The Conundrum of Executive Order #117 -Weah Orders Officials Resign April 7 to Run; Yet can retain posts and still run
MONROVIA – The apparent controversy that would have created some legal bottlenecks surrounding the Executive Order #117 issued by President George Manneh Weah mandating all appointees of government aspiring to contest various positions in the ensuing general election must have been averted with a clause inserted in the mandate which covers for people who did not resign a year to an election as stipulated by the Amended Code of Conduct Act.
Checks by The Analyst revealed that President Weah did not swiftly act on the legislative instrument which dragged up to December 29, 2022 before being given approval and printing the bill in handbills. While some legal experts asserted that the executive order was not even necessary to make the Amended Act effective since it has already been approved by the President, also said the clause is to cover for the delay from the President which would have raised some legal issues if those intending to contest did not resign a year ago in compliance to the amended code of conduct Act.
“Executive Order #117 is not ambiguous. It was deliberate and was inserted to save the polity the legal tussle that would have erupted if any of those officials who are intending to contest the 2023 general election did not resign as is clearly stated by the amended act which says intending aspirants actively occupying appointive positions in government should resign a year before the election.
“What it means now is with 7 months to go, if you resign now, there will be no legal hindrance to your aspiration because the clause has become the legal backing to defend you against any protest coming from any corner since you should have resigned a year before the election. You may call it a smart move by the President to cover for his error and also to save his officials who are intending to contest but are still occupying their positions.
President Weah had on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 mandated all appointed officials of the government aspiring to contest elective positions in the impending elections to resign on or before April 7, 2023. In the mandate, the Liberian Chief Executive had acknowledged that with about seven months to the conduct of elections, the amended Act can’t prevent public officials from contesting in said elections, a situation that was confusing to some members of the public including some intending aspirants.
According to President Weah, as stated in a press release issued Wednesday, March 15, 2023, the government still has compelling interest to create what he calls “a level plain political field to prevent Liberia’s competitive politics from unfair and undue advantages.”
The President’s order contained in Executive Order #117 issued Tuesday, March 14, 2023, is consistent with amended Sections 5.2 and 10.2 of the 2014 Code of Conduct enacted, approved and printed in handbills on December 29, 2022.
President Weah acknowledged that the objectives of the Code of Conduct is to dissociate the fiduciary duty of trust, integrity and loyalty owed by public officials to the people from their personal desires to contest elections at the expense of public resources.
Reminding appointed public officials, the President’s executive order states: “The Act provides that all officials appointed by the President including all cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers consuls, superintendents of counties and other Government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to Article 56(a) of the 1986 Constitution, and any managing director, deputy managing director, assistant managing director of corporation owned by the Government of Liberia, any commissioner, deputy and assistant commissioner of any commission established by the Legislature, and any official of the Government who negotiates and executes contracts, procures goods and services, and/or manages assets for and on behalf of the Government of Liberia, who desires to canvass or contest for an elective public office within the Government of Liberia shall resign his or her position one (1) year before the date on which the election for the post for which he/she intends to contest.”
The Constitution vests the President Executive Power to issue Executive Orders in the public interest, either to meet an emergency or to correct situations that can’t wait the lengthy legislative process.