Liberia: President Sirleaf, Others Halted!

Source: The New Dawn (Monrovia)

Six political parties, including the governing Unity Party and the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change have been summoned by the Supreme Court to appear Tuesday, to answer why a prohibition filed against them by the Movement for Progressive Change or MPC, and a former President of the Press Union of Liberia Abraham Massally should not be granted.

Other parties include the Liberty Party (LP), Liberia Transformation Party (LTP), National Union Democratic Progress (NUDP) and the National Democratic Coalition (NDC).

The Supreme Court has also ordered the National Elections Commission or NEC and the Ministry of Justice to respond accordingly.

All concerned have been told to cease all political activities in the country, pending the outcome of today’s hearing.

The action followed a prohibition filed against the NEC by the MPC and Massally for “illegal and unqualified certification” of the Standard Bearers of the six parties, including incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The controversy surrounds the 10-year Residency Clause in the Constitution of Liberia, which states under Article 52, “No person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice President, unless that person is:
a) A natural born Liberian citizen of not less than 35 years of age
b) The owner of unencumbered real property valued at not less than twenty-five thousand dollars; and
c) Resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election provided that the President and the Vice President shall not come from the same County.”

The Constitution was suspended during the 2005 presidential elections, which Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won in the runoff.

The National Elections Commission had proposed in the August 23, 2011 National Referendum for the reduction of the residency clause by five years, but was rejected at the polls along with the three other propositions. The NEC recently qualified all 15 presidential candidates in the race, including President Sirleaf, to contest for the Presidency.

If the prohibition is granted by the Supreme Court, it could pose a serious setback to the entire electoral process as the NEC has already announced the printing of ballot papers for the October 11 polls.
However, legal experts, including former Solicitor General Tiawan Gongloe, have argued that the Constitution does not say ten years consecutively prior to elections, saying all presidential candidates in the race are qualified under the law.

The NEC will have to defend its action before the highest court.


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