Supreme Court Acknowledges Irregularities in October 10 Elections, But Says Evidence Not Weighty for Rerun
Monrovia – Liberia’s Supreme Court has acknowledged that the first round of the country’s presidential and legislative elections were, to some extent, characterized by fraud, irregularities and disregard of the New Elections Law.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
But the Court in its 4-1 opinion/ruling said it has not been established that such malpractices were on a scale that warrants a rerun of the entire elections as requested by the Appellants (Liberty Party and Unity Party), which made the allegations.
“That notwithstanding our findings that indeed there were some irregularities, fraud, and violations of the New Electoral Law, as well as Rules and Regulations of the NEC, we hold that there is no evidence to show that those violations were in such magnitude that they rose to such level to warrant setting aside the results of the Presidential and Representative Election held on October 10, 2017 and ordering a rerun,” said Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III, who read the ruling on behalf of the Bench
The ruling stemmed from the Bill of Exception filed by the opposition Liberty Party in cohort with the ruling Unity Party after the NEC Board of Commissioners upheld the ruling of the NEC hearing officer that the two parties failed to prove allegations of fraud outlined in their complaint.
The Liberty Party, led by Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, who came third in the October 10 elections with less than 10 percent of the votes, took the lead in protesting the October 10 election results claiming that it was marred by fraud and lacked the minimum requirement to be regarded as free, fair and transparent.
The Supreme Court defined fraud as a generic term, which embraces all the multifarious of human ingenuity to desire and resort to by an individual to gain an advantage over another by false suggestions or by suppression of the truth.
“Fraud may be established by not only directly but by inclusive circumstances which by their weight may constitute proof; from the facts and circumstances of the instant case, the 1st and 2nd appellant established by proof that fraudulent acts were perpetrated at a few polling centers during the Presidential and Representatives Elections conducted on October 10, 2017.
However, in the mind of the Court, both the ruling and opposition which joined forces to prove that NEC orchestrated fraudulent acts during the October 10 elections, failed to show that the evidence of fraud pervaded the entire spectrum of the elections throughout or in a considerably wide or most parts of the country.
“We have not seen from the records that the appellants demonstrated that there was a conspiracy by the NEC as an institution, or that the NEC sanctioned the conduct of those persons who were alleged to have committed elections violations or irregularities.”
“We do not believe that the evidence reached that threshold,” Justice Banks asserted.
According to him, as important as the evidence was, the fraud and irregularities complained of and shown by the testimonies and witnesses were limited to the generality of the elections rather than indications of widespread intentional gross conspiracy conduct by NEC as an institution.
Associate Justice Banks, III noted that despite proving that fraud occurred at few polling places, which do not create room for the Supreme Court to speculate that such irregularities, fraud and disregard of electoral laws occurred in all parts of the country.
On this note, the Supreme Court, said it cannot sanction a rerun as the evidence provided do not merit the annul of the October 10 elections. According to Justice Banks, the Bench also took into consideration the consequences such decision may have on the country; thereby denying the Liberty Party’s appeal for a rerun of the October 10 elections.
However, as precondition for the runoff election, the Supreme Court has mandated and ordered to fully comply with the standards of publications of the Final Register Roll (FRR) as in keeping with law.
The NEC has also been ordered to conduct a full cleanup of the FRR to have it comply wit the provision of the law.
The FRR is to be available in published hard copies to all Election Magistrates and polling places across the country in accordance with law prior to the conduct of the runoff election.
Contentiously, the NEC has also been mandated not to allow anyone whose name is not in the FRR to vote during the runoff, noting that the FRR is the only electoral document that speaks to the eligibility of voters.
“Poll watchers, who did not register at their places of assignment and those whose names are not in the FRR should not be allowed to vote.”
The Chairman and members of the Board of Commissioners of the NEC and other staffs of NEC have been prohibited by the Supreme Court from public utterances and pronouncements relating to any matter that may emanate from the runoff.
Meanwhile, the NEC is expected to tell Liberians when they are going to head to the polls to vote. The two parties, which are to participate in the run Election, are the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) of Senator George Weah and the ruling United Party of Vice President Joseph Boakai.