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Liberia news

Constitutional crisis looms over 2017 race

Various stakeholders here, including the Government of Liberia are putting all hands on deck to make sure the 2017 presidential and representative elections are conducted without crisis.

Constitutional crisis

On Thursday President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf dedicated 176.7km stretch of road – the single longest in the country with emphasis by her Minister of Public Works Gyude Moore that government will make several interventions to secure the Monrovia-Gbarnga highway and other roads, which are critical to transporting electoral materials and staffers to polling centers across the country.

Now a local group, the Election Coordinating Commission of Liberia has alarmed that the impending October 2017 Presidential and Representatives Elections face serious constitutional crisis if the Liberian Legislature failed to reapportion electoral constituencies as required by the 1986 Constitution.

Executive Director Mr. Oscar Bloh raised the alarm Thursday in Monrovia when he appeared on the “Prime Morning Drive” a live interactive radio broadcast, noting that Article 80 (d) and (e) of the Constitution of Liberia mandates the Legislature to take action ahead of presidential and general elections to legitimize the process.

Article 80 (d) and (e) of the Constitution states “Each constituency shall have an approximately equal population of 20,000, or such number of citizens as the Legislature shall prescribe in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred.

(e) Immediately following a national census and before the next elections, the Elections Commission shall reapportion the constituencies in accordance with the new population figures so that every constituency shall have as close to the same population as possible, provided, however, that a constituency must be solely within a county”.

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Mr. Bloh observed that the government, including the Liberian Legislature and the National Elections Commission are not thinking in that direction, warning that it may create constitutional crisis, and if any Liberian picks it up at the dying minutes to elections day, it could stall the entire process and probably lead to call for transitional arraignment.

He said it is worrisome that the government will not want to fulfill that provision of the Constitution at this critical juncture of the country that had experienced 14 years of bloody civil war and was still democratically growing.

He accused the National Elections Commission and registered political parties of failing to adhere to Article 83 (d) of the Constitution of Liberia, which states: “Every political party shall, on September 1 of each year, and every candidate of such political party and every independent candidate shall, not later than thirty days prior to the holding of an election in which he is a candidate, publish and submit to the Elections Commission detailed statements of assets and liabilities.

These shall include the enumeration of sources of funds and other assets, plus lists of expenditures. Where the filing of such statements is made in an election year, every political party and independent candidate shall be required to file with the Elections Commission additional detailed supplementary statements of all funds received and expenditures made by them from the date of filing of the original statements to the date of the elections. Any political party or independent candidate who ceases to function shall publish and submit a final financial statement to the Elections Commission”.

Bloh indicated that since the conduct of the 2011 Presidential and General Elections, both authorities of NEC and political parties have dishonorably failed to adhere to this provision, creating the corridor for political parties to be in violation of the Constitution.

He added that the foundation of any serious minded country is adherence to the rule of law, emphasizing that Liberia should be a country that respects its constitution and laws created by the Liberian Legislature.

The National Elections Commission has set key dates for some electoral activities, including Regional Consultation on Civil Voter Education/Gender for Voter Registration, September 05th to December 16th, 2016; official launch of CVE for Voter Registration, November 11th to December 11th, 2016; and Accreditation of Party Agents, Media & Observers for VR process, December 5, 2016 to January 20th, 2017, according to the NEC’s website.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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