Chief Justice Francis Korkpor is uncomfortable with delay of disposition of electoral disputes arising from the 2020 Mid Term senatorial election and said the delay by the National Elections Commission (NEC) is affecting the Supreme Court of Liberia and the Constitution.
Chief Justice Korkpor pointed out that it is not lawful that electoral cases are being extended beyond the 30-day period provided by law, saying that this delay of cases arising from the election is denying some people their representation at the level of the National Legislature.
The Chief Justice made the statement yesterday on a local radio station in Monrovia. Justice Korkpor said delays of cases beyond the statutory time is not proper, and at the same time noted that an elected legislator who is supposed to sign contracts and treaties cannot be seated when his or her election is still been shrouded with legal disputes that are supposed to be resolved before his/her sitting.
He wondered if the election was a presidential election where the president is supposed to be seated and sworn into office by January after election in October.
Chief Justice Korkpor asked: “Will the Chief Justice swear in an elected President whose election is been challenged by others, and after adjudication of the matter when the sworn in President was deemed to be elected wrongly and now will we call him to step down?”
According to him the, NEC’s delay of electoral matter does not support the reason for which the Constitution stipulates 30-days for resolution of election dispute.
Apparently, the outburst of the Chief Justice is within the context of Article 83(c) of the 1986 Constitution.
Article 83 (c) provides “ Any party or candidate who complains about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the result thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission.”
The constitutional article further promulgates that “Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the election. The Election Commission shall within thirty days of the receipt of the complaint shall conduct an impartial investigation and render a decision which may involve a dismissal of the complaint, or a nullification of the election of the candidate. Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall not later than seven days appeal it to the Supreme Court.”
Despite this constitutional provision, three major electoral result challenges have been delayed by the National Election Commission, including the certification of Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Samukai, the challenges of the election of Gbarpolu County Senator-elect Botoe Kanneh and Wellington Geevon Smith of Rivercess County respectively.
In a related development, the statement of the Chief Justice came in the wake of contentions by some citizens of Lofa County and the four opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) demanding the certification of Senator-elect Samukai to allow the people of Lofa represented fully at the Upper House of National Legislature.
With Lofa Citizens promising what they referred to as “unspecified actions against the Elections Commission” if the certification of their senator is further delayed, Lofa County Representative Francis Nyumalin said on public radio that any attempt to deny Senator-elect Samukai the seat he won as confirmed by the Supreme Court, would render all seats including the seat of the presidency vacant and that “we will then be talking about negotiating for an interim government.” Others also said the delay being caused by the NEC is detrimental to the peace of the country.