Liberia: By-Elections Set for Postponement Again Amid Failure of Materials to Arrive Before July 8
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Monrovia – A monkey wrench has reportedly been thrown yet again in the upcoming by-Elections for the vacant Montserrado County Senatorial seat and the District No. 15 legislative seat, FrontPageAfrica has reliably learnt.
Multiple and impeccable sources confirmed to FPA early Wednesday morning that the National Elections Commission will shortly be announcing to the public its inability to hold the elections because ballot papers and other materials to conduct the elections have not yet arrived in the country.
This postponement is set to mark the second time in as many months that the elections have been put off.
On June 4, the Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Cllr. Jerome Korkoya warned that the elections initially planned for July 2 would not take place if all election materials are not procured and brought in the country by June 30.
At the time, Chairman Korkoya revealed that the government had finally agreed to disburse the full amount of US$2.5 million for the election but had not paid any amount to start the process.
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning had earlier stated that the government could not ditch out such ‘huge’ amount owing to the ‘stressed’ budget.
But following series of negotiations, the NEC boss noted that the Ministry of Finance agreed to give an initial amount of US$1.5 million but by then the delay had already affected the change in the preliminary election activities including replacement of lost and damaged voter cards.
Now, FrontPageAfrica has learned, another postponement is on the cards. A key reason for the delay, FrontPageAfrica has learned is that NEC received funding for the materials a bit late from the Ministry of Finance. The order and processing of the materials, one source explained took longer than expected, prompting a second delay of the by elections.
The decision to hold the by-elections is in consonance with Article 37 of the 1986 Revised Constitution, which states: “In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, expulsion, or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the elections commission thereof. The Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter, cause a by-election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections.”
In May, NEC raised alarm that it had not yet receive official notification from the Speaker of the House of Representatives about the vacancy created by the sudden passing of Representative Adolph Lawrence in a tragic motor accident on the Monrovia-Roberts Field Highway on the night of Sunday, March 24, 2019 and late Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, who died recently following a lengthy illness.
“In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, expulsion, or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the elections commission thereof. The Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter, cause a by-election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections. “Article 37 of the 1986 Revised Constitution
NEC went on to write the Speaker of the House of Representatives to notify it of the vacancy in the House for Montserrado District #15 and the senatorial seat.
The NEC had already issued a timeline for the July 2 and has set the complaints period for the by-elections to be heard as of the day of election, July 2 to 9, while the announcement of provisional results has been set for July 4 with the announcement of results to be made on July 10, 2019.
With another postponement imminent, political observers are raising eyebrows, especially in the wake of a recent communication from Rep. Dixon Wlawee Seiboe (Montserrado District #16) seeking the indulgence of the House of Representatives to request President Weah declare a state of emergency and postpone the elections indefinitely.
In his communication, Rep. Seiboe said the state of emergency, when declared will lead to a joint resolution from the Legislature to postponed all other by-elections after the planned July 2 polls to save the state from incurring huge expenses in the wake of the economic challenges.
Rep. Seiboe crafted the communication in the wake of the recent death of Grand Cape Mount County’s Senior Senator, Edward B. Dagoseh from a protracted illness.
According to Rep. Seibo, just as former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a state of emergency in the wake of the 2014 Ebola outbreak that led to the postponement of the mid-term elections at that time, President Weah should be requested to declare an economic emergency to pause all other ensuing by-elections until the 2020 midterm elections.
Rep. Seiboe wrote: “Honorable Speaker, Hon. Deputy Speaker, fellow colleagues, based on the provisions quoted above and considering the pronounced economic squeeze the country is enduring as even stated in the President’s latest speech, I write to request that we as deputies of the people ask the President of the Republic to declare economic emergency, which will thereafter lead to a resolution from the Legislature, for the sole purpose of postponing all other by-elections that have been or may be due after already scheduled July 2, 2019 by-elections, until the 2010 mid-term elections.”
Before plenary’s decision, Rep. Seiboe’s communication received mixed views as some lawmakers argued that the move will be unconstitutional and many saw a sinister motive by the ruling party to deliberately put off the voting out of fear that it does not have strong candidates contesting.
The District No. 15 elections is being hotly contested between Telia Urey and Abu Kamara while the ruling party has put up Paulita Cece Wie against the opposition Liberty Party’s Abraham Darius Dillon and the independent candidate MacDella Cooper.