Liberia: Senator Varney Sherman Raises Alert over Potential 2023 Constitutional Crisis

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MONROVIA – Senator Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount, UP) has written the plenary of the Senate alarming over what he considers a potential constitutional crisis if not addressed ahead of the 2023 presidential and general elections.

In his communication, Senator Sherman, chair on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the attention of his colleagues to the inchoate problems associated with the 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

The 2023 election will comprise presidential election and election for both houses of the Legislature.

Senator Sherman’s communication stated that the looming crisis can be averted through concerted actions by both the legislative and Executive Branches of the Government

In 2020, Senator Sherman headed a select committee of Senators to review a request from the National Elections Commission (NEC) to postpone the 2020 senatorial election from the constitutionally-mandated second Tuesday of October in 2020. Article 83(a) to another date.

Shearman’s committee along with political parties and the NEC agreed that the election be postponed to the second Tuesday in December 2020. The NEC request for postponement was based on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak but their justification that there was no fund was rejected by most political parties and Civil Society Organizations.

 Sherman stated: “I am concerned that the legislature could be faced with a request for postponement of 2023 Presidential and legislative elections if both the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government don’t take appropriate actions to avoid what happened 2020.”

In his communication, he asked his colleagues to join him demand the NEC to submit a tentative budget for the conduct of the 2023 presidential and legislative elections and wants the Legislature set aside allocations in each annual budget as of now in readiness for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

“If we wait until 2023, as we did in 2020 to find the funds for 2023 presidential and legislative elections, we run risk that we might not have sufficient funds and we might for the second time be faced with the issue of postponement of those elections. That will be the second time that we will be playing with a constitutionally-mandated election day because of our failure and/or neglect to prepare in advance for the obvious.”

Reviewing the elections law

Judging from the 2020 special senatorial elections experience, the Liberian Senate Committee on judiciary is currently reviewing laws governing the country’s election process to allow people elected and declared winners of the election to be seated while litigations are ongoing.

Most of almost the recently elected Senators have raised concerns about the election law and expressed fear that if nothing is done to review the law, the 2023 elections could be chaotic. The law, as it is, prohibits the winner of a process from taking seat while election dispute litigations are ongoing.

According to Senate Pro-Temp Albert Chie, the committee is working to review the law. “On the issue of the elections law reform I am pleased to announce that the judicial committee has started work. A letter will be on the floor to amend part of the law that would allow people declare winners by the NEC to be seated while   litigations are ongoing. That is important for 2023,” Sen. Chie said.

Elections for leadership

In a related Senate news, the Senate will this Thursday hold elections for leadership and positions out for grab. These positions include Chair on Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair on Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs. Others include; Chair Committee on health, Chair on Education, and Chair on Public Works.

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