turnout in their numbers on the 26 to vote."
The NEC has also sanctioned campaign activities for the pending runoff.
The announcement of NEC comes after the Supreme Court had lifted the Stay Order it had placed on preparations for the runoff back in November.
The Supreme Court on Nov. 1 halted preparations for the second round to hear complaints lodged by presidential candidate Charles Brumskine, who came third as leader of the Liberty Party.
Brumskine was joined by the Unity Party in his call for a rerun of the election, saying it was marred by fraud and irregularities.
Brumskine also questioned the professionalism of Liberia's electoral commission, demanding its main Chairperson to recuse himself from the Board of Commissioners' hearing after he (Korkoya) had made comments that the party felt prejudiced the case.
The Court in a landmark ruling on Thursday, December 7, 2017 acknowledged that the October 10 elections were marred to some extent by fraud as complained by the Liberty Party, but said, the level of fraud proven by the Party was not sufficient to overturn the results of the October 10 elections.
"For there to be such a massive turnaround in the entire electoral process, the appellants are under a legal obligation to show that these activities occurred not just at a few isolated centers, but that they occurred at most, or all of the polling places," said Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III, who read the 4-1 opinion on behalf of the five-person bench.
The Court, however, mandated the NEC to do several things before the holding of the election.
Those orders from the Court, include compliance with the standards of publication of the Final Register Roll (FRR); cleaning up the FRR to ensure that multiple names of identification numbers are removed from the FRR; making the FRR available in hard copies to all Election Magistrates and polling places across the country; prohibiting those whose names are not found in the FRR from voting, amongst others.
The NEC boss disclosed that an ECOWAS team would shortly arrive in the country to assist with the cleaning of the FRR.
Meanwhile, the Senate has voted to endorse a request from one of its members, Senator Steve Zargo, to invite the National Elections Commission to appraise the Senate plenary on how they (NEC) intend to fix the problems associated with the elections with regards to the Supreme Court's mandate.
The NEC is expected to be represented by its Chairman, Cllr. Korkoya. He is to appear on Thursday, December 14, 2017.