— The Court’s decision, in this case, will have significant implications for Liberia's political future whether in favor of CPP or the National Elections Commission
The Supreme Court of Liberia will today hear a case filed by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) accusing the National Elections Commission of violating the country's constitution over the conduct of the ongoing biometric voter registration.
The case centers around the legal authority of the electoral body to conduct voter registration without first demarcating electoral districts to reflect the current changes in the country’s population.
Liberia's population, according to the provisional results released by LISGIS, 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, a coalition of two opposition parties, has accused the NEC of violating Article 80 (E and C) of the Liberian constitution, saying the violations are significant, and overlooking them could potentially harm the future of the country with serious consequences.
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…"
Article 80(c) among other things grants that every Liberian citizen has the right to be registered and vote only in the constituency where they are registered.
“We have, therefore, asked the Supreme Court to demand that the NEC obeys the Constitution, and 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 said in its complaint.
However, the Ministry of Justice and the electoral body's response to the case would be submitted today as the hearing begins. The response is expected to argue that NEC was not in error to conduct the ongoing voter registration exercise without demarcation since the full census result had not been released.
They would further argue that unless the full census results are released, NEC can not submit a threshold bill to the legislature which has the final power to decide whether to act on the electoral body request or not.
The CPP case, which ruling might b expected within days or weeks, comes at a critical time in Liberia's political landscape, with tensions running high ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. The Justices' decision, in this case, will however have significant implications for Liberia's political future. If the Court rules in favor of the CPP, it could lead to a delay in the election process as NEC would be for to halt the ongoing voters' registration exercise -- potentially reshaping the political landscape.
On the other hand, if the court sides with the Commission, it could help to alleviate some of the tensions and allow the process to move on. Whatever the justices' decision would be, the ruling would come at a critical time in Liberia's political landscape, with tensions running high ahead of the upcoming presidential election, which is expected to be heavily contested.
In the meantime, thousands of Liberians will continue participating in the ongoing voters registration, while looking up to the Court ruling. The debate however is likely to continue, with both supporters and opponents digging in for what promises to be a contentious and high-stakes legal battle.