Health Crisis Forces Senatorial Election Postponement

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The health crisis in the country, caused by the Ebola virus disease, has forced the National Elections Commission (NEC) to recommend the postponement of the ensuing Special Senatorial Election.

NEC is due to hold elections to replace or reelect 15 Senators that are within the first category of senators during the 2011 elections.

Constitutionally, the electoral body is to conduct polling on the second Tuesday of October of this year, but the fear of the “deadly Ebola virus” constrains the Commission to consider requesting a deferment.

In a meeting with aspirants Wednesday, NEC Chairman Jerome G. Korkoya said “The health emergency in Liberia may affect the conduct of free, fair, transparent and credible election on October 14, 2014.

Chairman Korkoya said the Commission’s recommendation is also based on the fact that the Ebola outbreak would hinder the smooth conduct of campaign activities by candidates who are desirous of contesting the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election.

According to the chairman, the campaign period for the up-coming election is scheduled to commence on August 12; but the NEC is considering a call-off due to the national health crisis.

“We want to make this clear that with the current health crisis in the country, NEC will not conduct a free, fair and creditable election for the people, so, we are contemplating on conducting the election by December,” Mr. Kokoya said.

NEC does not have the power to suspend a constitutional process, Cllr. Korkoya said, “but the Commission would face problems in the process if continue, including training of over 25,000 polling staff to assist the conduct of election.”

Taking the views of the aspirants, including current senators of the 53rd Legislature, many of them agreed with the idea of NEC but called on the NEC to use the Supreme Court of Liberia and advice from the health authority before any decision.

According to Bong County’s Senator, Jewel Howard Taylor, it is important for the country to focus on combating the deadly Ebola virus and not campaigning amongst people who are dying from the epidemic.

She further disclosed that the idea by NEC to suspend the October election was in right direction, as the election is not an event but a process especially the issue of training people to control election materials. 

“I don’t want to become a senator when my people are dying from a deadly disease,    were we continue to have new cases from other counties on a daily basis,” the senator asserted.

One of the newly contestant of Montserrado County, Miatta Fahnbulleh, said, “We all want to be senators but not a dead one.  Our people are dying from the deadly Ebola virus. How are we going to the electorate with our promises if they are dying?”

 According to her, the international community,  including other partners, will not take Liberians seriously if Liberians will go to election with the national health crisis in the country.

Maryland County’s senator  Bhofal Chamber said based on the situation in the country, it is reasonable to have this change carried out.

“Who do we have election for if our people are dying from the virus; we want to ask for humanitarian assistance to be extended to other counties.”

The lawmaker said  Government needed to have a decent burial for those who are dying from the virus, rather than have them cremated. “I cannot imagine, that, because it is against our culture.   

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