Liberia: House, Senate Agree on Lofa Senatorial By-Election Day

 Capitol Building, the Seat of the National Legislature including the Senate.  

Liberia: House, Senate Agree on Lofa Senatorial By-Election Day

The House of Representatives and the Senate have approved a joint resolution, which set June 28, as the official date of the Lofa County Senatorial By-Election.

Over 60 Representatives, comprising more than two-thirds of the membership of the House, affixed their signatures to the resolution; likewise 24 plus Senators.

‘“It is resolved that by the Senate and the House of Representatives in Legislature assembled that the by-election affecting Lofa County Senatorial Seat, shall now be held on June 28,” the resolution reads. “And in order for the citizens to exercise their constitutional rights, the date shall be declared a public holiday in Lofa except for public hospitals and other medical places.

Lofa has for a year and a half been without one of its two senators after its Senator-elect, former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, won the 2020 Senatorial election for that county but, because of a prior legal disability, was barred from taking his seat. 

Samukai’s difficulty came about when the same Supreme Court halted his certification and revoked the suspension of the two-year jail sentence, handed against him and his two deputies. The three men had collectively failed to comply with the high court’s mandate and judgment to pay 50% of the judgment sum, equal to US$573,828.15, within six months of last year. 

Samukai and his two co-defendants were convicted for theft of property, criminal conspiracy, misuse of public money, and money laundering of over US$1 million and sentenced to two years in prison.  The Court’s decision forced the Liberian Senate to write the NEC to declare a vacancy, prompting the electoral body to issue a notice of by-election for the seat. Samukai has since been issued a reprieve by President George Weah.

The House and Senate decision comes as the Supreme Court upholds the opposition Unity Party’s contention that it has the right to participate in the delayed Lofa County by-election.

Previously, the National Elections Commission barred the party and the All Liberians Party from contesting All elections between now and 2023. 

The NEC action was in response to a request from the Alternative National Congress and the Musa Bility faction of the Liberty Party — asking the electoral body  to invoke Section 8.5 (2) of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) framework document as a means of rejecting and denying “any application from the ALP and UP to field candidates in their names in any election until the expiry of the 2023 elections, including up to six (6) months thereafter, same being the agreed contractual life of the CPP.” 

Having agreed to such a request, the Court about two weeks ago,  ruled that NEC  judgment reaffirmed its hearing officer’s decision to bar the UP from fielding a candidate in the Lofa County senatorial by-election on the ground that the framers of the Constitution, as well as the elections law, did not compel political parties to submit their governing documents to the NEC simply as a mere formality was unconstitutional, dealing a massive blow to institution. 

The Court ruling then compelled the electoral body to write the Legislature requesting a new date for the Lofa Senatorial by-election. The Electoral law provides that when the Constitutional date for election fails, NEC  should write the Legislature to set a new date; with this provision.

Article 37 of the Constitution states: In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, the Presiding Officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof. The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held provided that where such vacancy occurs within ninety days prior to the  holding of  general elections, the filing of the vacancy shall wait for the holding of such general elections.”