Liberia: Supreme Court Summons NEC over ‘Constitutional Violation’ Claim

.... This comes as the Court has commanded the Ministry of Justice and the National Elections Commission of Liberia, who are respondents in a legal case, to appear before the Full Bench of the Supreme Court on March 29th.

The Supreme Court has summoned the National Elections Commission (NEC) to appear before it and answer inquiries over an alleged constitutional breach regarding the ongoing voter registration exercise.

The high court also wants the NEC to provide reason(s) why its ongoing registration exercise should not be halted as requested by Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) in a recent petition to the court. 

The notification, signed by Cllr. Sam Mamulu, Clerk of the Supreme Court, notes that NEC and the Justice Ministry should file their returns against CPP’s petition no later than March 29.

“You are hereby commanded to notify the Ministry of Justice, Republic of Liberia, and the National Elections Commission (NEC), Respondents in the above-entitled cause of action to appear and file their returns before the FULL BENCH of the Supreme Court on March 29, to show cause why PETITIONER’S PETITION as prayed for should not be granted,” the Court’s notification says.

The Supreme Court order comes a few days after the CPP filed a lawsuit against the NEC for attempting to conduct voter registration in the absence of demarcated electoral districts to reflect changes in the country’s population.

The lawsuit aimed to prevent the electoral body from conducting voter registration in constituencies that have not been appropriately reapportioned to reflect population growth.

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

“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 after filing the suit.

Prior to the high court’s action on Thursday, members of the CPP campaign team were complaining about the delay by the court to act on its petition.

 The Chairman of Team Cummings, Lewis Brown, at a press conference, expressed concerns about the Supreme Court's lack of swift action concerning the CPP petition.

Brown fears that if the Court does not act timely, there might be danger ahead, mainly on October 10 when the votes of eligible voters are being cast to determine who their leaders would be for the next six years or more.

He lamented that the country is becoming lawless and the only hope for redress is the Court system but if the Courts are dragging their feet to act, it would only suggest that violence and insecurity are normal.

“We are sending the wrong message to our children. Lawlessness will hurt all of us ultimately. We must end this attitude of lawlessness,” Brown said, adding that if those with authority fail to act, lawlessness will degenerate into chaos.

“This is for us to be assured that there is law and order in the country. This will give all of us hope that there is somewhere where we can run to with our concerns when we feel hurt,” Brown pointed out.

He hinted that there are already confusion and chaos at some voter registration centers, something he noted is troubling for the country’s democracy.

He cited that the amended Elections Law of 2014 states clearly that people must register to vote where they reside, not elsewhere where they have no residence nor any connection.

“Already there is trucking of voters all over the place for them to register to vote. This will hurt all of us because in the end there will be people elected who do not live in the constituencies they are elected in,” he said, appealing that the Supreme Court should see reason and hear the petition of his political institution.