Senate’s Power-S/Court Ruling Empowers Legislature to Set Date

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The Supreme Court of Liberia’s 2014 ruling has placed the Senate in a pole position to determine the presidential runoff election’s date.

Dates (Oct. &Dec.) stipulated in the constitution for the holding of the polls have elapsed thus bring into question the National Elections Commission’s (NEC) decision to announce the runoff vote for December this year.

Hours after the Senate reached a decision on 12 December to query NEC regarding its methodology to clean the voters roll as mandated by the High Court, chairman Jerome Korkoya announced the runoff presidential election will be conducted on Dec. 26, seven days after his scheduled Senate appearance.

Senator George Tengbeh (Lofa County) who chairs the Senate committee on Rules, Order and Administration told reporters the elections body was acting outside the country’s constitution and that it is legally required for NEC to request a joint resolution of the legislature to set a new date as was done in the case of the 2014 mid-term senatorial election.

A divided Supreme Court in its Dec. 13, 2014 opinion on a petition to delay the Senate election due to the Ebola outbreak ruled its role was not to make decisions on political affairs.

“It is not our place to decide whether it is appropriate to conduct elections at this time or any other time,” Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor said.

This leaves the legislature with the sole authority to decide the timing for elections when the constitutional date expires either as the result of crisis or otherwise.

Scheduled to be held on 14 October 2014, the election was postponed twice, from Oct. to Dec. 16 and finally DEC.20 due to Ebola and NEC’s request of ‘impossibility of performance’. All dates were set by the legislature.

For instance, on August 14, 2014 the Senate mandated the Joint Committees of Judiciary, Claims, Petition and Human Rights and Autonomous Commission and Agencies to hold consultations with relevant stakeholders and functionaries of government regarding a communication from the National Elections Commission to postpone the October 14 senatorial election.

NEC chairman Korkoya and members of the board of commissioners will appear before the Senate Tuesday December 19, to answer to several election related matters including the source of its authority to set the runoff election on Dec. 26