Liberia: CPP Calls for the Resignation of Elections Commission Commissioners Over Decision to Conduct Referendum - Threaten Boycott On December 8

Liberians go to the polls on December 8 for midterm elections and a controversial constitutional referendum backed by President George Weah.

Monrovia — Opposition political parties, including the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), the Rainbow Alliance, University of Liberia campus-based Student Unification Party, other opposition parties and civil society organizations, are requesting a postponement of the Referendum. As it stands, the Referendum might likely take place during the Special Senatorial election scheduled for December 8th.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, December 2nd, at the headquarters of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and read by its standard bearer and chairman of the CPP, Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings, they called for the resignation of the current Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) "given their partisan nature, inexperience and ineptitude."

"Should the government insist on proceeding with the Referendum, we urge all of our supporters and well-meaning Liberians to boycott the Referendum on December 8, 2020. You must go to the polls to only vote senatorial candidates and representative candidates in the two by-elections for new representatives in Districts #2, Sinoe and District #9, Montserrado Counties.

"We do not rule out possible of legal actions if NEC insists on holding the planned illegal Referendum. We cannot and will not participate in an unconstitutional process. We reserve the right to peacefully assemble and will be doing so over the coming days to call attention to our legitimate demands.

"We would also like to warn the CDC and the NEC that we are aware of plans to rig the Senatorial Election. We have put in place all measures to protect our votes and would resist vehemently any attempts to thwart the will of the people."

The opposition further said that, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that the official Gazette, with three condensed propositions, is inconsistent with the Constitution and cannot be used to print ballots and hold the Referendum, the NEC again and in "collusion with the CDC Administration" is forcing and rushing the National Referendum.

Sadly, Mr. Cummings said, the Referendum is being rushed and forced without an official Gazette from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, listing all 8 propositions, being issued. Furthermore, ballots on the propositions are being printed without consultation and consensus with political parties on the symbols to represent each proposition on each ballot.

They stated also that in addition to the violation, the public has not been educated enough on each symbol and the amendments they represent, in order to be properly informed and exercise their right to vote.

"Interestingly, the NEC has decided to ascribe unto itself the power to correct and redo the gazette and proceed with the printing of referendum ballot papers in total violation of the laws. There is nowhere in our laws where the NEC can issue a gazette as it has clearly done by operations of its decision.

"More important is the realization that the Resolution from the National Legislature, hence the 8 propositions do not include amendment of Article 93 of the Constitution. Amending Article 50, without Amending Article 93 will render the constitution contradictory. Hence, a new resolution is required. We cannot and must not amend Article 50 of our Constitution, without a corresponding amendment in the language of Article 93 of the Constitution.

"Fellow Liberians, as you all know, the pending referendum is seeking to change the language in Article 50 from "term of six years" to a "term of five years", but the referendum makes no mention to change the language of Article 93 from "two terms, each of six years" to "two terms, each of five years" so as to correspond with the any potential change in the language of Article 50. We cannot and must not have a constitution that says one thing in Article 50 and says completely different thing in Article 93. The logical thing to do therefore is to postpone the Referendum, go back to the legislature for a new Resolution and issue an official gazette thereto, and after one year, hold a national referendum."

Disclaiming that they are against the conduct of the Referendum, the opposition political parties said, "We are not against the amendment of the Liberian Constitution. For the records, we would even like to have the presidential tenure reduced to four years rather than five years as has been suggested by this regime.

"What we are against is the unconstitutional manner in which this regime is proceeding with the conduct of the proposed referendum. That the regime would insist on proceeding with the Referendum against the Supreme Court's decision and calls for postponement from the Liberian National Bar Association, civil society organizations, youth and student groups, etc is quite revealing of an underlying motive. We cannot rule out the plan to force an unconstitutional third-term for President Weah as was revealed by Senator Prince Johnson a couple of months ago and validated by Samuel Tweh's ill-fated 'Benevolent Dictator' rant."

In the face of all these challenges, the CPP and other political parties and civil society organizations claimed that they have written several communications to the NEC expressing their disagreements over the conduct of the NEC in handling activities leading to the conduct of the Senatorial Elections but the NEC remained "intransigent" and continued to proceed against the advice of political parties, which prompted series of court action.

All the opposition political parties who signed the joint statement also expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court of Liberia, which they said, refused to hear concerns through a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus to clean the voters roll; and which issued a ruling on the national referendum that was so vague as to be lacking in enforcement. "We reject and rebuke the Supreme Court abuse of discretionary power to hear our mandamus and its spineless and ambivalent ruling giving no direction to the political survival of this country."

"Fellow Liberians, we would like to inform you that even at the point where ECOWAS stepped in to help us clean the Voter Roll, the National Elections Commission still did not find it prudent to involve political parties in the clean-up process or at least observe the exercise; in utter disrespect of our role as prime elections stakeholders and the fact that it is our complaint that gave rise to the ordering of the clean-up exercise by the court.

"Beyond the marginalization of political parties in elections matters, the NEC has also in some instances proceeded in violation of our elections laws. For instance, Chapter 3.6 of the elections law requires that the Final Voter Roll be made available to the public through election magistrates across the country. Unfortunately, all efforts by the technical team of the CPP and other political parties to have copies of the FRR have yielded no results. With just less than a week to elections, the NEC is yet to provide us copies of the FFR or post it on its website; leaving us with no time and opportunity to have our technical team do a scrutiny of the Voter Roll."

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