Senate Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley has stated that although members of the Senate have overwhelming agreed with the National Elections Commission (NEC) that it is not feasible to conduct free and fair elections on October 14, 2014, the final decision to postpone the election lies with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
The Senate last Thursday unanimously endorsed an NEC communication to that body, warning that under the prevailing circumstances, elections must be postponed, noting that it was not with the Senate to make the final decision.
“Article 83a clearly declared that the second Tuesday of elections year is guaranteed under our Constitution; the only person that can suspend that Article is the Executive (President), which has the lone authority under a state of emergency as is the case now.”
Pro Tempore Findley, one of 15 Senators whose seats are up for grabs, made a passionate argument last Thursday before his colleagues that it was not practical, prudent or logical to call for elections in October when those who should be voting are dying in their numbers because of the Ebola epidemic.
The decision by the Senate to endorse the NEC’s declaration of inability to conduct the October 14, 2014 special elections followed a report by the Senate’s joint committees on Autonomous Commission and Agencies, and Judiciary, that the holding of elections is mandated by the Constitution of Liberia in Article 83a; and similarly the responsibility for the conduct of elections in Liberia is statutorily conferred on NEC, which has now explicitly indicated its inability to conduct the Special Senatorial Elections in October, 2014.
“The joint committee hereby advises that with such expression of inability by NEC for understandable reasons as underlined supra, the Liberian Senate should now commence immediate discussions with the Executive, which has the Constitutional power under the State of Emergency.”
It may be recalled that NEC in a recent communication to the Senate informed the lawmakers the Commission was unable to fulfill its statutory responsibility to hold free, fair and credible election since under the prevailing circumstances it is unable to conduct free campaign activities.
The electoral body further warned that it would not be able to provide an enabling environment under which local and international observers will be able to participate, observe and state that indeed it is free, fair and credible election.
Most importantly, the NEC asserted that amidst the confusion and fear brought about by the Ebola epidemic, voter turn out will be very low, which would undermine the credibility of any election.