The decision by the National Elections Commission (NEC) to reject the nomination of Liberty Party’s vice presidential running mate Harrison Karnwea on the basis of the Code of Conduct has sparked up reactions from Charles Walker Brumskine, the presidential hopeful contesting on the LP ticket.
In his criticism against NEC, Brumskine said upon filing their documents for nomination, they had noticed that news about rejecting his running mate had circulated on social media, and this was allegedly done by an operative of the Unity Party. He also indicated that commissioners of NEC were eager and their minds made up to reject his vice standard bearer because the LP ticket is a formidable force, and that the commissioners are doing what they can to have a candidate of their choice elected and prevent Liberians from benefiting from Liberty Party’s vision.
The Liberian lawyer and politician argues that the Code of Conduct disqualifying Karnwea requires that NEC investigates an accused person thoroughly before making a decision. But instead of doing due diligence, Brumskine says NEC Commissioners hastily disqualified his vice running mate with a predetermined mind.
Brumskine’s argument is also based on emphasis in the Code of Conduct that “All appointed government officials who desire to contest in election should resign two years prior to election.” He said the word “Desire” as used in this clause excuses Mr. Karnwea from being disqualified to contest because he did not have the desire to contest public position in election, but he (Brumskine) asked him to serve as his running mate.
The Code of Conduct was passed by the Liberian Senate in March of 2014 and concurred by the House of Representatives on the same day. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed it into law on May 6, 2014 and was subsequently challenged in the Supreme Court. In early March of this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Code of Conduct was constitutional and therefore a legal instrument binding on all appointed public officials seeking elective positions in the upcoming elections. The Liberian Constitution makes it a legal action by the Legislature on the CoC based on Article 29, which says: “It is enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia in Legislature assembled.”
Since the Supreme Court ruling, arguments have emerged with some on the one hand backing the Code of Conduct as a law that should be enforced to affect anyone regardless of status in society; while others are of the view that the Code of Conduct is unconstitutional and must therefore be suspended. But National Elections Commission (NEC) chairman Jerome G. Korkoyah, following the Supreme Court ruling, came out to categorically state that NEC will ensure to enforce the Code of Conduct irrespective of who may be affected. Article 66 of the Constitution also gives power to the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional issues and shall exercise final appellate jurisdiction in all cases whether emanating from courts of records, courts not of records, administrative agencies, autonomous agencies, or any other authority.
As the CoC is now enforced and Cllr. Brumskine and others are affected, it will be expedient to seek justice from the Supreme Court so Liberians can get the clear interpretation of the constitution on the matter. There are so many constitutional issues that many Liberians are yet to understand; some of which have to do with the domicile clause and the current Code of Conduct. If Cllr. Brumskine and others affected in this process can take it to the Supreme Court, they will do well to educate the public on the law by testing it for themselves. But perceiving that commissioners of NEC have premeditated to get at one’s vice running mate is an argument that political opponents and independent analysts will consider lazy.