Supreme Court issues Stay Order “on any and all activities” pertaining to the Nov. 7, 2017 run-off election, pending final decision
NEC to file response to no later than November 2, 2017 (which is Liberia’s Thanksgiving holiday).
According to the Writ of Prhibition signed by Atty. Sam Mamulu, Acting Clerk of the Supreme Court of Liberia, the Supreme Court has ordered “the National Elections Commission and Members of the Board of Commissions of the said Body, of the City of Monrovia, Republic of Liberia, respondents in the above entitled case of action, that upon the orders of the Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, presiding in Chambers, they are to appear before the FULL BENCH of the Honorable Supreme Court, Temple of Justice, on Thursday, November 2, 2017, at the hour of 9:00 a.m., to show cause why the PETITIONERS’ petition as prayed for should not be granted.
“…to stay any and all actions in respect of the pending Run-Off Elections scheduled for November 7, 2017, pending the disposition by the Supreme Court of the Petitioners’ petition. You will further inform the parties that given the constitutional issues raised in the petition, coupled with the fact that election matters are to be expeditiously heard and determined, that upon service of this Writ and the Returns thereto, the case is hereby docketed for the urgent disposition by the Bench en banc.
“…to file their formal returns to this writ in the office of the Clerk of this Honorable Court on or before the 2nd day of November, 2017.”
The case, which was to have been decided yesterday, October 31, had to be rescheduled because four of the justices were reportedly out of the country, but returned late yesterday to the court room.
The five are: Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor Sr, Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, Justice Jamesetta H. Wolokollie, Justice Philip A.Z. Banks III and Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh.
On Tuesday, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, who is the chamber justice, heard argument into the matter and assured authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and LP that he was going to inform the parties of the outcome of his decision, which he could not reach because four members of the justices were reportedly not in the country.
It may be recalled that LP on Friday, October 27, asked the Supreme Court to place a stay order on all electoral activities, including the run-off presidential, pending the outcome of its complaint that is before the NEC for determination.
In a ‘Writ of Prohibition’ to the Supreme Court, LP said since it filed its complaint to the NEC against alleged malpractices, the Commission has deliberately refused to look into the matter, but was instead only concerned with preparation for the November 7 run-off, which they believe runs contrary to the constitution and election laws.
A ‘Writ of Prohibition’ is an order directed to the judge and parties of a suit in a lower court, ordering the court not to exercise jurisdiction in a particular case. It arrests the proceedings of any tribunal, corporation, board, or person when such proceedings are without or in excess of the jurisdiction of such a tribunal, corporation, board, or person.
“The fraud and gross irregularities throughout the electoral process warrant a rerun of the elections,” the LP said. “The results of the October 10 presidential and legislative elections be annulled and a rerun must be ordered to ensure that fair and transparent elections are held in accordance with the constitution, election and other laws of Liberia.”
In their argument, the LP said, Article 77 (b) and 80 (c) of the Constitution, Section 4.8(a) of the enabling elections law, and Article 6 of the Regulation on Polling and Counting “provide that voting shall commence at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., provided that the last person in queue at 6 pm, shall be permitted to vote.”
“The NEC failed to adhere to the said regulation and in many instances, the polls were opened late and in some cases, as late as 3 p.m., clearly to the detriment of the registered voters – many of them were members of the LP, who had shown up to exercise their constitutional right and political franchise,” the LP alleged.
According to the LP, the consequences of the late opening of the polls by the NEC was that most voters especially the elderly and disabled, having stood in line for hours, were effectively deprived of their constitutional right to vote and were constrained to leave the polling places, “believing that such a polling place will not be open or that the location had been changed.”
Outlining some of the frauds in their request, the LP claimed that after voting ended at Precinct #30073 at the Barnersville Public School and at Polling Place #3 in Montserrado County the ballot box was sealed with the following numbers “(a) Pre-046330, front (b) Pre – 046324 – right (c) Pre-046335 – left” and party representatives left the polling place.
Unfortunately, the LP argued, “our poll watcher returned to the polling place only to find the presiding officer’s hand in the ballot box, having broken the seal.”
It added, “The numbers of the second set of seals that were placed on the ballot box are (a) Pre-046324, (b) Pre-027338 (c) Pre-027323, and (d) Pre-046336.”
“NEC’s polling officer Josephus Cooper of Electoral District #3 in Nimba County was arrested with pre-marked ballots in his possession, some of which he had already deposited in the ballot box,” the LP explained.
In Zota, Polling Place #3, Precinct Code #06102, Shankpallai Town, District #4, Bong County following the close of the polls and counting on Wednesday morning October 11, it was noticed that the NEC presiding officer, Joseph Karlon, was carrying a presidential ballot box on a bike; when confronted and interviewed, the officer stated that the ballot box was left behind and that he had gone alone, unaccompanied by a police officer, to pick it up.
At the Coalition Center at the SKD Complex, the LP again alleged that, “it was also observed that in Precinct #30171, Polling Place #3 District 12, Montserrado County, Liberty Party’s Charles Brumskine obtained 205 votes, regrettably, the presiding officer, elected to cancel same and allotted 26 votes.”
Also, “In Margibi County, Dwazon, District #1 voting Precinct #24105, Polling Place #4, the presidential record of the count shows that there were 2,550 as a total of unused, spoiled and discarded ballot papers, although there should not have been more than 550 ballots at any polling place.”
According to the National Elections Commission’s results, Liberty Party stands third place position with 149,495 votes representing 9.6 percent behind the ruling Unity Party (UP) with 446,716 representing 28.8 percent second place and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) with 596,037 also representing 38.4 percent in the first place.
Article 83 (c) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution provides that “The returns of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than fifteen days after the casting of ballots. Any party or candidate who complains about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission. Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections.”
The situation has unnerved voters and other political parties, including Unity Party, All Liberian Party and lately Alternative National Congress.