The first challenge we at the Daily Observer put to Attorney General-Designate, Cllr. Frederick Cherue, in our May 9th Editorial is a challenge that also went to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor. We urged both to look deeply into the Liberian Constitution and find out what it has to say about the Code of Conduct, passed by the Legislature in 2014 demanding that all government employees planning to seek elective office in the impending 2017 elections should “resign” their government positions two years before the elections.
The question we posed to Liberia’s two highest legal authorities was: Is it constitutionally feasible to bar by statute a Liberian-born citizen who is of age and has no criminal record the opportunity to seek elective office?
The second technical question which legal experts might raise in this connection is: Who determines when one decides to seek elective office—the individual himself, or others who “think” he is intending to run?
Grand Cape Mount Senator Varney Sherman last week posed to Cllr. Cherue the second challenge as Attorney General: To review seriously certain laws of the Republic and have them repealed, otherwise they may cause constitutional problems in October 2017.
Senator Sherman said the Elections Laws of Liberia give to the National Elections Commission (NEC) the power be the judge of election returns.
But, Senator Sherman recalled, “Very recently the Supreme Court of Liberia has taken over that power.”
The Senator then put to Cllr. Cherue this hypothetical question: “Assuming that there is a contestation (dispute) in the 2017 elections and the losing candidate takes an appeal to the Supreme Court, NEC is advised not to do anything until the Supreme Court decides.”
Senator Sherman predicted a chaotic situation in 2017 if each of the so far 23 registered political parties put up a presidential candidate, and a legislative candidate for each of the 73 electoral districts. If each of the contestants challenged the results, he wondered: “What time would the Supreme Court have, based on its history of deciding cases, to decide all of the cases and even determine the first two highest, when there is a runoff election before the inauguration?”
He hinted that there could be grave security problems following the 2017 elections, if these laws are not revisited.
Counselor Sherman spoke from personal experience. When he won the Grand Cape Mount elections in 2014 by a landslide, his opponent, Dr. Foday Kromah, ran to the Supreme Court challenging the election returns. The Court, under the leadership of the Justice in Chambers, His Honor, Cllr. Justice Phillip A. Z. Banks, immediately put a stay order on NEC’s confirmation of Senator Sherman as winner of the election. This lasted for several weeks, denying the newly-elected Senator the opportunity to contest the election for Senate Pro-Tempore. Eventually Dr. Kromah withdrew the case and that was the end of it.
The Attorney General and Justice Minister, working in concert with the Legislature and the Supreme Court, would do well to take these challenges seriously. If he, as the government’s chief legal advisor, can join the Supreme Court in playing the role of balancers of the peace, by successfully resolving these issues in keeping with the Constitution, they would have done this country a great service.
What we would like to bring to his attention if, perchance, he does not already know—and we seriously doubt that—is that the people are watching to see how these issues—these laws—will play out in the election season.
Everything should be done to retain the peace, especially during the election season, which is usually volatile (unpredictable, explosive, dangerous).
Ultimately, the people want to see justice executed all around, and that is the foundation of our peace and security.