Liberia: The Constitution Takes A Vacation

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WEEKS AFTER THE DECEMBER Midterm Senatorial and Representative elections in Liberia, several elected Senators are yet to take their seats amid numerous complaints and legal wrangles now entangled in the Supreme Court of Liberia.

THE AFTERMATH OF THE DECEMBER 8, 2020 elections has been marred by challenges from some defeated candidates.

THIS HAS LED to a situation in which newly-elected Senators are being denied their right to participate in the workings of the legislature and  checkmate the Executive branch of government.

SOME OF THOSE DEFEATED last December have filed separate legal complaints before the NEC and the Supreme Court respectively, claiming that the electoral processes conducted in their respective counties were marred with multiple fraud and irregularities.

THIS MEANS ELECTED officials from several counties including Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, River Cess, Lofa, Grand Kru, Maryland, Gbarpolu, Sinoe and Nimba are yet to take their seats.

THE CHALLENGES have dealt a major blow not just to the electoral process but also to the constitution as a whole.

Article 83 of the constitution states: “Voting for the President, Vice-President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year. All elections of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second ballot shall be conducted on the second Tuesday following. The two candidates who received the greatest numbers of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the run-off election.

ARTICLE 83 further states: “The returns of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than fifteen days after the casting of ballots.”

SEVERAL ELECTED OFFICIALS argue that the Supreme Court of Liberia is in violation of the constitution, an argument which suggests there may be more trouble for future elections, particularly the upcoming 2023 General and Presidential elections.

UNDER SUCH circumstances, authorities at both the National Elections Commission and the Supreme Court of Liberia are allowing themselves to be used as pawns in a dangerous game which is threatening the very fabric of the country’s constitution .

THIS BINDING DOCUMENT is regarded as supreme law of the land. In fact, the constitution became ever more important in the aftermath of a brutal civil war which broke the backs of a nation on the rebound from war.

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is, the roots of the civil war conflict were largely constitutional. This is why international stakeholders invested heavily in constitutional reform they believe would propel Africa’s oldest republic on a sustained path of peace and development, provided it produces a legitimate outcome and addresses the underlining problems of governance and power relations. 

THOSE PROBLEMS would be difficult to tackle if Liberia continues to regress to semblance of its painful past, a past marred by rigged or fraudulent elections and a corrupt judiciary which clearly has the propensity put Liberia on the track to political and economic stability.

FOR FAR TOO LONG, Liberians have been known to take things for granted and too many times, those lapses that have led the country on a spiral path of destruction.

NOW IT APPEARS the very structures built to ensure good governance and a corrupt-free judiciary are the very ones causing the most problems.

The current constitution, which came into force on January 6, 1986, replaced the constitution of 1847, which had been in force since the independence of Liberia. The constitution was set up to create a system of government heavily modeled after the United States of America.

THUS, IF THE CONSITUTION has in place laws regarding elections and what happens in the midst of a complaint; and if those complaints are not settled in a timely manner, but rather, allowed to drag on beyond the time period stipulated in the constitution, it paints an ugly chapter of despair, hopelessness and lawlessness.

AFTER 174 YEARS, it appears the country regarded as the oldest on the continent of Africa, is still heavily flawed, drowning in waste and abuse and mired in a recurring state of uncertainty, to its own detriment.

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