Liberia: Senate Grill Elections Commission Board over Delay in Hearing Electoral Disputes within Constitutional Time Frame

Monrovia – The Liberian Senate seems to be paralyzed by the absence of almost 10 members, who are yet to be certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC) due to election disputes that are still been heard by the NEC Hearing Officer and its Board of Commissioners.

The Senate plenary agreed that the absence of more than 10 members of the Senate is hampering and undermining the effectiveness of the Senate especially when most of the crucial decisions require two third of votes to be accepted.

Last week, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of MontserradoCounty pleaded with his colleagues for the Senate to invite the NEC Board of Commissioners, to show reasons why they should not be held in contempt for violating the Constitution that gives them a window or a timeframe to hold elections and announced results as well as adjudicate cases if there is any.

In fact as per the constitution, the NEC is beyond the 30-day constitutional period given to it by the Constitution to conduct their affairs and even the Supreme Court has only today February 19, 2021 to adjudicate cases of election dispute.

After today, any election case heard by the NEC and the Supreme Court could be deemed unconstitutional according to the senators.

Article 83 C of the Liberian Constitution states, “The returns of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than fifteen days after the casting of ballots. Any party or candidate who complains about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission. Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections. The Elections Commission shall, within thirty days of receipt of the complaint, conduct an impartial investigation and render a decision which may involve a dismissal of the complaint or a nullification of the election of a candidate. Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall not later than seven days appeal against it to the Supreme Court. The Elections Commission shall within seven days of receipt of the notice of appeal, forward all the records in the case to the Supreme Court, which not later than seven days thereafter, shall hear and make its determination. If the Supreme Court nullifies or sustains the nullification of the election of any candidate, for whatever reasons, the Elections Commission shall within sixty days of the decision of the Court conduct new elections to fill the vacancy. If the court sustains the election of a candidate, the Elections Commission shall act to effectuate the mandate of the Court.”

NEC Defense

In their response, the NEC admitted to being behind time in keeping with constitutional time required to hear and adjudicate cases brought to them after elections but said the Commission had been focused on giving due process to people who complaint to them about elections irregularities.

“All we have been doing at the NEC is to ensure that due process is given to complainants and that we acknowledge that giving due process to complainants is taking some time because complainants filed their complaints with their respective counties’ hearing officers, who heard before transferring those cases to Montserrado County. Some had to be transferred because of potential violence.

“The parties appearing before the NEC Hearing Officer have contributed to some of the delays by requesting continuance or requesting multiple witnesses the piling of records has also been a challenge for the NEC as hearing officers used tape recorders to record the procedure.”

The Commission order rerun in certain places in Grand Kruand Gbapolu Counties due to violence in those places. 

According to Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, the Chairperson of NEC, the Commission has now concluded on five election dispute cases.

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