Uncertainty Hangs Over Conduct of Liberia’s Presidential Runoff Elections

Uncertainty Hangs Over Conduct of Liberia’s Presidential Runoff Elections

Monrovia – Whether or not the runoff election would be held anytime soon remains the question.

Report by Lennart Dodoo, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Supreme Court has ordered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to refrain from conducting the runoff election between soccer legend George Weah and current Vice President Joseph Boakai.

A petition filed with the Supreme Court by opposition leader Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party necessitated the prohibition.

Cllr. Brumskine claimed the October 10 elections in which he came third was flawed with fraud and irregularities, but the NEC was being delinquent in investigating his claims, but rather announced the runoff election.

Cllr. Brumskine’s complaint to the NEC requested the body to rerun the election.

NEC Erred

As was argued by Cllr. Brumskine, Chief Justice Korkpor slammed the Elections Commission for not following the due process of law.

This is the second time since the electoral process started the NEC has been found of failing to follow due process.

The first was during the denial of Liberty Party’s vice standard bearer, Harrison Karnwea from contesting as running mate to Brumskine over violation of the Code of Conduct.

Delivering the ruling on behalf of the Bench on Monday, Chief Justice Korkpor said - “The NEC though having jurisdiction must proceed properly and legally but by setting a date and proceeding to conduct a runoff election without first hearing and deciding the complaint by the petitioners, which alleged gross irregularities and fraud. The NEC was proceeding contrary to the rules, which ought to be observed at all times.”

The Supreme Court ordered the NEC to investigate the allegations as a matter of urgency based on the implications it has on the governance of the country.

The National Elections Commission Chairman, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, had always insisted that some of the Liberty Party’s complaints are baseless and not evidence-based. Chairman Korkoya told journalists that while it is true that the October 10 elections had some irregularities, those irregularities were not of magnitude to compel a rerun of the process.

However, NEC’s lawyer, Cllr. Musa Dean told reporters at the Temple of Justice that NEC as a law-abiding entity would respect and follow the mandate of the court.

“We’re glad that there is the rule of law and that the Court has now offered an interpretation and we shall proceed from there,” he said.

Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe told reporters after the ruling that the NEC should be blamed for failure of offering Liberty party due process.

“It is a great opinion, the court dealt with due process; I think due process right was undermined by the NEC. The Election Commission meant to have simultaneously heard the complaint and continue the runoff and that was non-prejudicial,” he said.

Dissenting Opinion

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s ruling, renowned Lawyer, Cllr. Syrenius Cephus, opined that the authority to determine and deter election results is in the confines of the Elections Commission, but the Supreme Court was taking away that authority from the NEC.

Cllr. Cephus: “They said in the face of complaint, you cannot make any determination and declaration. To me, I think that is too far. Under the principles of due process – yes we agree – but the Constitution also provides that in not later than 30 days, the NEC can make a determination and it also provides for the holding of the elections within the time frame, the second Tuesday following. Now if NEC is stopped from making any declaration, because there’s a complaint then what is the essence of election returns? That’s my disagreement.”

The Real Controversy

Though the Supreme Court at the NEC has asked the Commission to handle the matter with urgency, it is likely that it would not come to a judicial conclusion any time soon to pave way for the conduct of the runoff. For Brumskine, runoff is out of the question – he’s seeking a total rerun.

This means, after the hearing officer rules on the case, if a rerun is not granted, it is likely that the Liberty Party would take an appeal to the Board of Commissioners of the NEC. If the Board of Commissioners also denies his quest for rerun, the Supreme Court’s intervention would be sought again.

In an aftermath press conference on Monday evening, Cllr. Brumskine said he does not believe in the credibility of the NEC to investigate his complaints as they have already prejudice the case. He called on them to recuse themselves before the complaints are investigated. And should they fail to do so, he will again seek redress at the Supreme Court.

“We’re not comfortable and my lawyers would be asking the Commissioners to recuse themselves because they’ve already prejudged the evidence and the case,” he said.

Bettie Johnson-Mbayo and Kennedy L. Yangian Contributed to this report