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Liberia’s Elections On Shaky Grounds, Is The Law, The Law

By Amos Z. Togpa

On March 17, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) petitioned the Supreme Court of Liberia on claims of constitutional violations by the National Elections Commission (NEC), what does the petition mean for the elections and our commitment to be a law abiding society. Below is a simplified breakdown of what it means for the upcoming elections:

Is everything going the right way with our elections?

No, plenty things going the wrong way. NEC says it does not have enough money. This is very bad, but the worst problem is that the NEC is not following the law. When NEC doesn’t obey the law, they make it easy for people to cheat and spoil the elections. When people cheat, the result will not be accepted. When the result is not accepted, it will chakla things again and spoil our peace.

So, which law the NEC not obeying?

The Constitution, the biggest law in the country.

What does the Constitution say NEC must do that NEC is not doing?

1.The Constitution says NEC must only register voters in a constituency. NEC is not doing it. 2. The Constitution says NEC and the Liberian people must know how many Liberians will be in each constituency. NEC does not know, and no Liberian knows how many people inside a constituency. 3. The Constitution says NEC must divide the constituencies again before the election. NEC schedule does not have any time inside to divide the constituencies again. In fact, NEC is saying it will not divide the constituencies again for this election.

Anybody doing anything to make sure the NEC obeys the law?

Yes, CPP, the Collaborating Political Parties of Alexander Cummings carry the NEC to the Supreme Court. They asking the court to tell the NEC not to disobey the law so halahala can’t come in our country again.

What the Supreme Court say?

They heard the case and said they hold word. Hopefully, they will talk soon.

Why the NEC says it cannot obey the law?

The NEC blaming the Legislature. The Constitution says the Legislature supposed to give the NEC a new number for each constituency before the NEC divide the constituency again. The NEC says it cannot wait so it is doing what it can do even if what it is doing is not what the Constitution says it must do.

Aye, Liberia! Why has the Legislature, too, not obeyed the law?

The Legislature blaming the Executive through LISGIS. In February, LISGIS said the number of Liberian people have increased by over half of what we used to be in 2008. On March 13, they told the Legislature that they will give the final report in May. 

So, the NEC supposed to get a number for the new constituencies from the Legislature. To give that number, the Legislature supposed to get a final report from the Executive on the counting of the Liberian people which the President said they have done. Sounds like small small children in a merry-go-round – everybody blaming everybody! Anyway, none of these things have happened for the NEC to divide the new constituencies. So, which constituencies the NEC registering people in now?

That is the problem right there. The old people used to say: Don’t give a man’s job to small children to do. Actually, the NEC is not registering any voter in a constituency, according to the Constitution. Also, if you look at the voter registration card the NEC is issuing, no constituency name on it. The NEC own law it passed for elections says every voter registration card must carry the name of the constituency on it.

Why the NEC doing that?

Well, the NEC says it can’t wait for the Legislature. The problem is, by not waiting, it is not only breaking the law, it is making it easy for others to cheat and to get away with breaking the law and benefiting from doing so.

What does that mean?

It means, by not letting the Liberian people know how many persons supposed to be in a constituency, for example, NEC is actually encouraging the trucking of people into constituencies as we are seeing. Parents are even complaining that their underage children are being registered. The danger with this is that many constituencies will end up with representatives that are not elected by the people living in the constituencies, and people who should not be voting will vote. Also, we are seeing foreigners crossing our borders and registering. Not only will we end up with fake representatives and senators that the actual people living in constituencies do not want and would not vote for, but we will likely end up with a fake President who could be elected by foreigners! By not doing the things the Constitution says NEC, the Legislature and the President must do, according to the time they are supposed to do it, the October Election is already in big trouble! This is very bad and very serious!

But why can’t the NEC just use the old 73 constituencies that were used before?

