Liberia Awaits Maximum Seven Days for Fate on Presidential Elections
Monrovia – The opposition Liberty Party and the ruling Unity Party will now have to look up the Supreme Court for a rerun of the October 10 elections, which they claim, was flawed by fraud marred by mass irregularities and fraud.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
“Accordingly, we hold that the Hearing Officer did not err, and the first and second appellant for a rerun of the October 10 2017 elections is hereby denied” – Final Ruling, NEC Board of Commissioners
Their appeal to the Supreme Court was necessitated by the upholding of the ruling of the National Elections Hearing Officer’s ruling in which he said the aggrieved parties failed to substantiate allegations fraud during the course of the hearing.
Giving the ruling on the appeal filed with the NEC Board of Commissioners last Friday, Commissioner Davidetta Lassanah said though it is acknowledged by all that there were some irregularities during the election, the overall effect did not affect the outcome of the elections.
The Board’s review of the Hearing Officer’s ruling and after entertaining final arguments confirmed and reaffirmed Hearing Officer Muana Ville’s ruling on grounds that he did not err at any point in time of his ruling.
The NEC Board final ruling noted that contrary to the allegations that ballot papers were discovered buried in Grand Gedeh County, the Executive Director of the NEC, Larmii Lighe testified that the papers unearthed were the Know Your Candidate posters that were printed to civic education purposes. Said, papers, according to Lighe’s testimony did not have security features on them.
The ruling noted that the aggrieved parties failed to rebut Lighe’s testimony.
Lighe is the Executive Director of the National Elections Commission.
The Board of Commissioners also disagreed that the NEC was in violation of the law by ‘failing’ to publish the Final Registration Roll.
“The Final Registration Roll (FRR) is developed after cleaning the provisional voters roll and the publication that is required is simply to have it distributed and made available at all Magisterial Offices as required at Section 3.6 of the New Elections Law.
“Because the records show that the NEC with the requirement of Section 3.6 of the New Elections Law, we hold that the Hearing Officer did not err,” Commissioner Lassanah asserted.
They also debunked allegation by the parties that the Final Registration Roll was altered by the creation of addendum on the Election Day.
It can be recalled on that on October 10, some individuals with voters registration cards whose names could not be found in the FRR were given their right to vote after recording their names in separate copy books. This practice occurred at several polling places in all parts of the country.
It is also reported that others whose names could not be found were denied the right to vote.
The Board of Commissioners noted that Mr. Lighe who served as witness for the NEC testified that what the aggrieved parties are referring as an addendum is a practice exercised in other electoral jurisdictions and provided for in the polling and counting procedure manual promulgated by the NEC.
“Witness Lighe and Yarsiah testified that the Commission maintains only one Roll and that the Commission’s SMS system and NEC website is another way for voters to access their polling places,” Commissioner Lassanah noted from the ruling.
She also noted that both the Unity and Liberty Parties failed to refute Lighe’s testimony that notice was given within a sufficient notice was given prior to election, contrary to their allegation that polling places were abruptly changed on Election Day.
Referencing Section 3.19 of the New Elections Law, the Board noted:
“The argument before us: appellants attempted to impress upon this Board that recording certain voters name on what is referred to as an addendum amounts to an alteration of the FRR, we disagree; in the mind of this Board, the recording or writing of the names and other information of a person who is a registered voter by reason of official assignment is in another location and by procedure is allowed to vote only in the presidential election or as a result of a printing error whose name was not printed on the FRR for a particular polling place does not constitute alteration.
To alter means to add or remove… Accordingly, the fact a voter’s particular did not appear in the FRR would not be ground to invalidate any document or result concerning the October 10, 2017 elections. Accordingly we hold that the Hearing Officer did not err”
According to ruling, it is agreed that some transposing errors occurred during the October 10 elections but said were corrected and didn’t have any impact on the overall outcome of the elections cannot constitute fraud.
“Accordingly, we hold that the Hearing Officer did not err, and the first and second appellant for a rerun of the October 10 2017 elections is hereby denied.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, appellants appeal is hereby denied.
The Hearing Officer’s final ruling in these proceedings is hereby confirmed and reaffirmed and it is hereby so ordered,” Commissioner Lassanah averred and knocked the gavel.
Lawyers representing the two political parties took exception to the ruling and announced that they will take an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Cllr. Varney Sherman who represented the ruling Unity Party described the ruling as erroneous, but said he would prove his case at the Supreme Court.
Upon filing the appeal, the Supreme Court, per the dictates of the Constitution, has a maximum of seven days to review the case and make a determination.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter will determine whether or not Liberia will have a runoff election or a rerun of the October 10 elections.
Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party and the Montserrado County Senator George Weah were poised for the runoff election, which was originally scheduled for November 7, 2017.
The runoff was, however, halted by the Supreme Court after the Liberty Party sought a Writ of Prohibition on the electoral process after the NEC failed to investigate their claims, rather went ahead and announced the run off election.