Having remembered some of the country’s past electoral malpractices as recorded, Alexander B. Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), has cited cheating, characterized by election rigging, as reasons why authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) may have constantly postponed the two by-elections that were rescheduled to take place on Monday, July 8, 2019, in Montserrado County.
The by-elections became necessary following the deaths of Representative Adolph Lawrence of Montserado County Electoral District #15 and that of Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, Montserrado County.
Mr. Cummings, in a press statement signed by Aloysius Toe, ANC’s Secretary, said the second postponement of the planned July 8 by-elections is “unacceptable.” He described the postponement as a deliberate effort by the ruling establishment to pave the way for possible “cheating and rigging of the elections.”
“This is a clever ploy by the ruling party,” Mr. Cummings said, “to avoid imminent defeat on the eve of the irreversible opposition victory, and it is sad that the NEC has allowed itself to be used in these games by a dying ruling party.”
Cummings added, “It is clear that the motive behind this incessant pattern of delay is to buy time for the ruling party to finalize its game-plan of cheating and rigging the by-elections.”
He said if the motive behind the delay is left unchecked and not averted, it could pose a threat to the 2020 and 2023 elections, and could hijack the sovereign will of the Liberian people to freely elect a leader of their choice.
Mr. Cummings said the ruling establishment’s only interest and hope in these elections is to cheat; and, where there is no hope of winning elections as in the current situation, they are bent on stalling and stonewalling the process.
He warned that any attempt to hold the by-elections beyond July 8, 2019, would be in violation of the 30-day requirement as provided by Chapter 5, Article 37 of the 1986 Constitution.
“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 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections.”
But, according to Cummings, “this latest state-orchestrated postponement further pushes the by-elections beyond the constitutionally allowable timeframe, thereby depriving the people of Montserrado County of a constitutionally guaranteed representation.”
He said the vacancy, which gave rise to the senatorial by-election, was created on February 10, 2019, after the death of Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherriff; but the senate informed the NEC on April 8, 2019. This is something he said violated the 30-day window provided in the Constitution. Also, according to the Constitution, the July 8, 2019 date for the by-election would have been the 90th day, since the Senate informed the NEC about the vacancy of the senatorial seat.
“NEC cited delay of funding and arrival of election materials as reasons for the postponement are all self-created conditions to avoid defeat and thwart opposition takeover of the legislature,” Cummings said.
“The factors cited for the postponement of the by-elections,” Mr. Cummings said, “were known in advance by the government and the NEC; it is not something that was beyond their control.”
Mr. Cummings said the NEC must hold the elections on July 8 in accordance with the Constitution and further publish the entire voters’ roll and pre-ballot papers at every polling center.
The NEC at a press conference on Thursday, July 4, confirmed the indefinite postponement of the by-elections, citing “technical and operational reasons.”