Towards free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections here in October, the Supreme Court of Liberia has announced suspension of vacation for members of the full bench for the March and October Terms of Court respectively, in order to devote full attention to hearing and deciding election cases expeditiously in line with the Constitution.
His Honor Chief Justice Francis Korkpor made the disclosure in Monrovia on Monday, 13 March, when he addressed the formal opening of the March Term of the Supreme Court of Liberia, emphasizing that the ensuing elections are very critical to the maintenance of peace and security, as well as the survival of the country’s democracy.
The occasion was graced by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her officials, including Senate President Pro-Tempore ArmahJallah, and members of the Diplomatic Corps, among others.
“It is therefore incumbent upon us Liberians, especially those in government, both the public and the private sectors, as well as those from all walks of life to do all we can to contribute to the smooth and transparent conduct of the elections”, Chief Justice Korkpor added.
We wholeheartedly applaud the decision by the High Court, which we believe is not only in the interest of peaceful elections, but a clear caveat to candidates and political parties, and the National Elections Commission to adhere to the Constitution by forwarding all complaints within the constitutional timeframe of seven days so that the Supreme Court would hear and come down with opinion accordingly.
The Chief Justice noted that election cases are direct and time-bond under Article 83 (C) of the Liberian Constitution, and that any party or candidate, who complains about how the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof, shall have the right to formally complain to the Elections Commission, and that such complaints must be filed no later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections; similarly, any candidate or party affected by a decision from the Elections Commission shall no later than seven days appeal against it to the full Bench of the Supreme Court, and after receiving all records pertaining to the case, the Supreme Court shall hear and decide the case in seven days.
This is where we demand strict adherence to the rules by all sides in making sure outcomes of investigations are eventually announced or made public to quickly dispel rumors and speculations that may not be healthy to the entire process.
We think that delays in filing or hearing complaints coming from the field could create room for anxiety, misinformation and unnecessary tension in a country that faces a fragile peace as it moves towards its first post-war political transition.
Chief Justice Korkpor further emphasized that the best way the Judiciary can contribute to the smooth conduct of the ensuing elections is through fair and timely application of the rule of law to all, in cases involving electoral disputes whether regarding candidates’ conduct or political parties’ or application of the rules of the Elections Commission.
And this is true if the process is not only to be rated generally as free and fair, but transparent in the eyes of both local and international observers as well as political parties and candidates. We believe strongly that this is achievable only if all stakeholders work together, putting Liberia first, above all else.