– Political Parties Write Pres. Weah To Set New Date
A group of registered political parties in Liberia has written President George Manneh Weah.
In the communication, the parties proposed a Special Consultative Forum of leaders of recognized national stakeholder organizations and institutions to set a date for the holding of the controversial senatorial by-elections in Montserrado and Bong counties that were not held consistent with Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution.
The decision, according to the parties, was taken Friday, May 25, 2018 at a special meeting of the Inter-Party Consultative Committee (IPCC). The IPCC is the umbrella consultative forum of registered political parties in Liberia.
In the letter to the President, “we expressed grave concern that Liberia is out of compliance with Article 37 of the Constitution which is self-protective. We reminded President Weah that the Liberian Constitution assumes full compliance. Article 2 states:
“This Constitution is the supreme and fundamental law of Liberia and its provisions shall have binding force and effect on all authorities and persons throughout the Republic.”
According to a statement issued in Monrovia Monday, the group said, “any laws, treaties, statutes, decrees, customs and regulations found to be inconsistent with it shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void and of no legal effect. The Supreme Court, pursuant to its power of judicial review, is empowered to declare any inconsistent laws unconstitutional”.
The statement added “we noted that, in Article 1 of the Constitution, the People affirmed that All Power is inherent in them; and, they reserved, onto themselves, certain powers, including the power to set election dates.”
Quoting Article 37, the group declares “In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, and expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof. The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections”.
However, the parties also noted that the National Elections Commission (NEC) did not conduct the two by-electionsin Montserrado and Bong counties, something the parties said, was not in line with Article 37 — hence, “there is a constitutional crisis: who will, and how do we, set a new date for holding the two by-elections.”
“We insist that NEC should not proceed with holding the by-elections without a new constitutional date being set”, the group urged the President in the communication.
According to communication, the group declared that it is cognizant that the authority given to the Legislature as outlined in Chapter V of the Constitution does not include setting of election dates; neither does the mandate of the President as outlined in Chapter VI; nor the mandate of the Supreme Court as set forth in Article Two and in Chapter VII of the Constitution.
As a constitutional way forward, the parties have proposed that Pres. Weah, as Head of State, convenes a Special Consultative Forum of leaders of duly recognized national stakeholder organizations and institutions for the sole purpose of setting a date on which the two pending by-elections should be conducted.
“We have advised the President that, in convening the National Consultative Forum suggested, he can cite the affirmation in Article 1 of the Constitution, that “…All Power is inherent in the People…” as a reliance; so that such a National Forum will qualify as a National Conference.”
The parties made it clear that the forum should have one and only one mandate: to set a date on which the two pending by-elections should be held – nothing more, nothing less.
“We told the President that the Resolution of the Forum would suffice as a Sovereign Decision, in lieu of a National Referendum which does not apply in this case.
To avoid complication in respect to legitimacy and national status and credibility of participants, we suggested to the President that the Forum should be restricted to the following organizations, represented by individuals holding the titles indicated:
The current National Chairman and National Secretary of all political parties duly accredited and satisfied as active, by the National Elections; The current National Head and National Secretary of the National Civil Society Council;
The current National President and National Secretary of the Liberia Marketing Association; The current National President and National Secretary of the Liberia National Bar Association; The current National President and National Secretary of the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY); The current National President and National Secretary of the Liberian National Student Union (LINSU); The current National Chairman and Secretary of the National Traditional Council of Liberia; The current National President and National Secretary of the National Teachers Association; The current National President and Secretary of the Association of Female Lawyers; The current National Chairperson and National Secretary of the National Women and Children Council; The current National President and National Secretary of the Federation of Labor Unions; The current National Chairperson and National Secretary of the Women In Peacebuilding Network and The current National President and National Secretary of the Press Union of Liberia”.
“We reminded President that, during the 51st Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held 4th June 2017, we, leaders of political parties and civil society organizations in Liberia, signed the Farmington Declaration committing ourselves to the “…resolution of disputes arising from the electoral process always through mediation and/or judicial means”.
The group also made preference to the famous Farmington Declaration and said they also pledged to “continue to recognize the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) as the national mediation body for peace-building and harmony in Liberia and should remain seized of facilitating the consultative process relative to the 2017 electoral process and beyond”.
:And, we confirmed that we remain “…encouraged to work with the Government of Liberia to resolve issues highlighted in the Ganta Declaration as possible sources of potential conflicts without prejudice to the application and compliance with the laws regulating the conduct of the electoral process”.
“We suggested to the President that he should secure the presence of representatives of our international partners, including particularly ECOWAS; the AU; the United Nations; the United State; the European Union; and the People’s Republic China, as observers to the proposed forum as a means of conferring international recognition and legitimacy to the process of returning compliance with Article 37 of our Constitution withoutundue upheaval.”
“In our letter, we called the President’s attention to yet, another grave concern – issue of funding for the conduct of the pending by-elections.
We told the President in our letter that, at a recent meeting with the National Elections Commission (NEC), we were informed that the funding it has received for the holding of a credible elections, is insufficient. NEC indicated that, on account of the deficiency, some of the very important features of credible elections (civic-voter education, know your candidate, gender mobilizer, pool watchers, voter card replacement, etc.) – all required by Liberian Elections Law, and international best practice — have been reduced from its plans for the by-elections.”
Meanwhile, the parities said, they were deeply concerned about the matter and request that Government to make available the required funding to NEC, to ensure that the pending by-elections are not deprived of the necessary elements for credibility.
“We urge the President to call on the leadership of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia to assist in organizing the proposed National Forum.”