The Senate has been placed on call, after the cancellation of its annual break, an authoritative source has hinted this newspaper. The presidency, under the Executive Branch of government, and the House of Representatives are going for elections on October 10, leaving the Senate and the Judiciary to continue to function as leaders of government. President Pro Tempore Armah Zolu Jallah, who confirmed the Senate’s position last week, said the leadership of the Upper House will be around during and after the polls, and will hold sessions whenever issues that need their intervention arise, adding: “Yes, we are on call and remain ready and alert for anything that will need our immediate sitting.”
The Senate’s decision to stay around comes in the wake of a recent communication (bill) from its chairman on Judiciary, Claims, Petitions & Human Rights, Senator Henry Varney Sherman, calling for legislative and judicial continuity during the election year, starting with the October elections. Quoting Article 46 of the Constitution, which deals with the election of Senators and their placements in categories, Senator Sherman noted that the intent and purpose for legislative continuity shall be seriously manifested in 2017 when the offices of President and Vice President of Liberia and all seats of the House of Representatives shall be opened for contest in the October elections, leaving the senate as the only organ of the political branches of the government (Legislative and Executive) which shall remain unimpaired and fully operational.
According to Sen. Sherman, “This means that the 2017 elections are endowed with political sensitivity, which must be addressed by law; otherwise, there could be a serious void in the governance process and a constitutional crisis could thereby be precipitated. I, therefore, recommend an amendment to Rule 4, Section 2 of the Senate Standing Rules, which provides that in an election year the Senate shall not adjourn sine die on August 31, but that the Senate shall remain in session subject to a call by the President Pro Tempore upon short notice to attend matters of election disputes and to ensure continuity of the democratic governance process in the event that any such electoral dispute(s) precipitates or is seen to precipitate a void in the governance of Liberia.”
He continued that in event of the above, and pursuant to Article 64 of the Constitution, “if the void in governance affects the offices of the President and Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore shall serve as Acting President until the void is removed through a final determination by the Supreme Court and the execution of the mandate of the Supreme Court pursuant to Article 6.9 of the New Elections Law.”
The bill further recommends that the President and Vice President shall not hold their offices in the event of any election dispute up to the third Monday of January of the year (which is Inauguration Day), following the election dispute. Instead, the President Pro Tempore shall thereupon, and as matter of that dispute, be the Acting President. “The Speaker and Deputy Speaker shall not hold their offices in the event any of them is involved in any election dispute up to the second Monday of January of the year following the elections in dispute (the date for convening of the regular term of the Legislature). Instead, a Deputy President Pro Tempore shall thereupon, and as a matter of that dispute, be the Acting Speaker.”