Liberia: Pres. Weah Violates Code of Conduct?
— As he wants officials to resign less than seven months before elections day
President George Weah may have violated the Code of Conduct when he mandated all government officials desiring to contest the October 10, elections to resign before April 7.
The president's violation comes as he did not ask presidential appointees to resign one year before the date of any election in which they intend to run as candidates as required by the amended version of the Code of Conduct.
Section 5.2 of the amended law reduces the resignation period for officials with non-tenure positions from as high as two years to one year. The same applies to tenure employees who have to resign three years before their intended candidacy.
The President, acknowledging the one-year resignation clause, noted that with about seven months remaining until the elections scheduled for October 10th, the amended Act cannot prevent public officials from contesting in said elections.
However, he claims that due to his compelling interest in creating a level political playing field, he has issued an Executive Order in the public interest.
As a result, presidential appointees will now be required to resign six months prior to the country's election, which might be a violation of the Code of Conduct.
The President had the opportunity to issue such an order in 2022 to ensure that the objective of the clause, which is intended to prevent presidential appointees from using state resources to contest elections, was achieved.
The Code of Conduct was drafted and enacted into law during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with the intent of preventing potential squandering and misuse of public assets.
The full text of the Executive Order released by the Executive Mansion regarding the law is as follows:
President George Weah has mandated all appointed officials of the government aspiring to contest elective positions in the impending October 10, 2023, Presidential and Legislative Elections to resign on or before April 7, 2023.
The President’s order contained in Executive Order #117 issued on March 14, 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.
Weah acknowledges that the intent of the Code of Conduct is to stop public officials from using state resources to contest elections.
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 Liberian Chief Executive, however, acknowledged that with about seven months to the conduct of elections on October 10, 2023, the amended Act can't prevent public officials from contesting in said elections.
According to him, the government still has a compelling interest to create what he calls "a level plain political field to prevent Liberia's competitive politics from unfair and undue advantages."
The Constitution vests the President's Executive Power to issue Executive Orders in the public interest, either to meet an emergency or to correct situations that can't wait for the lengthy legislative process.