UP Candidate on Hold -As NEC Refers Matter to the Supreme Court

The National Elections Commission (NEC) yesterday, April 21, 2022 said it could not come up with a definitive ruling on whether the former ruling Unity Party (UP) should be allowed to field a candidate for the Senatorial bye election in Lofa County or not and has refer the matter to the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia to interpret the constitutional questions raised in the complaint filed by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) with the electoral body seeking to stop the Unity Party from fielding candidate in the ensuing senatorial bye election.

The NEC took the decision yesterday at its Headquarters in Sinkor while giving its final ruling in the case that has been ongoing for some time. While reading the ruling, among other things, the Hearing Officer of NEC, Atty Fomba AM Swaray said, “Wherefore and in view of the foregoing and so as to allow the opportunity for the Honorable Supreme Court to possibly consider the constitutional questions raised in this matter, the NEC is hereby prohibited from taking any further action on any endorsement form or other documents put forth by defendant(s) herein regarding the fielding of a candidate until otherwise determined”

Immediately the ruling was read, Counsel representing the Unity Party filed an exception for the entire Board of Commissioners (BOC) of NEC to hear and make a determination in the case. By doing so, UP anticipates that the BOC will overturn the ruling and declare in its favor.

Political pundits who have been following how cases are heard, processed and determined at NEC said they are not expecting anything new from the BOC because it has always backed its hearing officers in the past. The case is expected to terminate at the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of justice in the country to make a determination.

It can be recalled that on March 24, 2022, the CPP, through the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the Liberty Party (LP) filed a complaint with the NEC alleging, essentially, that the ALP and the UP violated the CPP framework agreement in that they did not comply with the procedures on how a constituent party may withdraw from the CPP and that assuming the ALP and the UP did withdraw from the CPP, complainant CPP was invoking 8.5(2) of the CPP framework agreement, which prohibits a former member party from fielding candidates in the party’s name in a public election.

The complaint from the CPP was with respect to the nomination of Galakpai Kortimai by Unity Party to participate in the Senatorial bye election meant to fill the vacancy created by the inability of former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai to take up the seat he won in 2020 after court rulings barred him from doing so because of the conviction verdict brought down on him. The seat has been vacant for more than a year now.

Both the ALP and UP, who are the defendants in the case, had On January 28, 2022 and February 17, 2022 filed their respective resolutions with NEC informing the electoral umpire that they were withdrawing the CPP with similar reasons that they cannot be bound by the CPP framework document filed with NEC because they did not sign, and that same was a product of fraud and that Article 17 of the Liberian constitution gives them the right to disassociate from the CPP.

While responding to Defendants’s (ALP/UP) argument that they are not bound by the CPP framework agreement filed with the NEC because same is a product of fraud, and that article 17 of the constitution gives defendants the right to disassociate from the CPP, complainant CPP argued that the allegation of fraud is within the province of the criminal courts; and that until said allegations judicially proven, defendants cannot rely on mere allegation to ignore the steps for withdrawing from the CPP. The Complainant further argued that the contract clause, under Article 25 of the Liberian constitution, requires that the CPP framework agreement be respected and upheld.

Article 8.5(2) of the framework document of the CPP reads, “Withdrawal: A constituent party desiring to withdraw from the CPP shall first exhaust the dispute resolution mechanism stipulated in this framework document. If the constituent party which has satisfied the dispute resolution mechanism is not satisfied with the outcome, it shall file a resolution to withdraw the CPP signed and duly executed by two–thirds (2/3) of the membership of its national executive committee, it being understood, however, that a party withdrawing from the alliance prior to the next presidential, legislative and local elections shall not field candidate in its name”

The ruling from NEC did not say whether there will be special consideration for UP with respect to extending the deadline for its candidate or will there be some changes in the timetable to give make up for the lost time going through the complaint until it is finally settled.

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