Liberia’s Legislature Handicapped
-Based On Prolonged Underrepresentation; As BFF Warns of Deepening Development Deficits
MONROVIA-The Better Future Foundation (BFF), has called for the urgent and timely induction of the National Elections Commission’s (NEC) declared Lofa County Senator-elect, Cllr. Joseph K. Jallah to alleviate the deepening development deficit being caused by the prolonged underrepresentation of Lofa County in the Liberian Legislature.
While applauding all senatorial candidates, state-security personnel, as well as the peace-loving people of Lofa County for their classic display of high sense of political maturity that led to the peaceful conduct of the June 28, 2022 by-election, BFF said the speedy induction of the Lofa County Senator-elect cannot be over emphasized.
According to BFF, the Political Impasse of the Special Senatorial Elections (SSE), held previously in December 2020, and the inaction of the Government of Liberia (GOL), to have effected amicable and timely jurisprudence regrettably left the Liberian State, particularly the House of Senate, and the Lofa County Legislature functionally handicapped for a protracted period of one year and seven months.
In a statement issued in Monrovia yesterday, BFF indicated that such an unprecedented underrepresentation of a county in the legislative history of Liberia in the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature was not only unimaginably unlawful, against Article 37 of the Constitution of Liberia, but also negatively impacted the socio-economic and political wellbeing of the people of Lofa; and the constitutional function of the National Legislature.
Article 37 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which states that: “In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, and expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof.
The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections.”
BFF also characterized as a “huge socio-economic and political development vacuum” and “an unfortunate situation” which will require the new Senator-elect, when inducted, to triple up his Legislative obligations including “Representation, Lawmaking and Oversight” aimed at fast-tracking the county and national development agenda.
According to BFF, Liberia, as a post-conflict country that has, with the aid of the International Community, exhausted a lengthy process of constitutional law reforms exercise must now do everything possible to ratify ambiguities in the application of its laws.
BFF further asserted that such move will prevent a repeat of the gross violation relating to Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution, by never again, subjecting any of the country’s political sub-divisions to what appears to be a deliberate and unprecedented underrepresentation in the Liberian Legislature.
The civil society advocacy organization therefore calls on the Government of Liberia (GOL), to compensate Lofa County for the political, socio-economic and development deficits sadly inflicted on its population during the one year and seven-month interval of the County’s underrepresentation in the National Legislature which has had negative consequences on the County’s reconstruction, political and socio-economic development.
According to BFF, although there were reports of some noticeable low turnouts of electorate in some voting centers and precincts, the electorates’ commitment to NEC’s prescribed electoral guidelines and regulations generally was not only commendable but worth emulation.
At the same time, BFF reiterated its call on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to promptly investigate any claims of electoral irregularities that may have emerged from the polls and take appropriate corrective measures aimed at ensuring that the outcome of the June 28 by-election in Lofa meets acceptable international standard.
According to the BFF, Liberia, as a country, must begin to employ the necessary mechanisms to ensure that national elections meet the minimum acceptable global benchmarks and standards including fairness, credibility and transparency so as to minimize the rising waves of protests by political parties and independent candidates over poll outcomes and alleged irregularities over the years.
BFF stressed that mitigating electoral challenges requires the robust, deliberate and the requisite Political Will of the Liberian government to make timely and adequate budgetary appropriations and the provision of other necessary logistical and technical support, without which voters cannot make any informed decisions now and in the future.
The BFF statement also observed that violence, political reprisals, fraud, acute lack of civic and voters’ education, inadequate training of poll workers, among others, over the years were the major factors for electoral disputes in Liberia.
According to the civil society advocacy group, any disputes over the outcomes of elections are not only worrisome and troubling but also leaves much to be desired in the strengthening and consolidation of Liberia’s hard-won peace and fledgling democracy.
The advocacy group, at the same time, cautioned defeated candidates to courageously and appropriately concede defeat.
The CSO group emphasized that “the credibility and validation of elections are largely dependent on defeated candidates’ ability and sincerity to concede by calling to congratulate officially declared winners as opposed to raising face-saving and unwarranted claims and protests to cause undue tension and acrimonies which have the potential to negatively impact national peace and regional security.
BFF, a Liberian based CSO; and non-state actor and advocate for the regional integration of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is dedicated to promoting peace; and the postwar reconstruction and development of Liberia.