With about forty-seven days left for the conduct of the Mid-term Senatorial elections, the Supreme Court is yet to hear a complaint filed by the opposition to compel the National Elections Commission (NEC) to clean up the voter rolls before the conduct of the election.
Up to now, Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh has refused to issue the writ of mandamus prayed for by the CPP to compel the electoral body to clean up the voter roll, as mandated by the Supreme Court during the 2017 presidential and legislative elections that brought the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) to power.
The CPP is a conglomeration of four key opposition political parties that include, the Unity Party (UP), the Liberty Party (LP), Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the All Librarian Party (ALP).
Not being satisfied with Justice Yuoh’s action (or lack thereof), the CPP has sought redress before the Full Bench that includes the four other justices. However, since the CPP filed their complaint before the Full Bench, the court is yet to set a date for a hearing. The question now remains whether the Supreme Court will be able to entertain legal arguments prior to the conduct of the December 8 Senatorial election.
Even though Chief Justice Francis Korkpor has promised recently to ensure that election-related matters take precedence over other cases, it is yet to be seen whether the Full Bench will give the CPP writ a hearing as the election draws near.
However, the court recently heard an argument into a complaint filed before it by the same CPP against the House of Representatives, the Executive and the NEC — this time about the by-election in Montserrado and Sinoe Counties, districts #9 and #2, which are to be held due to the deaths of Representatives Munah Youngblood and Nagbe Sloh, respectively.
The CPP, in its writ of mandamus, brought to the attention of the Supreme Court the failure of the NEC to execute a 2017 ruling from the Court that mandated the electoral body to clean up the 2017 Voter Roll before the run-off election that year.
The Supreme Court’s decision emanated from a complaint filed by the late Charles Walker Brumskine who was then the standard bearer of the Liberty Party — a party that finished third place in the first round of the election.
Then, Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks, III, who delivered the court’s opinion that was rejected by one of their colleagues, Associate Justice Kabinah Ja’neh, said, “as a precondition for the runoff election, the Supreme Court has mandated and ordered the NEC to fully comply with the standards of publications of the Final Register Roll (FRR) as in keeping with law.
“The NEC has also been ordered to conduct a full cleanup of the FRR to have it comply with the provision of the law. The FRR must be available in published hard copies to all Election Magistrates and polling places across the country in accordance with law, prior to the conduct of the runoff election,” the High Court said.
The court ruling also mandated NEC not to allow anyone whose name is not in the FRR to vote during the runoff, noting that the FRR is the only electoral document that speaks to the eligibility of voters.
It is in support of that mandate the CPP is calling for the cleaning up of the voter roll that is with the Full Bench of the Supreme Court. Before the mandate, the Supreme Court had acknowledged that there where irregularities during the 2017 presidential but the irregularities were “not egregious enough” to nullify the results and order a rerun.
The Court, in its 4-1 opinion/ruling, said it has not been established that such malpractices were on a scale that warrants a rerun of the entire elections as requested by the Appellants (Liberty Party and Unity Party), which made the allegations.
“That notwithstanding our findings that indeed there were some irregularities, fraud, and violations of the New Electoral Law, as well as Rules and Regulations of the NEC, we hold that there is no evidence to show that those violations were in such magnitude that they rose to such level to warrant setting aside the results of the Presidential and Representative Election held on October 10, 2017, and ordering a rerun,” Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III, who read the ruling on behalf of the Bench, said.
The ruling stemmed from the Bill of Exception filed by the opposition Liberty Party in cohort with the governing ruling Unity Party after the NEC Board of Commissioners upheld the ruling of the NEC hearing officer that the two parties failed to prove allegations of fraud outlined in their complaint.
The Liberty Party, led by Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, who came third in the 10 October elections with less than 10 percent of the votes, took the lead in protesting the 10 October election results claiming that it was marred by fraud and lacked the minimum requirement to be regarded as free, fair and transparent. The Supreme Court defined fraud as a generic term, which embraces all the multifarious of human ingenuity to desire and resort to by an individual to gain an advantage over another by false suggestions or by suppression of the truth.
“Fraud may be established by not only directly but by inclusive circumstances which by their weight may constitute proof; from the facts and circumstances of the instant case, the 1st and 2nd appellant established by proof that fraudulent acts were perpetrated at a few polling centers during the Presidential and Representatives Elections conducted on 10 October 2017.
However, in the mind of the Court, both the ruling and opposition which joined forces to prove that NEC orchestrated fraudulent acts during the October 10 elections, failed to show that the evidence of fraud pervaded the entire spectrum of the elections throughout or in a considerably wide or most parts of the country. “We have not seen from the records that the appellants demonstrated that there was a conspiracy by the NEC as an institution, or that the NEC sanctioned the conduct of those persons who were alleged to have committed elections violations or irregularities.” “We do not believe that the evidence reached that threshold,” Justice Banks asserted.
According to him, as important as the evidence was, the fraud and irregularities complained of and shown by the testimonies and witnesses were limited to the generality of the elections rather than indications of widespread intentional gross conspiracy conduct by NEC as an institution. Associate Justice Banks, III noted that despite proving that fraud occurred at few polling places, which do not create room for the Supreme Court to speculate that such irregularities, fraud and disregard of electoral laws occurred in all parts of the country.
On this note, the Supreme Court, said it cannot sanction a rerun as the evidence provided do not merit the annul of the 10 October elections. According to Justice Banks, the Bench also took into consideration the consequences such decision may have on the country; thereby denying the Liberty Party’s appeal for a rerun of the 10 October elections.