Liberia: Legislature Adopts Resolution Postponing Midterm Senatorial Elections, Referendum to December 2020

The adoption of the resolution sets the legal basis for the change in schedule of the elections and referendum as mandated by the Liberian Constitution

Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Members of the 54th Legislature have adopted a joint resolution postponing the midterm Senatorial elections and national referendum previously scheduled for October 13, 2020.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

The new date is now December 8 – one week ahead of President George Weah’s proposed date of December 15, 2020.

President Weah, based on the advice of the National Elections Commission (NEC), had earlier requested the Legislature to postpone the elections due to the inconveniences caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The NEC had informed the President that given the effect of the pandemic on the procurement of election materials and the preparation for the elections and referendum, it was not possible to conduct the special elections and the referendum on October 13, 2020-the constitutionally mandated date for events, thereby requested for a new date.

To set the legal basis for the change in schedule as mandated by the Liberian Constitution, the Legislature through the plenaries of both Houses of Senate and Representatives, following consultation with stakeholders including political parties and the NEC derived at the joint resolution.

What’s in the Resolution?

The resolution states: “That due to the outbreak and effect of  COVID-19 including financial difficulties arising therefrom in early 2020 which constrained funding for the 2020 senatorial election and the referendum, the Senatorial election and referendum scheduled for October 13, 2020 is hereby postponed to Tuesday, December 8, 2020 in order to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections, thereby having the elected Senators to be seated on the second working Monday of January 2021 as mandated by the Constitution.”

The Legislature, in the resolution, called for the appropriations it made for the holding of the elections to be adhere to and the Executive shall make the fund immediately available for the smooth conduct of the elections and referendum.

The House of Representative concurred with the Senate to adopt the resolution on Tuesday, June 23 in its 35th day sitting of the 54th Legislature third session

Giving the competitive bidding requirement of the public procurement law and the urgency attach to the electoral process, the lawmakers called on the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) to conduct bidding process expeditiously in order to curtail the delay in procuring elections’ materials.

They also mandated that the 2017 Final Voter Registration Roll (FRR) should be used for the conduct of the midterm elections and referendum.

However, they pointed out that because the authenticity and credibility of the 2017 FRR continues to be a source of speculation by the political parties and civil society organizations involved with the electoral process, a clean-up process of the 2017 FRR should be conducted by the NEC with the involvement of political parties and other stakeholders in order to enhance the legitimacy and authenticity of the 2017 FRR to be used for the elections and referendum.

In addition, the Legislature also called for the Voter Registration Update (VRU) to be conducted.

And without diminishing the constitutional and statutory powers, authority and functions of the NEC, the election body shall employ and use the Inter-party Consultative Committee (IPPC) as a functional mechanism for consultations with political parties, while also employing the services of technicians from political parties for the cleaning up of the 2017 FRR and the VRU for the upcoming elections and referendum.

Due to the special circumstances pertaining to the 2020 Senatorial election and referendum, the lawmakers requested the NEC to give a written progress report every 30 days to the Legislature, and physically appear to react to concerns of the Legislature, so as to ensure that all problems faced by the NEC will be promptly resolved and the Senatorial election and referendum will be held on December 8, 2020.