Obviously from the perspective of the constitution, the December 8, 2020 Special Midterm Senatorial race should by now be history but the ripples created in the wake of the many controversies that trailed the exercise have constituted something of grave concern to everybody. Many political pundits are expressing concern that never in the electoral history in recent time has this country being plunged into crises that perhaps spell danger in the holding of future elections in this country, especially the ensuing 2023 Presidential and general elections. Pundits see the delay to ensure equally representation of all counties in the Upper Chamber of the National Legislature to have far reaching consequences and portend danger for the future, where in elections will be held, and winners declared but the winners will delayed or denied to take their seats because of unnecessary bottlenecks created by politicians hidden hands at work to derail the process and. The Analyst takes a deeper look at one of the trending issues in our polity and reports.
As it stands, the full constitutionally required membership of the Senate is yet to be met. The last count of all the senators representing the 15 counties show that Lofa and Grand Cape Mount counties are all short of a senator each owing to their inability to obtain the required certification from NEC having being declared winners for various reasons.
Invariably, the citizens of those affected counties are happy exhibiting signs of protestation against the underrepresentation of their counties in the upper House of Legislature, and are voicing out loudly about the situation that continues to deny them equal representation in the upper chamber of the national legislature.
The latest of such expression of displeasure comes from the people of Grand Cape Mount County who believe that this ugly development goes beyond the expectation of Grand Cape Mountainians who are persistently demanding representation.
They see the delay to ensure that the county is equally represented to have far reaching consequences and portend danger for the future, where in elections will be held, and winners declared but the winners will delayed or denied to take their seats because of unnecessary bottlenecks created by politicians hidden hands at work to derail the process and. The Analyst takes a deeper look at one of the trending issues in our polity and reports.
“When the National Election Commission begins the second-round hearing on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, into the appeal filed by Victor V. Watson, it would be nearly ninety-seven (97) days after the NEC first declared Simeon B. Taylor, winner of the December 8, 2020, Special Senatorial Midterm election for Grand Cape Mount County. Contrary to Article 45 of the Liberian Constitution, which calls for the election of two senators to represent a county in the senate, for nearly five months, Cape Mount County has been represented by one Senator in the Senate”
This is how he began his article circulated to media houses copy of which reached us to capture the mood of the people of Grand Cape Mount that they are not happy with how their Senator-Elect ,Mr. Simeon Taylor is yet to be certificated after winning and being declared by NEC.
Mr. Sando S. Wayne, a political activist, former government official and one of the many contestants of the just concluded Senatorial election in Grand Cape Mount County is leading the charge to get the National Election Commission to certificate Mr. Taylor in keeping with the constitution without any further delays.
In his communication under the topic, Is Liberia headed down a sloppy path of a constitutional crisis, following the December 8, 2020 Election?, Mr. Wayne expressed dismay why the certification of Mr. Taylor remains in limbo when he has constitutionally so certified the conditions or requirement to be sworn in.
He acknowledged that a complaint was filed by Mr. Victor B. Watson, then the incumbent Senator coming second after the declared winner, Simeon B. Taylor, and that the law requires the complaint to be investigated with allowance for an appeal to a higher body if the complainant deems it necessary.
Giving the historicity of the issues at hand, Mr. Wayne who was the candidate on the ticket of the United People’s Party, said that Ten (10) candidates contested in the December 8, 2020, Special Senatorial Election in Grand Cape Mount County and from the results of the tally, Simeon B. Taylor of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), came first and was declared the winner by the National Election Commission on December 13, 2020.
He said all the other candidates accepted the results but Mr. Watson, who ran on the ticket of Coalition of Democratic Change, (CDC) protested the results of the tally and filed an original complaint to the NEC Magistrate in Cape Mount on December 14, 2020, then withdrew the said complaint, amended it, and re-filed same on December 18, 2020, citing allegations of election fraud and irregularities committed by the CPP candidate Simeon B. Taylor and the NEC.
