Liberia: Elections Hurdles Imminent




Daily Observer:  Elections Hurdles Imminent As Court Hears Residency Clause Case

By: Keith Morris

The opposition Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and a group of Liberians under the banner Concerned Citizens of Liberia, yesterday filed a peremptory writ of prohibition at the Supreme Court challenging recent decision taken by the Elections Commission to certified all of the sixteen presidential candidates for the electoral process.

The groups, in their petition to Justice in Chambers Jameselta Wolokollie in special session yesterday, highlighted that the Elections Commission illegally and unconstitutionally qualified and certified Ellen Johnson of the Unity Party (UP), Winston Tubman of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson of National Democratic Coalition (NDC) and Rev. Kennedy Sandy of Liberia Transformation Party (LTP).

Some of the political names protested by the groups include but are not limited to, Prince Y. Johnson of National Union for Democratic Progress (NUDP), Cecelia Ndebe of Liberia Reconstruction Party and Charles Walker Brumskine of Liberty Party (LP).

The petitioners also filed a lawsuit against the National Elections Commission for an act the groups claimed is illegal and counterproductive to democracy.

Under the MPC claims as filed, the political institution explained that in keeping with the statutory and constitutional powers of the Elections Commission as a sole electoral body under the 1986 Constitution, and MPC being a legal institution, it is under obligation to compel the Commission and other political institutions to respect and honor every statutory law governing elections, including but not limited to Article 52(c) of the Constitution.

In her writ, the MPC legal team, headed by Cllr. John D. Barlone, noted that consistent with its statutory responsibilities as provided for under Section 2.9(n) of the New Elections Law, NEC is mandated “to vet and scrutinize all candidates for elective public officers and accredit their candidacy, and /or reject the candidacy of any, who has not met up with or is not qualified.”

The group maintained that section 15.2 of the New Electoral Laws, relating to registration of candidates was not followed by the Commission during the registration process for which NEC must account.

“Section 2.9(a) of the New Elections Law also requires NEC to administer and enforce all laws relative to the conduct of elections in Liberia, especially the 1986 Constitution.

“As the Constitution expressly states ‘No person shall be eligible to hold the office of president or vice president unless that person is a resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election…” The word “resident,” as used in Article 52(c), refers to a person, who shall be eligible to hold the office of president or vice president only if he or she resides in the Republic ten years prior to his election.

“The word Resident as used in the article is synonymous to domicile which is unchanging, stationary and comes from the Latin word “Domus” which means a dwelling house or home; it also refers to place where an individual has a true, fixed and permanent home to which he/she intends to return whenever he/she is absent.

“The Republic in which a person is to hold the office of president or vice president shall reside or be a resident for ten years prior to his election is unmovable, fixed and will continue to exist as long Liberia remains a statehood in the comity of nations and therefore, is inarguably synonymous to a domicile,” MPC defense team asserted.

Concerned Citizens of Liberia who also filed petitions to the high court include Abraham G. Massaley and Sayku Kromah, among others.

NEC is to appear before the court on Friday September 16, 2011 with her legal team, including its Chairman James Fromayan and all Commissioners while the Ministry of Justice will be represented by Cllr. Christiana Tah, Minister of Justice and all her deputies and assistants, including Solicitor General and all attorneys of the Ministry. They are all expected to be in court.

According to documents received from the court, Unity Party is to be represented by its Chairman, standard bearer and legal team in court, including all other political parties involved with the legal issues.

NEC on last week, released a list of 16 candidates for the presidency in the ensuing elections; something that has caused serious mixed reactions among the public as to who is qualified to contest and not.

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