The Supreme Court’s concurrence with the objections raised by the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) calling for the cancellation of the referendum is indeed a welcome development.
By this singular act, it appears, the Supreme Court’s decision has significantly reduced some of the tensions associated with the impending December 8 elections.
The Supreme Court in its ruling declared:
“It being the finding of this Court that the Official Gazette is inconsistent with the dictate of the Constitution, prohibition will lie to prevent the 1st Respondent from relying thereupon in the execution of its functions. The Constitution provides that ballots for a referendum shall present the proposed amendments to the people in such a manner so as to avail them the opportunity to vote for or against them separately. With this Ruling, the Referendum, cannot take place until a new Gazette consistent with the Resolution of the Legislature is published, logos identified for the eight (8) proposed amendments, and public education and awareness conducted on the proposed amendments.”
Whoever may have advised, goaded, directed or encouraged NEC to propose the holding of the referendum to coincide with the December 8 Senatorial and Representative elections clearly misled the Commission, particularly its Chairperson, Davidetta Browne Lansanah.
Questions are being asked, and rightly so, if the NEC Board of Commissioners deliberated on the matter, weighing its pros and cons. What, for example was the position of the in-house legal counsel on the issue knowing and being aware of the Constitutional implications?
It does appear strange that NEC Chairperson Lansanah, who had served as Commissioner prior to her appointment by President Weah to chair the electoral body, would not have been aware of the constitutional implications of the decision to hold the referendum given the fact that basic prerequisites, such as substantive civic voter education, had not been met.
In yesterday’s editorial, the Daily Observer listed ten (10) reasons why it believes the upcoming December 8 elections may not be credible.
Key and perhaps the most critical amongst the concerns listed is that of the integrity of the Voters’ Roll, presently undergoing a clean-up exercise led by a team of ECOWAS experts.
Insider sources confiding in this newspaper, say the non-biometric nature of the VR has rendered the task more difficult than originally thought.
And with just 18 days left to elections, there are questions whether the task will be completed in time enough to afford public vetting and verification of the sanitized VR.
And as would be expected, the Supreme Court may likely be faced with a flood of challenges to the results, especially coming from the ruling CDC, which has vowed to take Montserrado County at all costs.
Despite all the problems associated with the VR, NEC, it appears, is going full steam ahead with plans for the elections. Against the advice of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC), NEC has already purchased voting materials that possibly include ballots from a company that did not participate in a competitive bidding process as required by law.
Insider sources say the supplier of the Voting Materials, UNIQUE Enterprises, is linked to a top government official. In view of this, the integrity of the voting material,s possibly including ballots, cannot be assured.
Despite all the observed shortcomings, the public appears well primed to go to the elections. As expected, the atmosphere will be highly charged, and tension packed. To be sure, three (3) elections Magistrates are currently undergoing investigation on charges of fraud and unethical behavior.
Speaking recently during a two-day Adjudication Dispute Workshop held at its headquarters, NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah declared that the Board of Commissioners of the electoral body will no longer cover or take responsibility for any wrongdoing committed by Election Magistrates. She declared: “NEC Magistrates are powerful groups of people during elections and must take full responsibility for their actions. Therefore, the BOC takes seriously the ongoing investigation involving three of the 19 Elections Magistrates”.
Implicit in those remarks, according to political observers, is a tacit admission that the NEC Board of Commissioners have in the past abetted or turned a blind eye to errant Magistrates accused of wrongdoing.
They cite the case of Magistrate Arthur Duogee of Grand Gedeh Country who has been accused by all contestants of fraudulent behavior and are calling for his removal.
This is in addition to similar accusations by others including a rural journalist from Grand Gedeh (name withheld) who, according to sources have provided video evidence against the said Magistrate Duogee, linking him to partisan activities. His fate has yet to be determined as the matter has since remained pending.
Whatever the case, the die is cast and the elections will be held on December 8, 2020, come what may. The tension is palpable and rising by the day. In Monrovia, groups of men dressed in gray colored military uniforms can be seen patrolling the streets, especially at night.
They are, according to sources, employed by the Monrovia City Corporation but they are widely believed to be CDC party loyalists that have been incorporated into the various state security organs including the Monrovia City Police.
Informed sources have told the Daily Observer that at least 60 seasoned and experienced Police officers have recently been retired without benefits in order to accommodate the new officers who were never publicly vetted and were recruited outside standing rules and regulations governing recruitment into the ranks of the Liberia National Police (LNP).
But a top security official has told the Daily Observer that state security is fully prepared to counter any protest action or violence arising out of the elections.
Recounting how the Police quickly dispersed demonstrators who had taken to the streets recently in response to calls by Council of Patriots (CoP) leader, Henry Costa, to stage public protests, the official declared: “Even if five or ten thousand protesters take to the streets, security will be prepared to deal with them”, the security official boasted.
But when asked what would be the response if one hundred thousand (100,000) protesters take to the streets, he remained tongue-tied. The answer could be anyone’s guess!