Liberia: NEC Sued for "Constitutional Violation"

Alexander B. Cummings, Political Leader, Alternative National Congress

The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) have filed a lawsuit against the National Elections Commission (NEC) for attempting to conduct voter registration in the absence of demarcated electoral districts to reflect changes in the country’s population.

The lawsuit filed at the Supreme Court of Liberia aims to prevent the electoral body from conducting voter registration in constituencies that have not been appropriately reapportioned to reflect population growth.

Liberia's population, according to the provisional results stands at 5.2 million, an increase of 50.4 percent when compared to when it was 3.5 million. This represents a population gain of over 1.7 million people in the space of 14 years, with urban growth up by 52 percent and rural growth down by 48 percent. 

The CPP then alleges that if the NEC is allowed to proceed with the first phase of its nationwide voter registration exercise, which is set to begin on March 20, without considering the census result would be a violation of Article 80 of the constitution.   

“The CPP has filed a petition before the full bench of the Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the action of the National Elections Commission to conduct voters registration without constitutionally demarcating constituencies into which a voter is to be registered.”

“The constitutional duty of the NEC is to proceed as the Constitution directs in Article 80, and from which it has no authority to deviate. The CPP believes that to do otherwise is to violate the constitution and thereby risks the constitutional integrity of the upcoming elections,” the CPP  said in a statement.

Article 80 (e), which the CPP suit is primarily based on provides that "immediately following a national census and before the next elections, the Elections Commission shall reapportion the constituencies in accordance with the new population figures so that every constituency shall have as close to the same population…"

The CPP also alleges that the NEC is violating Article 80(c) of the constitution, which guarantees every Liberian citizen the right to be registered and vote only in the constituency where they are registered.

According to the CPP, the violations are significant, and overlooking them could potentially harm the future of the country with serious consequences.

The CPP however clarified that its suit is not aimed at delaying the October 10 elections but rather to prevent a violation that could potentially compromise the integrity of the electoral process, leading to further issues.

By addressing these concerns, the CPP hopes to ensure the timely conduct of the elections while also upholding the constitution.

“We have, therefore, asked the Supreme Court to demand that the NEC obeys the Constitution, and be made to do so, in order to secure our elections and its processes under the authority of the same Liberian Constitution which created and authorized the powers of the NEC.”

“We know that Liberians cannot wait to end their sufferings by decisively voting out and bringing to a democratic end the multiple failures in the leadership of the George Weah-led administration,” the CPP said. “However, we must not permit violations of provisions of the Constitution relating to the elections, without acting to correct such violations. If we permit one violation, we risk permitting others, including the timely conduct of the elections."

The CPP while defending the suit, argued that it is absolutely important that Liberians are adequately represented in their government as the "Constitution grants unto them the right to be."

This, the CPP said, is only possible if constituencies are constitutionally demarcated and voters are then registered into those constituencies in which they can vote for their leaders and representatives. 

“All Liberians have the scars to show that when we allow ourselves to act outside the law, we invite consequences that undermine the peace, security, and stability of the nation.” 

"[So] we have a duty to ensure that we do the right things the right way, and the right way is in keeping with our laws. Liberia deserves better, and together, we are stronger. "

Meanwhile, the NEC has yet to respond to the lawsuit as it was filed only today.