To the utter surprise of most Liberians, including this newspaper, Daily Observer, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has announced that the runoff election for president of Liberia will take place on Tuesday, December 26, 2017.
Why do we call this announcement an utter surprise? Simply because, just as we questioned in yesterday’s Editorial, the Chairman of the National Elections Commission, Jerome Korkoya, and his fellow Commissioners seemed to have no intention of complying with the Supreme Court mandate “that the NEC is mandated to conduct a full cleanup of the Final Registration Roll (FRR), to have it comply with the provision of the law; that the FRR be made available in published hard copies to all Election Magistrates and polling places across the country in accordance with law prior to any runoff being conducted.”
Long before NEC did any such thing, Chairman Korkoya and his fellow Commissioners on Tuesday, December 12, 2017—that is yesterday—called a hurried press conference that lasted exactly two minutes and 52 seconds, to announce the runoff date for December 26, 2017, the day after Christmas. Chairman Korkoya and his fellow Commissioners, all six of them, entertained NO questions, and they promptly walked out of the room.
It is clear to all the utter contempt in which the NEC Chairman and his fellow Commissioners hold the Liberian media by failing to stay to answer a single question whatsoever on so great and momentous an issue as the presidential runoff election, in which the Liberian people are to choose the next President of Liberia.
What is NEC telling us here—that this runoff is not that important to explain it and all its ramifications to the Liberian people?
But there is something about NEC’s announcement yesterday that is far more important than giving deference to the media. That is, NEC’s announcement is a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s mandate, which stated in clear and unequivocal terms that “that the NEC is mandated to conduct a full cleanup of the Final Registration Roll (FRR), to have it comply with the provision of the law. That the FRR be made available in published hard copies to all Election Magistrates and polling places across the country in accordance with law prior to any runoff being conducted.”
The critical question is, how does the NEC announce a runoff date when, in keeping with the Supreme Court mandate, NEC has not first even begun to clean up the FRR. In our yesterday’s Editorial, we further called on NEC to make sure that it involves the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the FRR cleanup exercise. So NEC did announce at its press conference yesterday that a technical team from ECOWAS was due to arrive yesterday to assist with the cleanup exercise.
The question is, how does the NEC run ahead and announce a runoff date when it has not first completed the FRR cleanup exercise? The Supreme Court further mandated that before the runoff, that “the FRR be made available in published hard copies to all Election Magistrates and polling places across the country in accordance with law prior to any runoff being conducted. Has this been done, when the cleanup exercise has not even begun?
Rather than belabor this point about the NEC’s failure to abide by the Supreme Court’s mandate, we can only suggest that the two political parties, the Unity Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change, but most especially the UP, should run again to the Supreme Court to complain about NEC’s failure to fulfill the Court’s mandate before the FRR cleanup exercise is completed.
This is a clear case of judicial contempt.
The four political parties which took the matter to the Supreme Court—Liberty Party (LP), Unity Party (UP), All Liberian Party (ALP) and Alternative National Congress (ANC)—but most especially the UP, should now petition the Supreme Court to intervene to ensure that the FRR cleanup exercise is completed and all the stipulations contained in its mandate fulfilled before a runoff can take place.