After a tense standoff involving the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the protesting political parties over what they have charged as elections irregularities and fraud, the matter has finally been heard by the Supreme Court, following an appeal by the parties in the wake of NEC’s dismissal of their complaints.
It is about two months now since the October 10 presidential elections, in which none of the 20 parties emerged as a clear winner with 50 percent plus 1 of the overall votes. And though manifestations of some actors had stoked public fears about an outbreak of violence, the public has, to the surprise of peddlers of hate and warmongering, remained calm, awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court.
Unlike Kenya and other African countries where such electoral problems have sparked violence, Liberians, through their admirable comportment and demeanor, are demonstrating to the world that given a chance, our Constitution and jurisprudence, established nearly 200 years ago, are resilient enough to withstand the ravages of time. This prolonged democratic and judicial experience, Africa’s first, has proven that Liberians are indeed capable of responding and rising to the challenge of their true mission and purpose as repositories of national trust and true guardians of this democratic experiment called Liberia. The recent hearings showed a strong semblance of just that.
While such impressive display of the rule of law at work served to enhance the image and standing of the Supreme Court, lowered recently by its flip-flop decision on the Code of Conduct, we are not unmindful of the unpalatable historical fact that presidential interference with the Supreme Court and Judiciary over the years has been a given.
With this in mind we, like most Liberians, await the final decision of the Supreme Court, quite unlike those of our “friends” who have been trying to stampede Liberians into pursing shortcuts to resolve these election disputes and related problems outside the ambit of our laws and Constitution. And they were dead wrong. The hearings which were televised and beamed across the world made an impressive show of the rule of law at work as Justices of the Supreme Court in round after round, made virtual mincemeat of arguments put forward by NEC’s lawyers in defense of NEC’s decision to trash the parties’ complaints of fraud and irregularities.
At this stage, we cannot comment on the merits or demerits of the arguments and counterarguments presented to the Court.
Whichever way the ruling goes, one thing is clear: a competent and credible Voter Roll is an absolute prerequisite, the absence of which will result in a terribly flawed electoral process that will most definitely fail the credibility test. For it is very clear, as the arguments of the plaintiffs eruditely and forcefully articulated before the Supreme Court last Friday, that the Voter Roll was deliberately and fraudulently tampered with by the NEC administration. And this is one of the compelling reasons all the contesting political parties—Liberty Party (LP), Unity Party (UP), All Liberian Party (ALP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC), ran to the Supreme Court to seek judicial redress.
This, too, is why the contesting parties have demanded the recusal of NEC Chairman Korkoya from the runoff elections. For clearly, given the widespread irregularities – many of which border on fraud, which the contesting parties laid before the Supreme Court, it is clear that the parties have totally lost confidence in NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya.
Given widespread public suspicion about President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s alleged attempt to “fix” the elections; and given the virtual mess that Chairman Korkoya has made of these elections, President Sirleaf should have long since, in defense of her own credibility and integrity, asked for Korkoya’s resignation or fired him. Whether she realizes this or not, should she stubbornly insist on maintaining Korkoya as NEC Chairman, she would convey the distinct impression that there is an unholy connivance between her and her Chairman.
We pray that this is not the case, and that the President will do what she has to do to keep her faith with the people who twice elected her as their President.
President Sirleaf is further called upon to demonstrate good faith by officially requesting the intervention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) so that its experts, who are already in the country, will be given a legal mandate to begin addressing the problems at NEC, with a view to holding the anticipated runoff in an efficient, just and timely manner. Just why she has not yet done so remains a mystery, especially since time is not on her side. She probably needs to be reminded of the old saying, “a stitch in time saves nine.”