Continuing Mr. Wayne said the NEC Hearing Office’s investigation into the complaint began on December 18, 2020, and ended on March11, 2021, with a final ruling of denial and dismissal of Watson’s Complaint adding the exercise lasted for a duration of 83 days, contrary to the period of 30 days allowed by Article 83 of the Constitution of Liberia.
He said Mr. Watson did not terminate his case at the point but took it further which in itself overstretched the time limit required by law.
“Not satisfied with the ruling of the NEC Hearing Office, on March 13, 2021, Watson filed an appeal to the NEC Board of Commission. The investigation into the appeal began on March 13, 2021and ended on March 25, 2021, with a ruling of denial and dismissal, and reaffirmation of Simeon B. Taylor as the winner of the December 8, 2020election.
The investigation into the appeal lasted for twelve (12) days; when added to the duration of the initial investigation by the NEC Hearing Office that is a combined period of ninety-five (95) days or sixty-five (65) days more than allowed under Article 83, Constitution of Liberia”
The politician then quoted Article 83 of the constitution that dwelled on time allowance for objection to electoral results to be resolved.
“The Election Commission shall, within thirty days of receipt of the complaint, conduct an impartial investigation, and render a decision that may involve a dismissal of the complaint or a nullification of the election of a candidate.
Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall not later than seven days appeal against it to the Supreme Court The Elections Commission shall within seven days of receipt of the notice of appeal, forward all the records in the case to the Supreme Court, which not later than seven days thereafter, shall hear and make its determination.
If the Supreme Court nullifies or sustains the nullification of the election of any candidate, for whatever reasons, the elections commission shall within sixty days of the decision of the Court to conduct new elections to fill the vacancy. If the court sustains the election of a candidate, the Elections Commission shall act to effectuate the mandate of the Court.”
Mr. Wayne lamented that contrary to the number of days allowed by law to dispose of complaints by an aggrieved candidate following the announcement of election results, Grand Cape Mount County has suffered under-representation in the Liberian Senate for ninety-five (95) days since the NEC announced Simeon B. Taylor as the winner of the December 8, 2020, senatorial election.
“What might be the reasons for the NEC and the Supreme Court to both ignore the duration required by law to “conduct an impartial investigation and render a decision” in an election complaint? And why must Cape Mount County have to wait for nearly five months and potentially more, without full representation in the Legislature, in particular, the Senate and no one wants to be punished?”, He asked rhetorically and with disbelief
He furthered that emerging from a dark period of failed state status, just under two decades ago, there is reason to be concerned about risking a relapse of the country into negative tendencies, such as ignoring a law everyone is aware that can be construed as a blatant disguise for impunity and the lack of public accountability. He added that the law is written and it clearly defines duration for investigating election complaints.
“The people of Cape Mount have chosen their leader in a process determined free and fair by the NEC, but they have been unduly delayed to see their Senator-elect Simeon B. Taylor, certificated and seated in the Liberian Senate to begin representing them through policymaking, oversight, and lawmaking for the advancement of the county and country’s development goals”, Mr. Wayne said.
Perhaps as a panacea to solve some of the issues surrounding lingering crises after elections, Mr. Wayne suggested that the national legislature should consider a law that will prevent an incomplete Senate or House of Representatives from transacting the business of the Liberian State if the reasons for an incomplete chamber was a result of an unresolved electoral complaints delaying the winner from certification and sitting.
In other words, a legal date should be established for the resumption or beginning of legislative transaction of the businesses of the State, following the end of an election. He said this should not include a bi-election seeking to fill a vacancy caused by death, incapacity, or otherwise of a legislator.
Mr. Wayne then called on the people of Grand Cape Mount County to converge at the Headquarters of the National Election Commission (NEC) today, Friday, May 7, 2021 to state their case for Mr. Taylor to be certificated so as to start his function as Senator of the county.