The Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya, has formally proposed Tuesday, December 16, 2014 as the new date for the Special Senatorial Elections.
The NEC boss informed Speaker Alex Tyler of the House of Representatives and Senator Gbehzohgar Findley, President Tempore of the Liberian Senate, that the new date was overwhelmingly accepted during consultations organized by NEC in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations (UNEAD).
It may be recalled, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, by Proclamation, suspended the Senatorial Election, which was set for October 14, 2014 following a Joint Resolution from the National Legislature. The President acted under authority of the Constitution and “pursuant to powers vested in her by both the Constitution of Liberia and the Declaration of the State of Emergency.”
Cllr. Korkoyah noted that the proposal of the new date is in compliance with the Joint Resolution adopted by the National Legislature and approved by President Sirleaf, in which NEC was mandated to conduct Special Senatorial Elections not later than December 20, 2014, and to hold consultations with relevant stakeholders to set a new date.
In his letter Cllr. Korkoyah indicated that NEC had concluded consultations and named those institutions and individuals with whom he consulted including all registered political parties and independent candidates, civil society organizations, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia, including the National Muslim Council and the Council of Churches.
Others are the National Traditional Council, the Press Union of Liberia, the Federation of Liberian Youth and Liberia National Students Union, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The NEC boss also had consultations with representatives from the African Union, ECOWAS, the European Union, UNDP and UNMIL as well as United States’ Ambassador to Liberia and a cross-section of traditional leaders in the 15 counties.
“I am further pleased to inform you, and through you the Honorable House of Representatives, that an overwhelming majority of those consulted proposed, and the Commission has concurred, that the Special Senatorial Election be conducted on December 16,” the NEC boss wrote.
However, he stressed that in the case of an upsurge of the Ebola virus in a particular county at the time of the election, the election in such affected county should be deferred and treated as by-election under Article 37 of the Constitution of Liberia.
Cllr. Korkoya, in his communication, said the outbreak of the virus in West Africa had probably inflated prices, and appealed for more funds to conduct a “transparent, fair and peaceful election.”
“It is worth noting that the Ebola factor has triggered additional costs for the conduct of the election which was not originally anticipated.
“The Commission wishes to notify you that the said additional costs will be submitted for your timely approval,” the NEC boss stated.
He urged the Legislators to urgently approve the new date so that the Commission may get its work underway.
However, political activists are urging lawmakers and the NEC to be careful about extending the postponement of the 2014 Senatorial Elections to a date which makes it impractical for senators-elect to take their seats within the constitutional timeframe prescribed by law, and which may present some unintended consequences of complex constitutional implications.
"There should be more time for the special election to be held, results declared and protest; and the senators-elect seated in January 2015, as required by Law," political activist Richard Koon of New Kru Town said.
Meanwhile, the Senate has agreed for a Conference Committee on the Special Senatorial Elections from both Houses to meet and advise them on Tuesday, the 11th of November, while in the House of Representatives, the NEC’s letter was given to the same Committee for advisement.
NEC has certified 12 out of 15 incumbent Senators for rerun, while the remaining three Senators failed to register in fulfillment of not running for public offices again.
The 12 Senators are Lahai Lassana, Bomi; Abel Massaley, Grand Cape Mount; Gbehzohgar Findley, Grand Bassa; Chief Jewel Howard Taylor, Bong and Prince Y. Johnson, Nimba.
Others are Senator Clarice Jah, Margibi; Joyce Musu Freeman, Montserrado; Mobutu V. Nyenpan, Sinoe; Sumo Kupee, Lofa; Theodore Momo, Gbapolu; Jonathan Banney, Rivercess and John Ballout, Maryland.
The three obviously outgoing Senators are Isaac Nyenabo, Grand Gedeh, Frederick Cherue, River Gee and Cletus Wotorson Grand Kru.