National Elections Commission (NEC) has again somersaulted on its mandate to conduct polling for the 2014 Special Senatorial Election.
The new date set for the election is now Saturday, December 20, 2014 and not December 16, as was previously announced, NEC indicated yesterday in Monrovia.
According to a press statement signed by the Commission’s Communications Director Joey Kennedy, NEC took the hard decision in collaboration with political parties and independent candidates at an urgently arranged meeting at the Commission’s headquarters in Sinkor, Monrovia.
“The decision to reschedule the election from December 16 to December 20, 2014, is intended to compensate for time lost as a result of the Stay Order imposed on the election and campaign activities by the Supreme Court,” the electoral body said.
Providing their reliance on said decision, NEC maintained that the new date is in “consonance with Joint Resolution #002 recently adopted by the Legislation.”
Joint Resolution #002 mandated the Commission to hold consultation with stakeholders aimed at deciding a new date since October 14 due to onslaught of the Ebola virus in Liberia.
The 53rd National Legislature’s Joint Resolution instructed the Commission to decide a new date of polling no later than December 20, 2014.
While political rallies were ongoing, few political parties inclusive of Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD) and National Democratic Coalition (NDC) filed a lawsuit, forcing the High Court to place a Stay Order on the process.
Indeed the Supreme Court lifted the Injunction on 13 December, but failed to set a new date. Though clothed with the responsibility to conduct elections but not to set polling date for legislative and Presidential elections as provided for under the Constitution, the Commission announced December 20, 2014 as voting day, and at the same time, urged political parties and candidates to assist in informing the electorate about the new date for the election as they proceed with their respective political campaigns.
The Commission called for parties and candidates involved with the election to restrict their political activities within the framework of the law and measures agreed to at a recent Inter Party Consultative Committee Meeting held on December 3, 2014.
According to NEC, several issues were decided, including but not limited to, “no street Parades, campaigns will only be conducted in districts/communities; and gatherings will not exceed 250 persons.
However, political commentators termed the restrictions as “mere bluff” stressing that NEC does not have the capacity to monitor these processes, let alone prosecute violators.
Political Campaigns for Saturday’s poll will officially end at 6:00 PM on Friday, December 19, 2014.
According to the 1986 Constitution, the electoral body should have conducted election for the first category of senators elected in 2005 after the coming into force of the Constitution as provided by under Articles 46 and 83 respectively.
However, with the controversies associated with the poll including who has the authority to change election date and the lawsuit filed against the process, not forgetting the presence of the Ebola virus in the country; credibility remains a major challenge for Liberia’s young democracy.