Liberia: National Elections Commission Denies Unity Party’s Request to Dismiss Complaint by LP, ANC
Monrovia – The National Elections Commission (NEC) has denied the request by the Unity Party (UP), seeking the dismissal of the complaint filed by the Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress.
Following announcement of the withdrawal of UP and the ALP from the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), the Liberty Party (LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) filed a complaint to the NEC that they only learned about the withdrawal of the two parties through media reports, and they, as constituent parties of the CPP were not informed.
The letter was issued under the signatures of embattled Chairman Bility and Martin Kollah Chairman and Secretary-General of the LP, and Daniel Naatehn and Aloysius Toe, Chairman and Secretary-General of the ANC respectively.
They complained that though, the Bility-fraction of the LP and the ANC have learned through the media and several online interviews of officers of the UP and the ALP, both parties have failed to officially notify the body through its National Advisory Council or the National Executive Committee of the CPP.
“There have been no official communications from the ALP or UP to either the CPP National Advisory Council or National Executive Committee regarding the said withdrawal. We also learned that both parties have requested the commission to bar the use of their name and logo from the CPP logo”, the communication stated.
In their complaint, they called on the NEC to provide them with the official status of the ALP and UP as it relates to the CPP, and also called on the NEC to compel the ALP and UP to provide official communication to the CPP of their withdrawal and waiving any further rights within the CPP.
The ANC and Bility-fraction of the LP also drew the NEC’s attention to Section 8.5 (2) of the CPP framework document which prescribes the process by which a constituent party may withdraw its membership from the CPP.
Section 8.5 (2) of the CPP framework document states that: Constituent Party desiring to withdraw from the CPP shall first exhaust the dispute resolution mechanism stipulated in the framework document. If the Constituent Party which has satisfied the dispute resolution mechanism is not satisfied with the outcome, it shall file a resolution to withdraw from the CPP signed and duly executed by two-thirds (2/3) of the membership of the National Executive Committee, it is being understood, however, that a party withdrawing from the alliance prior to the next presidential, legislative and local elections shall not field candidates in its name”.
Invoking Section 8.5 (2) of the CPP framework, the ANC and LP called on the NEC to reject and deny any application from the ALP and UP to field candidates in their names in any election until the expiry of the 2023 elections, including up to six months in line with the CPP agreement.
However, the UP, in a counter action, and citing several reasons, filed a motion to dismiss the two parties’ complaint.
The UP argued that NEC cannot give advisory opinion and declare rights; something that the NEC agreed with. However, the NEC, citing the Constitution and the current elections’ laws, said the complaint filed against the two parties falls specifically within its responsibility.
As to UP’s assertion that the Framework Document (FD) is currently a matter in court and cannot be the subject of a complaint before the NEC, the Election Body said it takes judicial notice of the cases currently in court involving the FD. However, given the fact that there has not been any finality to any of these cases and, beyond that, the cases are not identical in terms of the parties and substance, the matter falls within the purview of the NEC.
Responding to the UP’s assertion that LP lacks standing as a result of its inter party dispute, the NEC said, as far as it is concerned, there is no basis to assume such position. And even if that were the case, the complaint was brought by both LP and ANC has a right to bring the suit, therefore the matter would still be before the NEC.
The NEC noted that it has ruled on several occasions on the matter; stating that the LP Constitution filed at NEC, until amended by an LP Convention or successfully challenged in a court of law, remains the valid governing document.
Also responding to the UP’s assertion that it was not given ample opportunity to properly respond to the complaint due to fast pace of assignment by NEC, the NEC said it is a national institution with responsibilities that it must exercise and attach timeliness to. And in the wake of the pending by-elections and prescribed processes and the fact that the decision from this case will inform actions to be taken in those processes as it relates to the UP candidate nomination, it is the responsibility of the NEC to conduct a speedy hearing in the matter.
On the question of UP’s eligibility to field a candidate in its name after leaving CPP, the NEC, in its ruling said, “Given that none of the parties are challenging the right of the ALP and UP to withdraw, and that this case is not identical to cases in other forum, the NEC has jurisdiction to hear the matter. Therefore, the UP/ALP Motion To Dismiss was denied and the case will be heard by NEC.”