By Lincoln G. Peters
The full Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) has reaffirmed a decision taken by its hearing officer to stop Unity Party from contesting the Lofa by-election until Liberia’s Supreme Court can make a determination.
The Board on Monday, 25 April 2022, denied and dismissed UP’s bill of exception filed after the hearing officer prohibited the NEC last week from taking any further action in the case as to whether or not to allow UP to field a candidate in the Lofa by- election.
The NEC Board’s decision followed a ruling handed last week by the commission’s Hearing Officer Atty. Fomba A.M. Swaray prohibits the electoral house from taking any further action in the case until the Supreme Court decides.
The National Elections Commission recently referred the Unity Party before the Supreme Court, as the electoral body remained undecided on whether or not to block UP and All Liberian Party (ALP) from fielding senatorial candidates in Lofa County.
Reading the full Board of Commissioners’ decision, clerk A. Wallace Kamara, said that Article 79 of the Liberian Constitution requires each registered political party to file its constitution and rules with the NEC, and requires that the submitted constitution and rules must conform to the provision of the Liberian Constitution.
Moreover, he noted, Section 8.5 of the New Election Law requires political parties seeking to form an alliance to submit the terms and conditions of their governing document to the NEC.
He continued that they agreed with the hearing officer that the framers of the Liberian Constitution and Election Law did not require political parties to submit their governing document to the NEC simply as a mere formality.
According to him, the Liberian Constitution, as well as the New Election Law of Liberia each grants the NEC exclusive authority to conduct public elections and the NEC is the forum of first instance when a challenge is made to the ability or qualification of a political party to field a candidate in a public election.
Clerk Kamara disclosed that with respect to the appellant’s argument that this matter should have been dismissed, the NEC Board of Commissioners said ALP has a criminal case of forgery and conspiracy pending before it is undetermined.
He noted that unlike proceedings in the Civil Law Court where it may take up to twenty plus days from the filing of a complaint for pleading to rest and up to sixty days to perfect an appeal, election matters, especially regarding a by-election, are time-bound and must be completed in a specified time frame.
Mr. Kamara explained that appellant did not cite any authority and they have not found any that designates another forum of first impression to hear a challenge to a political party’s ability or qualification to field a candidate in a pending public election, saying that they hold that the hearing officers did not err based upon Article 65 of the Liberian Constitution.
He said that a mere allegation of fraud or impropriety is not sufficient for the NEC to act on an individual or party’s claim of fraud.
After listening to the Board of Commissioners’ ruling, the lead lawyer representing the All Liberian Party and the former ruling Unity Party Cllr. J. Johnny Momoh took exception to the ruling and announced an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia.