As Lofa by-election draws near
By Lincoln G. Peters
The National Elections Commission (NEC) has referred the Unity Party (UP) 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.
NEC Hearing Officer Atty. Fomba A.M. Swaray has prohibited the commission from taking any further action in the case until the Supreme Court decides.
In a ruling handed Thursday, 21 April 2022, Atty. Swaray said the question as to whether an agreement among political parties is constitutional or unconstitutional is best reserved for the Supreme Court of Liberia.
“Accordingly, this investigation does not herein make any determination on the constitutional issues raised by complainants and defendants respectively,” the hearing officer ruled.
The hearing officer said this will allow the opportunity for the Supreme Court to possibly consider the constitutional questions raised in this matter.
The former ruling Unity Party alongside All Liberian Party (ALP) and a faction of the opposition Liberty Party chaired by Mr. Musa Bility have been battling before the NEC on account of Bility’s request for the electoral house not to allow the UP and ALP to register candidates in their own names for the Lofa bye-election.
Bility believes that a clause within the controversial framework document of the crumbled Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) would disqualify UP and ALP from fielding candidates in the Lofa by-election after withdrawing their memberships from the CPP.
But UP insists that it is not a signatory to the controversial CPP framework document submitted to the Elections Commission by embattled Chair Bility and the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
Alternative National Congress (ANC) political leader Mr. Alexander B. Cummings is currently facing criminal trial after being accused by All Liberian Party political leader Benoni Urey of allegedly tampering with the CPP framework document and illegally attaching his (Urey’s) signature to a photocopy version. Cummings has always denied any wrongdoing.
But following weeks of hearing at the NEC, the hearing officer Atty. Swaray said the NEC is prohibited from taking any further action on any endorsement from or other documents put forth by Liberty Party’s faction chaired by Musa Bility and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) of Mr. Alexander B. Cummings.
Bility’s LP faction and the ANC are the remaining allies of the crumbled opposition bloc Collaborating Political Parties.
Atty. Swaray said in keeping with the practice and procedure at the NEC when a party submits a notarized instrument, such as a governing document to the NEC, the presumption is that the same is valid and remains as such until successfully challenged in keeping with due process of law or via an amendment by the parties.
He said this position was recently reaffirmed by the Board of Commissioners in January 2022 and hence, unless the CPP framework agreement filed with the NEC on July 14, 2020, is amended by the parties or judicially declared invalid, the NEC will have no option but to hold the parties to the ‘’term’’ and condition contained in the agreement.
Atty. Swaray further indicated that while this matter has generated substantial public interest, it’s worth noting that the governing documents of political parties are not written at the bar of the administrative forum.
According to him, the question as to whether a political governing document is wise or unwise is best directed at the political parties.
He continued that the questions as to whether such agreement is constitutional or unconstitutional are best reserved for the honorable Supreme Court of Liberia.
He explained that the Supreme Court here has held that when constitutional questions are properly raised before a forum of first impression, the forum must take evidence on the factual issues before it may certify the constitutional question to the Supreme Court.
“Wherefore, and in view of the foregoing, and so as to allow the opportunity for the Supreme Court to possibly consider the constitutional questions raised in this matter, the National Elections Commission is hereby prohibited from taking any further action on any endorsement from or other documents put forth by defendant herein regarding the fielding of a candidate until otherwise determined,’’ Atty. Swaray ruled.
Meanwhile, the UP and ALP have noted their exception to the decision of the hearing officer and announced that they will take an appeal to the full Board of Commissioners of the NEC.
On 24 March 2022, three days after the aspirants’ registration exercise for the 2022 Lofa County senatorial By-election commenced, the CPP through the ANC and LP filed a complaint with the NEC alleging that the ALP and UP violated the CPP framework agreement.
ANC and LP claimed that the UP and ALP did not comply with the procedure on how a constituent party of the CPP may withdraw from the CPP.
The ANC and LP said that assuming that the ALP and UP did withdraw from the CPP, the CPP was invoking Section 8.5 (2) of the CPP framework agreement which prohibits a former party from fielding candidates in the party name in a public election.
But UP and ALP counter-argued that they are not bound by the CPP framework agreement filed with the NEC because it is a product of fraud and that Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution gives them the right to disassociate from the CPP.
They also made an application requesting the hearing office to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/up-should-live-by-the-rule/