By Prof. Augustine Konneh, PhD
The ruling of the Supreme Court of Liberia in the case of the Liberty Party is a landmark decision in the history of our electoral processes because of its implication for the rule of law in our country.
The Supreme Court on Monday, November 6, 2017 ruled on a request for a writ of prohibition filed by Liberty Party, ordering the National Elections Commission to hold off on conducting a runoff election until fraud claims brought by the party are investigated.
Liberty Party had asked for a halt to the presidential runoff election between the Unity Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change slated for November 7.
Following the October 10 polls, Liberty Party had said the process was marred by irregularities and fraud, necessitating a rerun of the election.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) failed to listen to Liberty Party’s complaint considering to be without merit and continued to prepare for the runoff elections scheduled for November 7, 2017.
The party initially filed its complaint before the National Elections Commission, felt ignored and proceeded to the Supreme Court while those claims were still being investigated by NEC.
A writ of prohibition was filed before Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh and a decision was taken to put a stay order on any and all actions in respect of the November 7 presidential runoff election.
On Friday, November 3, after the full bench of the Supreme Court listened to arguments between lawyers representing Liberty Party and NEC, the court reserved ruling on the petition for Monday, November 6.
Charles Walker Brumskine, the standard bearer for Liberty Party who defended his party’s argument on Friday, was not present at Monday’s ruling.
The judges directed Harrison Karnwea, vice standard bearer, and Benjamin Sanvee, the party’s chairman, to return to NEC for their case to be investigated. They also placed a “Stay Order” on the runoff election to be held on November 7, 2017.
Implication for the rule of law in Liberia
The ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of the Liberty Party has implication for the rule of law in Liberia. The Court’s decision did not only uphold the rule of law but gave assurance to aggrieved Political Parties and candidates in an election that they can be given the Due Process. The Supreme Court’s action suggest that the Judiciary is willing to listen to people’s problem within the legal system. Therefore, there is no need for parties, other groups, and individuals to resort to violence or take extra legal means to address their grievances which is not good for the rule of law.
The ruling provides hope for the promotion and enhancement of a democratic culture in Liberia. For example, no individual or institution is exempt for being held accountable for actions taken including NEC. Because if people know that if they file a complaint and they will be listened to, it minimizes the need to take the law into their own hands. There will be no need to take into the street to violently destroy property and life. The Courts are the appropriate Judiciary body for the rule of law. Thus, the ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of the Liberty Party provide us hope for the development of our Democracy.