The Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya, has categorically dismissed reports that Tuesday December 16, 2014 is the newly set date for the Special Senatorial Elections.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill, shortly after a meeting with the House Committee on Elections and Inaugurations, Cllr. Korkoya says consultations were still ongoing to derive a new date for the conduct of the special senatorial elections.
The National Legislature passed a Joint Resolution suspending the Special Senatorial Elections which was originally slated for October 14, 2014 by constitutional mandate. As the country grapples with an Ebola outbreak which, health officials said, poses the biggest public health challenge since the Aids epidemic of the 1980s, the Legislature instructed the Electoral body, NEC, to “consult with stakeholders and set a new date for election not later than the 20th of December.”
Representative Gabriel Smith, House Elections and Inaugurations Committee chairman, said his committee was basically conducting oversight to ensure NEC operates within its mandate.
The NEC boss’s comment came in light of suggestions made in a meeting last weekend with political parties, independent candidates, youths and student groups, that the Elections be held on December 16, in keeping with electoral guidelines and processes leading to voting day, announcement of results and room for protest as provided for under international standards.
It is recalled that the NEC boss, in his letter to the National Legislature dated August 12, 2014 recommended that the National Legislature take necessary legal actions to the effect that the election, as scheduled, be temporarily suspended for a period up to the second Tuesday of December 2014, “hoping that the outbreak would have subsided by then,” the NEC boss wrote.
A well-placed source at NEC, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Daily Observer yesterday that the Commission’s critical assessment of the current situation relating to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) would not allow the NEC to conduct a free, fair and credible Special Elections until the country is about 90% free of the virus.
The source argued that when that happens, the Commission be able to recruit and also undertake the training of more than 25,000 temporary polling staff for subsequent deployment in the 4,701 polling centers across the country; 365 civil/voter educators for deployment throughout the 73 electoral districts in the country, as well as 400 electoral supervisors.
“Then we believe that there will be a high turn out because there would be no fear and confusion to undermine the credibility of the outcome of the elections, and there will also be our international partners who will come to participate in the process by observing and validating the elections,” the NEC staffer argued.
However, political activists are urging lawmakers and the NEC to be very careful that extended postponement of the 2014 Senatorial Elections to a date which makes it impractical for senators-elect to take their sets within the timeframe prescribed by law, may present some unintended consequences of complex constitutional implications.
“There should be more time for the special election to be held, results declared, elections protest; and the senators-elect seated in January 2015, as required by Law,” political activist Richard Nagbe of New Georgia Gulf said.