The NEC knows that the 73 constituencies has plenty trouble behind it. Before the war, Liberia used to be 64 constituencies. In 2008, the government counted the people for the first time after the war. The 52nd Legislature decided that it would not use the result it had received  from the 2008 counting. So, they asked the NEC, at that time, to add 9 new constituencies to the 64 to be 73. And so, the 73 old constituencies were never created according to the Constitution. This is why, some constituencies had only 13,000 people when the least, according to the Constitution, should have been 20,000, while other constituencies had up to 69,000. What this means is that in some constituencies, representatives could be elected by only one thousand votes or less, while in other constituencies, a representative needed more than fifteen thousand votes to win. The Constitution says all votes in elections, especially for representatives, must be equal or as close to being equal as possible. This cannot be the case when one constituency is 13,000 and the other is 69,000, with both being entitled to only one representative.

Also, the 52nd Legislature said clearly at that time that because the country was just coming out of the war and doing its first counting of citizens, and everything was still not correct, they could not obey the Constitution. So, they said their 73 constituencies were only for the 2011 presidential and general elections, and must not be used in any future presidential and general elections. And so, even those who created the 73 constituencies warned us to never use it again because they knew they were doing the wrong thing according to the Constitution.

So, we can’t use the old constituencies and we have no new constituencies?

Yes, after 5 years to plan for this election, this is where we are – confused and acting lawlessly.

But didn’t we use the 73 constituencies in 2017?

Yes, we did, because we still had not counted ourselves again, since we did in 2008. The next counting was due in 2018. The government delayed until 2022. It was actually in January 2023 that the President said the counting of Liberians had finally been done. Although some political parties said they were not satisfied with the way the counting was done and the first result LISGIS announced, the international community said the counting of the Liberian people was done very well. Now, according to the Constitution, we must use the counting to divide the constituencies again so we register voters inside.

Why can’t the NEC just tell the Legislature and the President that they cannot do the elections as the Constitution says they should because both the Legislature and the Executive have not done their jobs on time, and so they cannot do theirs as well?

That is what an independent and courageous NEC that understands its constitutional duties and is serious about its public credibility would actually do.

Is the government really serious to have the elections as the Constitution says it should?

No, and Liberians need to know that the government is not serious at all to have the elections as the Constitution says elections must be conducted after counting of the people every ten years! In fact, what the NEC is doing is actually trying to cover-up for the lack of seriousness of the government to conduct free, fair and credible elections according to the Constitution. What we can also say is that although the government is not serious to have the elections go as the Constitution says, the President, some of his officials, members of the House of Representatives and half of the Senate are dead serious about running and being elected again in crooked elections because if the October Election is not constitutional, it will  definitely be crooked.

The Supreme Court is a part of the government. If the plan by the government is to have crooked elections, and the NEC is just going along with it; can we expect the court to say anything other than to support the NEC to disobey the law and conduct crooked elections?

Yes, the Supreme Court is a part of the government. But we still need to hear from them. Hopefully, they will talk soon. To be fair to the Supreme Court, in many of its decisions, it continues to say that no person or government can and should be allowed to break the law, especially the Constitution. The Supreme Court has said plenty times that when the Constitution directs government agencies, like the NEC to do something, they must do it as the Constitution says, and do it on time. No agency of the government, not even the President or the Legislature can choose to not do what the Constitution says they must do, or do what the Constitution says must be done only when they feel like doing it. According to the Supreme Court, no excuse can be accepted for not doing what the Constitution says must be done. So, we will see what the Supreme Court will say now.

So what does the Constitution say about the election, again?

Again, so you don’t forget, the Constitution at Article 80 (c,d&e) says that every voter must be registered in a constituency; 2. The Legislature must say how many persons must be in each constituency; and 3. After counting the number of people in the country and before the next election, the NEC must divide the constituencies again, according to the new number from the Legislature.

If these are the law, why are people treating this country carelessly like this?

Because they think they can do anything and get away with it! Liberians, if we are not careful, we will soon not have a country because when the government and its agencies cannot obey the law, no one will obey the law. When no one obeys the law, everything breaks down. No order. No security. No peace. Lets us pay attention. Shine your eyes. Open your ears. Prevention is always better than cure!   

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