The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims & Petitions has submitted to the Liberian Senate an Act calling for restrictions on eligibility of sitting members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, to canvass for vacancy during their terms.
According to the proposed Act, dated May 29, 2018 and read before the Senate yesterday: “A sitting member of the House of Representatives or the Senate, who is serving his/her first term, shall not be eligible to canvass for a vacancy in the House of Representatives or the Senate before he or she has completed that first term of office for which he or she was first elected.”
According to Senator Varney Sherman’s proposal, “a sitting member of the House of Representatives or the Senate, who is serving his or her second term, shall be eligible to canvass for a vacancy only after he or she has completed at least one-half (1/2) of the term of office at the time the vacancy occurred.”
In the letter accompanying his proposed Act, Senator Sherman delved into the violation of Article 37 of the Constitution by the National Elections Commission for failing to conduct by-elections in time for two Senatorial seats vacated by now President George Manneh Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, due to the lack of money.
Senator Sherman also expressed fears of a similar occurrence following the now rescheduled by-elections should a member or already elected members of the House of Representatives decide to contest for the vacant seats. Cllr. Sherman further reminded his colleagues of the pending mid-term election for 15 Senators, and that if sitting members of the House of Representatives are eligible to canvass for and be elected as senators to fill the seats of President Weah and Vice President Taylor, “would that not incentivize other members of the House of Representatives to contest for the senatorial seats that would be open for the mid-term elections for the 15 senators? I believe so.”
Senator Sherman continued: “And if any of these sitting members of the House of Representatives were to succeed in the mid-term elections, a vacancy would obviously occur in the House of Representatives, for which another by-election must be held in early 2021, barely three years into the 54th Term of the Legislature (one-half of the presidential term). Where would the money come from to fund these by-elections should any sitting member of the House of Representatives win any seat during the mid-term elections of 2020?” Senator Sherman wondered.
“Is it not possible,” he noted, “that for the third time during President Weah’s term of office there will be no money to fund by-elections and the probability of another violation of Article 37 of the Constitution thereby being imminent or might ensue? I believe so. ”
The Act, which is expected to be sent back to his Judiciary Committee, is the second communication submitted to Senate plenary, the first being a proposal calling for the amendment of Article 45 and 48 of the Constitution, which also deals with elections of Legislators.
Senator Sherman’s two letters were submitted in the wake of the failure of NEC to conduct two by-elections in Bong and Montserrado counties due to insufficient funds, and the subsequent communication to the Legislators requesting them to pass a resolution for the holding of those by-elections not later than July 31, 2018.