The re-contest ordered by the Supreme Court into the senatorial election dispute between Senator Jewel Howard Taylor and Cuttington University President, Dr. Henrique Flomo Tokpah in Bong County is a prelude to the danger that could rock the 2017 poll.
The Supreme Court order which would see National Elections Commission or NEC conducting a by-election specifically within District# 7 of Bong is an example of a number of by-elections to be conducted after the 2017 poll that some political analysts say if care is not taken, could plunge this country into chaos.
Under the new elections law approved on September 29, 1986; and amended on January 29, 2003 and December 23, 2004 to be precise Chapter 6 as regards contested election; Section 6.1 states: Any political party or candidate who has justifiable reason to believe that the elections were not impartially conducted and not in keeping with the elections law, which resulted in his defeat or the defeat of a candidate shall have the right to file a complaint with the Commission; such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the results of the elections.
Section 6.2 of the same Chapter 6 says the Commission upon receipt of the complaint of the contestant shall within thirty (30) days cite the parties; conduct an impartial investigation, and render a determination as provided for in Paragraph (2) of this section. The determination shall be accompanied by a summary of the investigation and the reason for it.
Section 6.3 says any contestant affected by the decision of the commission shall have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia no later than seven (7) days after the decision is rendered. The Supreme County on August 7 this year ruled for a re-run and ordered the National Elections commission or NEC to conduct the re-run within 60 days in the District #7. The decision of the high court came as result of petition filed against winner, now Senator, Madame Jewel Howard Taylor.
Already, the National Elections Commission had announced that there are about 30 registered political parties that may participate in the process, suggesting that the losers may claims they are cheated and could run to the high court for rescue.
The court ruled for a re-run of the senatorial election at Sanoyea Market, Yarbayeh Public School and Bletenda Palava Hut all in Electoral District #7 in lower Bong County. The high court’s decision is based upon a complaint filed by the second place winner in the December 20, 2014 election, Dr. Henrique Flomo Tokpa, that the results from the three disputed areas were not credible and that procedural election irregularities led to his defeat
. If Sen. Taylor loses the re-run, it could see her vacate the seat as sitting senator of the central region of the country. She is currently enjoying her second term of nine years at the Liberian Senate. The special senatorial elections were held last December and it’s approximately seven months after, and several petitions on election irregularities were filed before the Supreme Court.
Over six petitions were filed, but up to date the court has ruled on three, waiting to give its opinion on the rest. Dr. Tokpa had 11,737 votes, which amounted to 30.2%, while Senator Taylor received 13,672 votes, amounting to 35.2%
In his complaint to the local office of the NEC headed by Magistrate Joseph Jallah, Dr. Tokpa said there were unidentified voters allowed to vote, over statement of total votes cast in the area and election boxes were left open beyond the prescribed period.
Not accepting the ruling of both Jallah and the NEC, the case was taken to the Supreme Court which, following thorough examination, ruled for a re-run of at the three protested areas based on facts discovered in Tokpa’s complaint. –By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor