Following hours of open debate that culminated into executive session, the President Pro tempore of the Liberian Senate yesterday informed Legislative Reporters of the Senate’s unanimous decision to accept the December 16, 2014 Special Senatorial Elections date.
Speaking to journalists immediately after a brief executive session, Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley said: “Today, a decision has been taken by the Senate, unanimously that the date for election will be December 16, 2014, and will be held across the nation on the same day. The Senate’s position is that there is no caveat, whether a county will be quarantined, therefore elections will not be held in that county; the Senate is clear on that matter.”
It may be recalled that the House of Representatives recently approved and sent a Resolution accepting National Elections Commission’s (NEC) timetable for the Special Senatorial Election for December 16, 2014.
The Senate, however, earlier voted to disagree with the House of Representatives, not with the date for the conduct of the elections, but with the caveat suggesting that elections be cancelled in counties where serious cases of Ebola are still reported, and that a by-election be held when situations improved in those counties.
But in their debate yesterday before the executive session, the Senate Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, Senator Joseph Nagbe, reminded his colleagues that the Senate passed a resolution, approved by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, which according to him carries the full force of the law.
“This Resolution has not been recalled, amended or repealed; it is therefore the standing law as we speak. This is what we did to ourselves.
He continued: “We said in the concluding count 2 of the Resolution, that we are mandating the National Elections Commission to consult independent candidates, political parties, stakeholders, and others as well as national health authorities of a new date for the holding of the Senatorial Elections, 2014; not later than December 20, 2014.”
Senator Nagbe argued that with such a statement, the Senate had requested NEC not to set elections date beyond December 20, 2014, and subsequently return to the Senate for approval.
“What did NEC do, it set December 16, 2014 for our approval, and that is what we need to approve; nothing else.”
However, Senators John Ballout, Abel Momolu Massaley and Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan who are fighting for re-election, argued that going to elections now will show how insensitive the lawmakers are to the plight of the same citizens that elected them.
But the trend of the debate was clear that the Senate was no longer winning the sympathy of their colleagues, especially the 15 that will stay at bay.
The Senate’s vote yesterday came less than 48 hours after NEC had announced the arrival of elections materials in the country, followed by the announcement that campaign will open Thursday, November 20, 2014, and closes 24 hours before voting.