The National Elections Commission (NEC) on Saturday, November 29, 2014 held an emergency meeting with heads of registered political parties and independent candidates contesting the 2014 Special Senatorial Election to inform them about a Supreme Court Stay Order on the 2014 Special Senatorial Election.
During the meeting, the Political parties and candidates mandated the Commission to put into place all the legal mechanisms in support of the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election on December 16, 2014.
A press release from the NEC says the Stay Order, which was issued by the Justice in Chamber of the Supreme Court, His Honor Philip A.Z. Banks, III., on Friday, November 28, 2014, instructs the Commission to cease all activities in respect to the pending Special Senatorial Election until further notice.
The Order further mandates the Commission to inform all Senatorial candidates and political parties by all available communication facilities and avenues, including the airwaves, that the Senatorial election activities and campaigns are suspended pending the disposition of a petition for a Writ of Prohibition filed against the conduct of the election by some citizens, political parties and civil society organizations in Liberia.
Hearing into the Petition will take place at 9:00 AM on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia. Justice Banks’ action followed a lawsuit filed by the opposition Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and the National Democratic Coalition (NDC), including a group of former government officials, seeking a delay of election until next year due to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
The senatorial election had already been rescheduled due to the peak of the Ebola virus. According to the Constitution of Liberia, the election should have been held in October, but because of the Ebola outbreak, it was pushed to December 16.
In their petition to the High Court, the MPC and NDC argued that the NEC was proceeding wrongly in the holding of the elections and violating the Constitution of Liberia. The two parties also noted that the lives of Liberians are at risk with the holding of elections at the time the country is fighting an Ebola war.
MPC political leader, Simeon Freeman, welcomed the court’s decision and told a news conference over the weekend that Liberia is a country of laws and not men, noting the NEC needs to follow all of the electoral guidelines before proceeding with election.
Mr. Freeman said the Ebola outbreak has post a serious health threat to the lives of voters, recommending that elections be delayed until Liberia is Ebola free. Though the outbreak has subsided in recent days, many Liberians are worried about complacency and the possibility that the disease could resurface.
However, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has repeatedly expressed optimism that the disease could be contained by Christmas or at least by the New Year. Meanwhile, Maryland County Senior Senator John Ballout has also welcomed the Supreme Court decision to put a halt to all electoral activities but thinks the action as belated.
“The court action is belated; this was to be given serious consideration with consensus among the three branches before announcing the commencement of political campaign activities,” Ballout noted.
He described the court’s intervention as damage control, adding that the damage has already been done by allowing campaign to start and thousands of people gathering together in one place without observing preventive measure.
He told The NewDawn via mobile on Sunday that though all of the candidates, including him have spent lot of resources on campaigns but there is nothing they can do but call for the postponement of election.