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Editorial: The NEC’s Catch-22

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The National Elections Commission or NEC has stated bluntly that it does not have the capacity to conduct run-off elections for Legislators in the 2011 polls within a period of two weeks. The electoral body is therefore, seeking additional two weeks to conduct such run-offs since the absolute majority which was tagged, Preposition #4 in the just ended referendum failed.

Preposition 4, centers on article 83 (b). Article 83 (b), proposes that all elections for public offices shall be determined by simple majority votes except for the president and vice president.

There are about 73 vacant seats for the House of Representatives in addition to 15 for the Senate. There are at least not less than four aspirants in each county and district for the senatorial and representative seats respectively. In fact, there are about six to seven aspirants in each district, vying for the same seat either as a party candidate or an independent candidate.

In total, there are little over 1,000 aspirants, including 15 presidential aspirants, who have filed their nomination forms to contest in the upcoming elections, according to Chairman Fromayan. And whether they will all meet the NEC’s criteria is another issue. But what is of more concern is the cost attached to conducting such elections and the additional strains it will have on the state’s coffer in the absence of an absolute majority for a run-off.

The NEC has said that the issue is not a burden that it will handle alone. “The issue about the absolute majority is not the burden of NEC alone, it cuts across party lines, no matter how you take it,” Mr. Fromayan said during a consultative meeting with media executives Wednesday.

Thus, NEC has found itself in a catch-22 situation, should it insists that the simple majority be set aside for these elections as was done in 2005, it would be seem as violating the Constitution. Should it go ahead as the Constitution demands, it might not just meet the deadline. In the foregoing, The New Dawn believes that there is a need for concerted effort by all stakeholders to find an amicable way out to avoid a probable constitutional crisis.

As we all give our inputs on this highly sensitive issue, one thing that should be considered in all of these is the fact that this will be the first time since the 1986 Constitution came into existence that this article is to be implemented and therefore, as the NEC’s Chair Fromayan said on Wednesday, there has been no precedent set that it (NEC) would revert to. Whatever camp or ideology we belong to this is a time that we take a nationalistic stand on an issue that is so critical to the upcoming elections.

Had every Liberian understood the difficulty associated with the implementation of the simple majority as stipulated in our constitution, it would have influenced the way Liberians voted on this critical issue. But that political parties saw the referendum as a prelude to showcase strength and therefore, campaigned on party lines has brought us to where we are. But we can still make the difference; laws are made to guide the people not to enslave them.

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