Liberia: Unity Party Seeks Stay Order On Dec. 26 Runoff - Cites Irregularities From NEC

Women protest outside the Elections Commission offices.

Monrovia — The ruling Unity Party (UP) has called on the Supreme Court of Liberia to issue an immediate stay order on the December 28 presidential runoff based on a 25-count Bill of Information the party has filed with the highest court.

UP in their Bill of Information cited several issues ranging from the alleged failure of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to fully collaborate with the two parties going for runoff in the cleaning of the Final Registration Roll (FRR) to the announcement of date for the runoff election.

Cleaning the FRR

The UP indicated in the Bill of Information that NEC has failed to comply with the Supreme Court's mandate ordering a thorough cleaning of the FRR before the holding of any runoff election.

Unity Party noted that in the absence of an agreed methodology of the cleanup of the FRR, the NEC created an impression that the FRR is already cleaned.

According to the ruling party, due to the ambiguity on what the Supreme Court meant by cleaning the FRR, they (UP) met with Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) on Sunday, December 10, 2017 and agreed on what full cleaning-up of the FRR shall entail.

UP claimed that their recommendations were communicated to the NEC Board of Commissioners through writing, however, the "NEC has failed, neglected and refused to react to this submission, let alone to invite the parties to a meeting to discuss same."

The Bill raised concerns over the NEC's pronouncement of December 26, 2017 as the date for runoff election without providing an update on progress on the cleaning of FRR ran contrary to the Supreme Court's mandate.

The ruling party further contends that the NEC has not conducted the cleanup of the FRR, neither has it published as mandated, and it has not reported to the Supreme Court on the implementation of the mandate.

"...Informants/Appellants say that until the FRR is fully cleaned up in a manner to make it compliant with law, and consultation in Respondent NEC cleaning up of the FRR with the two parties (UP and CDC), who are to participate in the runoff election.

"Respondent NEC has failed, neglected and refused to call for and exercise such collaboration and consultation in spite of repeated demands made on Respondent NEC by the two political parties, which will participate in the runoff election, including in particular the Unity Party, one of Informants/Appellants," noted the Bill of Information.

NEC 'Cannot' Set Date

The Unity Party further contended that the NEC does not have the constitutional and statutory authority to, all by itself, set December 26, 2017 as the date for the runoff election.

In their argument, they believe that the NEC choice of December 26, 2017 appears to be in accordance with Article 83 of the Constitution.

Article 83 calls for the scheduling of the runoff election on the second Tuesday after the announcement of the final result of the first round of the election.

In their argument contained in the Bill of Information, the ruling party noted that Article 83(b), which calls for a runoff election to be conducted on the "second Tuesday following expiry of the time provided in Article 83 (c)" is no longer applicable for the pending runoff."

"This, according to them, stems from the backdrop that the time contemplated by the Constitution for the runoff would have been November 7, 2017 had there not been a dispute regarding the October 10, 2017 elections. The electoral dispute which was eventually settled by the Honorable Supreme Court on December 7, 2017 affected the time contemplated by the Constitution... "

According to the UP, the NEC was to first seek authorization from the Legislature through a Joint Resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives setting a date for the runoff election. They made reference to the 2014 midterm election.

"Hence Informants/Appellants say the unilateral declaration of December 26, 2017 as the date for the runoff election is tantamount to an improper execution of the mandate of the Supreme Court for which Information will lie".

Issues with Excess Ballots

The Unity Party further prayed the Court to order that, unlike the ballot papers used for the October 10 elections which serial numbers were only on the stubs for "administrative reasons", the runoff ballot papers should carry corresponding serial numbers on the ballots and on the ballot stubs in order to deter and stop "ballot box stuffing".

They noted that the failure of the NEC to keep the political parties in the lope of its activities makes it impossible for them to ensure that the maximum number of ballot papers to be printed would not exceed more than 10 percent above the number of registered voters on the sanitized FRR.

Call for Korkoya's Resignation

The UP in its Bill of Information joined the calls of several citizens who have expressed their lack of confidence in the NEC Chairman, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya's ability to conduct a credible election.

The UP cited ineffectiveness in the management of the NEC and the compromising of Chairman Korkoya, stating that "he could not oversee, manage and operate the runoff election impartially and without prejudice, coupled with proven evidence of deliberate violations of the Constitution the Election Laws.

"The NEC Chairman and the NEC Executive Director should and ought to have tendered their resignations."

"With arrogance, they have failed to do so, and Informants/Appellants say that the continued involvement of the NEC Chairman and the NEC Executive Director in the organizing and running of the runoff election offends the spirit of the mandate of the Your Honors' mandate for free, fair and transparent runoff election."

What the UP Wants

In the wake of these complaints, the Unity Party has called on the Supreme Court to issue a stay order on the holding of the December 26, 2017 runoff election until the Bill of Information is disposed of;

They also want the Court to rule that the NEC does not have constitutional and statutory authority to set December 26, 2017 as a new date for runoff election without first consulting the Legislature;

The UP wants the Supreme Court to rule that the FRR given by NEC to the political parties prior to the conduct of the October 10 elections, should be considered as provisional roll, which shall be cleaned in a manner to make it compliant with law;

They also want the high court to order that the FRR shall be published for 15 days after it has been sanitized and upon the expiration of the 15 days, a maximum of 30 days should lapse before the conduct of the runoff.

That the actual date for the runoff should be set by the Legislature, amongst others.

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