The pending Special Senatorial Election slated for the second Tuesday in October of this year has been rescheduled for December 2014, President Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley has disclosed.
According to Article 46, “Immediately after the Senate shall have assembled following the elections prior to the coming into force of this Constitution, the Senators shall be divided into two categories as a result of the votes cast in each county. The Senator with the higher votes cast shall be the Senator of the first category and the Senator with the lower votes cast shall be Senator of the second category; provided that no two Senators from a county shall be placed in the same category.
The seats of Senators of the first category shall be vacated at the expiration of the ninth year. In the interest of legislative continuity, the Senators of the second category shall serve a first term of six years only, after the first elections. Thereafter, all Senators shall be elected to serve a term of nine years.”
Based on those two provisions, the Electoral Body is under obligation to hold election on the constitutionally appointed date in order to occupy the 15 vacant seats at on Capitol Hill.
However, NEC announced that based on the prevailing health emergency affecting the country, the commission is unable to perform such role.
The Commission has recommended postponement but with no clear date stated, thereby clashing with Article 83 a) that called for “voting for President, Vice-President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year.”
Article 32 a) states, “The Legislature shall assemble in regular session once a year on the second working Monday in January,” meaning that a free and transparent election must be conducted before said date.
Another provision, Article 33 states, “A simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance of absent members,” a signal that renders the entire government illegitimate by virtual of the fact that the first Branch of Government is not functional by the absence of 15 of its members.
For the Senate, a simple majority constitutes 16 of the 30 senators and a situation where the simple majority cannot be obtained for legislative function means the Legislature cannot operate.
Nevertheless, Senator Findley argued that “only President Johnson Sirleaf has the constitutional power to silent the legal and political arguments.”
According to him, the President can use Article 86 a) which states; “The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this Chapter.”
At a news conference over the weekend, the Grand Bassa County lawmaker noted that despite failing to meet constitutional requirements, “there is no need for an interim government as being indicated in some quarters.
“We’re facing a national emergency at this time and I don’t see anything wrong with us having an interim senator to fill the one vacant seat needed to obtain quorum for business, which is just to satisfy their argument. Instead of having an interim government entirely, we could have an interim senator to serve the purpose,” Findley said.
The Senate disclosed that high level discussions involving authorities of NEC, political parties, stakeholders and the government of Liberia have been taking place where the month of December has been agreed on for the conduct of election.