By Ernest Duku Jallah
There is a huge impossibility that the forthcoming election will be practically lawful because the laws which should render it otherwise are either being underestimated or evaded.
It is not totally strange for a Liberian election to dodge definite provisions of the constitution; for example, the Electoral Reform Law of 2004 suspended multiple constitutional guidelines and moderated the elections of 2005 with flimsy electoral regulations.
The case is barely the same this year, except that this election would potentially be held absolutely outside extra constitutional arrangements and subsidiary legal provisions without any guarantee from the laws.
Our constitution mandates an election for public servants after every six and nine years and also prescribes specific qualifications for those opting to serve the public interest. The most basic of these qualifications is to be a Negro who was born or naturalized in Liberia and who also is not a citizen of another country (article 22.1, Alien and Naturalization Law).
This law has not been regularly granted the required consideration, as multiple persons with an expressed citizenship of another country have perennially participated in our elections.
There is yet not a proof of records suggesting that top political aspirants have given up their other citizenships; George Weah has not relinquished his French citizenship, neither have Mills Jones or Alexander Cummings resigned their rights to American citizenship.
By law, everyone who holds the citizenship of another country must not be allowed to access the rights of running for a public seat or participate in an election; but, considering the prevailing trend, the odds of barring Weah, Cummings or Jones from contesting is beyond the skies.
Another potential break with the law comes with the law itself.
In 2005 and 2011, the constitution’s oversight in our elections was suspended and a reformed elections law was contrived in 2014, with thorough modifications to the old laws.
The Elections Law of 2004 suspended all constitutional provisions which prescribed the domicile status of a qualified aspirant (articles 52(c), 30(b), and 80(d)), but the Reformed Elections law of 2014 altered the domicile law by limiting the domicile requirement for all those seeking elective post to one year (section 3.1) as opposed to the constitutional requirement of ten years for presidential aspirants.
Section 3A of the “New elections Law of 2014” states: “A person qualified to be registered to vote may be a candidate in an election for all elected offices if he/she is domiciled in the constituency for which he or she will be a candidate for at least one year, that is to say twelve (12) months prior to Election day, and be a regular tax payer.”
Article 52(c) of our sovereign constitution states: “No person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice President unless that person is a resident in the Republic of Liberia ten years prior to his election…”
Section 3A of the “New Elections Law” is an essential contravention of the constitution and therefore it should be rendered illegal according to Article 52 of our constitution.
Another reason why this election might be illegal is because the implications of fully applying the much flaunted Code of Conduct are quite disturbing.
The implementation of the Code of Conduct must also come with impeachment of the President, who earlier in March disregarded Article 9.7 of the law with the nomination of her son, Charles Sirleaf, to serve his “second and last term” as Deputy Central Bank Governor.
Article 9.7 of the Code of Conduct states: “A public official must not appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in a civilian or military position in the agency or branch of Government in which he or she is serving or have the jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative…Upon being declared guilty in accordance with due process, the appointing authority shall be subject to dismissal, suspension or impeachment in accordance with due process.”
The president should be dismissed for breaking the laws but this don’t seem conceivable as debates around the implementation of the Code are not flowing that way.
This election will not be entirely legal unless the laws apply; but as it stands, applying the laws will exert forces which our systems cannot cope with.
The author is a youth leader and activist. He is also a student of the University of Liberia and a member of the indomitable Student Integration Movement.
He can be reached at [email protected] or on his personal phone: (231)776969681/888523565