Liberia: Sen. Varney Sherman Proposes Amendments to The New Elections Law to Shorten the Period for Hearing Dispute in Presidential Election

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Cllr. Varney Sherman is recommending that the new Elections Law should be amended to provide that the Board of Commissioners shall have original jurisdiction over the presidential election dispute and an appeal from the Board of Commissioners shall lie with the Supreme Court.

MONROVIA – Senator Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County, UP) is proposing an amendment to Section 4.8 of the New Elections Law that would allow the National Elections Commission and Supreme Court to take shorter time to hear and adjudicate elections dispute cases in shorter periods.

In his proposal, the Grand Cape Mount Senator who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee said three successive elections ended in run-off and that it is highly likely there will be run-off election for the 2023 general and presidential elections.

“Given the increasing high number of political parties and the requirement that the presidential election be determined by absolute majority (Minimum of 50% plus 1) the evidence from those previous elections convinces me that there will be presidential election disputes in 2023.”

From his years of experience as a Lawyer who litigated past Presidential elections disputes, he said, the procedure at the NEC is that a complaint is investigated by hearing officer and an appeal is from the decision from the hearing officer may be taken to the Board of Commissioners. An appeal may thereafter be taken to the Supreme Court.

He believes to expedite the deposition of presidential election dispute, the new Elections Law should be amended to provide that the Board of Commissioners shall have original jurisdiction over the presidential election dispute and an appeal from the Board of Commissioners shall lie with the Supreme Court.

“Simply stated, for a Presidential election dispute the entire Board of Commissioners, not a subordinate NEC staff, albeit it lawyer, shall be the forum for the first hearing. This will shorten the length of time it will take to dispose of a Presidential election dispute.”

For a legislative election dispute or disputes which arises from any other election, he has also proposed that it be amended to provide that a hearing officer (an NEC staff or other designated person, such as an associate magistrate from the Judiciary shall serve as a hearing officer; and a decision from the hearing officer shall be appealable to the Board of commissioners, and thereafter to the supreme court.

“I also propose that that for legislative elections, once the NEC has certificated a candidate to be the elected person should assume the position for which the election was held pending adjudication of any complaint which arises from the election, that person shall be de-certificated and the person certified at the end of the adjudication process shall assume the position.

“At the end of the adjudication provided by law it is finally determined that the person so first certificated by the NEC is not the winner of the election, that person shall be de-certificated and the person certified at the end of the adjudication process shall assume the position for which the election was held. Provided that any compensation or benefits paid to the person who first certificated by the NEC for services rendered shall not be reimbursed to the person eventually certificated at the end of the adjudication process.”

According to Senator Sherman, his proposal is of best practice in many West Africa countries that ensures timely representation of the people; discourages frivolous challenges to election result; and minimizes the cost of elections, which arises from post-election disputes.

Fifteen vacant seats were contested for in the Senate on December 8, 2020 with five senators   certificated and inducted on the constituted date while 10 others were compelled to undergo litigation due to election disputes cases.

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