President George Weah has by Proclamation declared Tuesday, July 31, as By-elections Day, which is to be observed as a national holiday affecting Bong and Montserrado counties respectively, a release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed.
The Foreign Affairs press release was signed by Sylvester K. Pewee, Assistant Minister of Public Affairs.
The Proclamation, according to the release, calls upon all citizens and foreign residents within the two counties to observe this holiday. The Proclamation further directs all government offices, business houses, and market places be closed during the observance, which will begin from six o’clock ante-meridian to six o’clock post-meridian.
The Proclamation is in consonance with the Joint Resolution of the Legislature (Leg-003/2018) of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature, confirming the holding of the by-elections no later than July 31 in Bong and Montserrado counties.
According to the release, the government is desirous of ensuring an unhindered movement of eligible voters, granting unto them the opportunity to exercise their political franchise in the two counties during the by-elections.
“The elections of the two senators have left vacant seats in Montserrado and Bong counties, which constitutionally require by-elections to be held within three months as provided for in Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution,” the proclamation added.
The release further indicates that authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC), on December 26, 2017, conducted the presidential runoff elections, which resulted in then Senator George Weah of Montserrado County being elected as President and Senator Jewel Howard Taylor of Bong County as Vice President of Liberia.
Tomorrow’s exercise comes against a backdrop of criticism from a pro-democracy group, the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), which says the introduction of a joint resolution by the House and the Senate to conduct the by-election will be in “breach of the Constitution.”
A draft Joint Resolution (LEG-003/2018) of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature calls for the postponement and rescheduling of the May 8, 2018, Senatorial By-elections.
The ECC, meanwhile threatened to challenge the legality of such resolution at the Supreme Court if the Legislators push further for a new date, which was finally settled for Tuesday, July 31.
It says using a legislative resolution as the legal framework for the conduct of the by-elections in the two counties would be “unconstitutional.”
In a statement, ECC invoked Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution, which gives power and authority over all persons throughout the Republic, “and that any laws, treaties, statutes, decrees, customs and regulations found to be inconsistent with it shall, to the extent of this inconsistency, be void and of no legal effect; adding that only the Supreme Court, pursuant to its power of judicial review, is empowered to declare any inconsistent laws unconstitutional.”
Similarly, the ECC noted that Article 37 of the Constitution mandates the NEC to conduct the election to fill any vacancy in the Legislature not later than 90 days after the Presiding officer of the Legislature shall have notified the the Commission.