Liberia: Political Parties Differ Over Request to Postpone Referendum, Senatorial Midterm Election

ELECTIONS POSTPONEMENT DEBATE: Mr. Mulbah Morlu, Chair of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, told the Senate Judicial Committee Wednesday that the CDC is  in support of protecting the constitution and will do nothing to undermine its legitimacy. Mr. Morlu claimed that if elections are held in October the CDC will be prepared. Cllr. Gould, Chair Emeritus of the Alternative National Congress, one of several political parties represented said the opposition will not assist the National Elections Commission in breaching the constitution.

Monrovia – The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Senator Varney Sherman(Unity Party, Grand Cape Mount) on Wednesday invited political parties on Capitol Hill to hold discussions on finding the best solution to request the postponement of a referendum and the Senatorial Midterm elections, schedule for later this year, from the National elections Commission (NEC).

Some of the major political parties attended Wednesday hearing holding contrary views.

The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was represented by its leadership headed by Chairman Mulbah Morlu, the Alternative National Congress (ANC) was represented by its chairman emeritus Lafayette Gould, while the All Liberian Party (ALP) was represented by its chair, Theodore Momo. The former ruling Unity Party was represented by its acting Secretary General Samuel Worzi.

The opposition, mostly representing the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), told members of the committee that they will not allow themselves to be used to honor a request from NEC “to violate a constitutional provision” and postpone elections date.

In separate comments at the Wednesday hearing, opposition political parties stood firm on the issue.

Senator Varney Sherman(Unity Party, Grand Cape Mount), chair of the Senate Judicial Committee makes a point during hearing with political parties Wednesday.

The CPP declared that they will not give their approval or support to the postponement of “a constitutional date” set for the conduct of the mid-term senatorial election and referendum because the NEC has failed to do what it is supposed to do. 

Cllr. Gould, speaking on behalf of the ANC said: “Political parties are in competition with ideas to govern. We put too many resources into planning for elections. We have a history that if we do not honor our constitutional requirement it results into chaos so If you cannot get materials from china find somewhere; we have to hold this election.”

Added Cllr. Gould: “We, as a country had anticipated holding elections in October in keeping with the constitution. And so, we should have all the mechanisms to hold elections. The elections commission’s acting chair has put the reason for postponement on procurement due to COVID-19, but we think they are playing double standard.”

Cllr. Gould said NEC is yet to tell the political parties whether or not in December the conditions will be conducive to hold elections. “All this thing about holding elections is all presumption and appears to be precedent from 2014 Ebola outbreak. They have brought no proof that by December all the condition will be okay, to do elections.”

Cllr. Gould further accused the NEC of hiding behind COVID-19 to cover up for things they should have done and didn’t do. “NEC should not hide behind COVID-19 to run from their lapses. You cannot come to the Legislature to use their hands to take the fire from the coal pot. If they want dialogue let’s move back and meet. Do not be arrogant about it and run to the Legislature. If you cannot do the job leave; there are other qualified Liberians. From the way things are proceeding we think they are out for trouble and we don’t want to be a part of that.”

The CPP also frowned on the NEC for failing to collaborate with political parties before reaching out to the legislature on the issue as was done in 2014 during the Ebola crisis. However, NEC through is acting chair Davidetta Browne-Lansanah denied the claim on grounds that the commission had reached out to political parties on the issue at hand.

Said the NEC Acting Chair: “They (CPP) have also asked to be part of whatever cleaning is to be carried out on the Voter roll by the NEC because according to them they want to ask the necessary questions. “We want the political parties to participate in whatever cleaning up process that will be going on. So that we can ask the needful questions. We also want political parties’ involvement in the training of trainer’s workshop.”

The Opposition also made request for what they called source document on the voter roll which could inform their decision on the conduct of a free, fair and transparent elections. In a statement, Mr. Mulbah Morlu, Chair of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, said the CDC is  in support of protecting the constitution and will do nothing to undermine its legitimacy. Mr. Morlu claimed that if elections are held in October the CDC will be prepared.

The CDC chairman also told members of the Senate committee that despite the Party’s preparedness it would consider a request to postpone the October elections to December; but will not support any decision or request to hold elections in 2021. “What we will not support will be to postpone elections beyond 2020, but any recommendation to postpone election to December for it to be free fair and transparent, we will support that process. But any elections beyond 2020 the CDC will not accept that. We will support going to elections in October if NEC is prepared, but if there is an adjustment it should not be beyond 2020.”