Nimba electoral district #8 incumbent representative, Larry Younquoi and his closest rival, aspirant Saye S. Miannah, are still at each other’s throats on who should be the district’s representative in the 54th Legislature.
Younquoi, who was said to have lost the seat at the polls on October 10 by 19 votes to Miannah, later somersaulted to lead with 17 votes as a result of an automatic recount from November 1 to 4.
In his final argument yesterday before Cllr. John K. Wonsoleah (NEC hearing officer), Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah — representing Miannah, said the district’s overall result which put Miannah ahead of Younquoi with 19 votes should stand and the recount result which overturned his (Miannah’s) simple majority success to 17 in favor of Younquoi should be annulled.
“Our final arguments here today are based on three main issues and they include whether or not a resolution promulgated by an agency of government — in this case NEC — that is not consistent with the national constitution should stand. Next is whether or not the NEC Board of Commissioners’ resolution in 2005 is applicable to the 2017 electoral process, which has to be defined by a compilation. And whether or not a clear constitutional provision can be interpreted in other ways rather than in its plain language, which also needs serious consideration,” Kruah said.
He said the resolution of 2005, which called for a recount of votes then, is wrong and completely inconsistent with the constitution, which has it in Article 83b that winners of all elections, other than the president and vice president, shall be decided by a simple majority.
“In 2011, we had a referendum in this country and replaced the absolute majority clause for representative and senatorial election candidates with a simple majority. This means that a candidate could win with even 2 or more votes ahead of his opponent,” he noted.
Kruah added that Korkoya’s NEC has no right to continue with Cllr. Francis Johnson Allison’s NEC regulations, when in fact they are not in the New Elections Law book of 2014. “The basis of our complaint is that Miannah won the October elections without any fraud complaint attached. He won a free, fair and transparent election but the Commission now wants to deny him his right to the Legislature by introducing a recount which validated invalid votes in favor Younquoi,” he said.
He added that the recount was illegal on grounds that no one objected to the results and there were observers from all the candidates who contested the process that closely monitored and recorded happenings on behalf of their candidates, and signed to the records of the count after the results were completely tallied.
“Ok, are you saying that Miannah is a professional pharmacist, therefore, he is not qualified to represent his people at the Capitol? Let’s be serious here and stop the corruption by following the laws we have on the books,” he said.
He argued that Daniel Gegbeson, who is the deputy training director of the NEC, headed an 11 man team to Nimba for the recount but without a written communication citing reasons and even their own terms of reference.
“My client did not receive any written communication from the Commission stating any good reason for the recount except that the margin was so narrow. Is that a crime or a mistake for a candidate to be declared a winner when he or she has a simple majority of votes? Article 2 of our constitution states that ‘This constitution is the supreme law of the Republic of Liberia. Any other statute is subordinate to it and if it is inconsistent with its provisions, that statute is null and void,'” Kruah cited.
He said the NEC violated the resolution, even if it should be accepted, by doing the recount at a different place rather than at the place provided for by the very resolution. “The Commission should have conducted the recount in Tappita (the tally center in district #8) but it did it in Saclepea. And the recount should have been done by the magistrate, but the NEC formulated a committee to do the job when the magistrate in the district was not even incapacitated. They were wrong and as such, they should restore Miannah’s votes and declare him the winner of the election in that district,” he said.
He further noted that the people of the district are civil or else there could have been chaos there by now, due to the incorrect decision of the Board of Commissioners.
For his part, Attorney Cephus Teewian of the NEC said the Commission was not in error for conducting the recount. He said it was because of the will of the people of the district that the hearing office granted Younquoi victory and subsequently declared him the winner of the election to let him continue to lead his people.
This remark, however, brought the hearing to a standstill for several minutes on grounds that Teewian, who is expected to play a neutral role by defending the Commission’s actions, appeared to be pleading for a candidate to be declared a winner and given the chance to lead.
Resuming his argument, Teewian said the executive director of the NEC, C. A. Lamin Lighe, wrote the magistrate of Lower Nimba, Bedell Flomo, instructing him to work alongside the recount team so as to validate the actual count of October 10 and determine whether the narrow margin was real or was the result of a mistake.
Arguing for Younquoi, Cllr. Albert Sims said Cllr. Kruah was in error by what he said. “Let Cllr. Kruah help to reunite Miannah and Younquoi. He knows the truth but wants to hide behind it to mislead this hearing,” Sims said, adding that they all read the law but each of them understands it differently.
He prayed the hearing office to uphold the result from the recount and declare Younquoi winner of the district’s representative election.
The hearing office is expected to hand down its ruling in the matter at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court rules in the LP, UP versus NEC case today, Dec. 7, at 3:00 p.m.