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Appropriate Classification of 2014 Senatorial Election

In the year 2014, the Election Management Body of Liberia, the National Elections Commission (NEC), is due to conduct an election for the replacement of fifty per cent of the current membership of the Liberian Senate whose nine-year tenure would then be fading away. Individuals desirous of contesting this Senatorial election would raise their hands in their quest to be elected by eligible citizens of each of the fifteen counties of Liberia.

The stark Confusion about the nomenclature of the election of 2014 is however becoming increasingly glaring in many quarters of the country as even in conversations and news articles, individuals frequently refer to the election as a “Mid-Term Election.”

Clearly, the election of 2014 is not a “Mid-Term Election.” Unlike the United States where “Mid-Term Elections” are held, the electoral jurisdiction of Liberia does not provide for the conduct of mid-term elections.

The election of 2014 actually falls within the category of Special Elections as declared in Chapter 1 (Definitions and General Provisions) Section 1.2 (f) of the New Elections Law of Liberia approved on September 29, 1986 and amended on January 29, 2003 and December 23, 2004, respectively. This section conspicuously puts Special Elections into three classifications.

One category of Special Election is conducted in concert with Article 64 of the Liberian Constitution which states: “Whenever the Office of the President and Vice President shall become vacant by reason of removal, death, resignation or other disability of the President and Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be sworn in as Acting President until the holding of elections to fill the vacancy so created. Should the Speaker be legally incapable, then the same shall devolve upon the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate. In any further line of descent, the office shall devolve in order upon the Deputy Speaker and members of the cabinet in the order of precedence as established by law. The Elections Commission shall within Ninety days conduct elections for a new president and a new Vice President.”

A second category of Special Elections is a National Referendum as provided for in Article 91 of the Liberian Constitution: “This Constitution may be amended whenever a proposal by either (1) two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature or (2) a petition submitted to the Legislature, by not fewer than 10,000 citizens which receives the concurrence  of two-thirds of the membership of  both Houses of the Legislature, is ratified by two-thirds of the registered voters voting in a referendum conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature.

The third and final category of Special Elections, which is the basis for this article, is the election for half of the membership of the Liberian Senate as unambiguously expressed in Article 46 of the Constitution: “Immediately after the Senate shall have assembled following the elections prior to the coming into force of this constitution, the Senators shall be divided into two categories as a result of the votes cast in each county. The Senator with the higher votes cast shall be the senator of the first category and the Senator of the lower votes cast shall be senator of the second category; provided that no two senators from a county shall be placed in the same category. The seats of senators of the first category shall be vacated at the expiry of the ninth year.  In the interest of Legislative continuity, the senators of the second category shall serve a first term of six year only, after the first elections. Thereafter, all senators shall be elected to serve a term of nine years.”

In light of these provisions, it is explicit that the impending election of 2014 is not a “Mid-Term” Election but a “Special Election” that would be conducted to replace senators of the first category elected during the first post-war elections of Liberia conducted in 2005. The Special Senatorial Election of 2014 is arguably the first to be conducted in Liberia.

Therefore, it is my expectation that on reading this article, you will join the enlightenment mantra in fully espousing, across every nook and cranny of Liberia, the message that, indeed, the Senatorial election of 2014 is not a “Mid-Term” election but is instead a Special Election!

Joey T. Kennedy
Email: josephtnkennedy@yahoo.com

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