Wanted! A Sovereign National Conference to Avoid A Constitutional Crisis

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In previous editorials on the unfolding electoral process, the Daily Observer has consistently  pointed out flaws which may more likely than not impair the process if they are not addressed in a timely fashion. 

From what it looks, several imperatives necessary for the holding of the pending senatorial election may not be addressed given the very short time span left to election day on December 8, 2020.

Key amongst those imperatives is the clean-up of the Voters Roll (VR), a task mandated by the Supreme Court prior to the conduct of the 2017 Presidential and general elections, but which has since never been carried out by the National Elections Commission. 

Admittedly, this is a task which may require several months and may require help from foreign and local experts to successfully accomplish.

If for any reasons the elections are postponed from December 8, it will have to be held on or before December 31, 2020. This is because the composition of the Legislature will be incomplete. 

Those senators whose term of office will not be expiring will not constitute the required quorum for the conduct of business. Governance of the Republic rests on three(3) separate but coequal branches, the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary and, in the absence of one branch, serves to render the government illegitimate.

Another issue, which could be hashed out at the sovereign national conference, is that of a return to constituency-based elections as Constitutionally provided for. 

The 1986 Constitution provided a threshold of 20,000 persons per constituency and this figure can be revised upwards or downwards based on results from a national census which should be held once every ten (10) years.

The Constitution also provides that the total number of constituencies shall not exceed one-hundred (100). However, under current arrangements, the total number of electoral districts now exceeds the 100 limit with some counties being grossly underrepresented.

Another issue is that of the composition of the NEC.  Some of its members have competence, credibility and integrity issues.

Their very poor handling of the current VR process has left a sour distaste in the mouths of the public and, not surprisingly, calls are mounting for the halting of the VR process until those flaws currently being observed can be addressed. 

There are indications that some stakeholders may even be contemplating court action to place a hold (injunction) on the process until certain preconditions are met.

And make no mistake about it, tension is building and rising at an alarming rate. The root cause of this appears to be the manner in which the VR process is being handled, which has been marred by corruption at such an early stage in the process. 

This tension is evident in the hostile reception local communities have accorded voters trucked into their communities.

Local communities are making it clear that they do not want outsiders making decisions on their behalf who do not live in their communities and who have no stake in the livelihood and well-being of their respective communities. 

At least this is the message coming out of Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, especially Cape Mount, where reports speak of heightened tension arising from illegal recruitment of voters from across the border in neighboring Sierra Leone.

It is the view of the Daily Observer that a sovereign national conference involving all stakeholders, where all such issues could be hashed out, is the way to go. This is short of the active involvement of ECOWAS and the international community as was experienced in 2003 with the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (ACPA) that ended 14 years of civil conflict.

This time around, there are no warring factions involved and there is no ongoing shooting war, although the country appears to be growing dangerously tense by the day. 

Now in the seat of power is a popularly acclaimed footballer President whose popularity is certain to be put to test in the forthcoming December elections. But whether the elections will prove feasible in view of what is being seen as an explosive growth of complaints and charges of corruption attending the ongoing VR process is another matter.

In all this, the matter comes back squarely to the feet of President Weah as leader of the nation. 

He would do himself well to firstly recognize the immensity of the problem as well as the intensity and depth of the general and popular feeling of distrust of the National Elections Commission in view of its handling of the electoral process particularly, the VR update process and the very integrity of the VR itself.

In this regard, he will need and have to swallow a lot of pride to sit at the table with those who his party leaders and supporters have persistently described as sore losers still hurting and refusing to accept his victory at the 2017 polls. 

Lest it be mistaken, there will be other issues as well, which may surface during the sovereign national conference given it is held at all.

Some of these issues include the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia, rape as a national emergency, pervasive and runaway public sector corruption, amongst others.

In a few days or weeks, President Weah is expected to attend the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. There, he is expected to make a pitch for Liberia. Is he going to repeat the often-mouthed claim that his government is doing well but detractors are painting an ugly picture of things in Liberia under his regime?

It is at this forum he will have the chance, once again before the entire world, to either dismiss his detractors on fact-based evidence or be dismissed as unserious, inept and a classic example of the kind of leaders of countries U.S. President Donald Trump calls “shithole countries”. 

Above all, President Weah should remember that he will have the chance to advance proposals on how he believes the country could get over its present predicament. If he does not…, well then!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Cleaning up the Voter Roll doesn’t require a “National Sovereign Conference”. Some of us recall this was a plea made by Carter Center, and other foreign elections’ monitoring organs sometime in 2016. It should’ve been implemented by NEC, then, and still can with inputs of political parties. The legitimacy of political power, and maintenance of stability rely on the integrity of elections, therefore, we support hat goal.

    Mind you, though proposals by for-profit media outlets must not be ignored, they are far from being decrees no matter what owners and staff of these businesses would want others believe. This is why we keep imploring journalists to be non-partisan, thereby upholding professional standards of accuracy and fairness in order for their reports and views to be seen as impartial and credible.

    A pre-December 8 workshop by the Communication Department of UL for the press on elections’ coverage, may be of help. Some newspapers fanned outright misinformation; for example, reports were published about alleged thugs of Mayor Kojee stabbing a female supporter of LP’s Kruah Toogba to death. And, amazingly, Senator Nyonnoblee Kanga Lawrence recklessly echoed the lies. Let December 8 be fake news free, violence free, and ethical for concord in Liberia.

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