– Supreme Court reserves ruling in 10 political parties’ disqualification claims
An argument on Thursday over whether or not 11 registered political parties should be disqualified from contesting the October 10 presidential and legislative elections for violating the new elections threshold law turned sour for former Justice Minister Lavela Korbo Johnson, who pushed for the action against the parties.
The argument at the Supreme Court resulted from a complaint filed by Johnson’s lawyer, Amara Sheriff, against the National Elections Commission (NEC), contending that the electoral body was in violation of Chapter 4 Section 4.5 (1a) of the amended Elections Law to have qualified the political parties. The court on Thursday reserved its judgment on the matter.
Section (1-a) provides that “The list of candidates sent by a political party to the commission for an election must include a candidate for at least half of all the (73) constituencies in the election.” Meaning, the party should have at least a threshold of 37 candidates; a requirement, Sheriff argued, they did not meet. The NEC withdrew from the legal argument, although they had earlier denied Johnson’s complaint to the NEC. Johnson is not contesting any position in the upcoming election. Their withdrawal left the political parties to defend themselves at Thursday’s deliberations.
During the hearing, the five judges were eager to know from Sheriff whether the law called for the banning of political parties that do not meet the threshold – a question that Johnson’s lawyer could not answer. Sheriff’s non-compliant posture prompted one of the justices, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, to say, “There is no law that bans political parties that violate Section 4.5 (1a).” Justice Ja’neh asked Sheriff, “Can you show me the law?” But again, Sheriff could not answer the Justice.
Earlier, Cllr. Sheriff had argued that the new law sets a threshold that must be executed by the NEC, saying: “When a party does not meet the threshold it is the mandate of the law that NEC does not qualify such a party for an election because doing so would amount to making a new law, which authority the NEC does not possess.”
Sheriff named the parties as Change Democratic Party (CDP) – 14 candidates; Liberia National Union (LINU) – 25 candidates; True Whig Party (TWP) – 30 candidates; Victory for Change; and Vision For Liberia Transformation (VOLT). Others are Grass Root Democratic Party (GDPL) – 27 candidates; Liberia for Prosperity Party (LFP) – 2 candidates; Redemption Democratic Congress (RDC) – 13 candidates; New Liberia Party (NLP) – 5 candidates; and the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC).
Meanwhile, NEC’s hearing officers denied the complaint and only managed to impose a fine of US$500 against the parties. In counterargument before the NEC’s decision, two of the 11 political parties, Change Democratic Party (CDP) and the Grand Old True Whig Party, asked for the dismissal of the complaint, because they (parties) are in full compliance with the new elections law. The CDP also argued that the law only requires political parties to submit at least 36.5 candidates to contest in half of the constituencies during the ensuing elections to the NEC, a “provision which the CDP has adhered to and fully obeyed.”
The True Whig Party, meanwhile, has complied with the new elections law, and have sent a total of 42 candidates to the NEC to be vetted consistent with the commission’s own guidelines to qualify contestants in the October elections.