-Lower House Concurs With Senate
By Mark N. Mengonfia
At long last, members of the Liberian Legislature have agreed with the request from the National Elections Commission (NEC) through the office of the President to have the senatorial election postponed from October 13, 2020 to December 8, 2020.
The agreement was reached through a joint resolution signed by two-third members of the Legislature.
With the signing of the joint resolution by the Liberian Senate which was concurred with by members of the House of Representatives, the date for the Senatorial Election and the referendum is slated for December 8, 2020.
In May of this year, President George Manneh Weah wrote members of the Legislature informing them that he was advised by the National Elections Commission that given the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the procurement of election materials and the preparations for the election and referendum, it was not possible to conduct the Senatorial election on the Constitutionally mandated date for the election which should have been held 13th October 2020.
Article 83(a) of the 1986 Constitution provides that voting for the President, Vice President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year and that date should have been 13th October which has been postponed to December based on the request from the President with outlined financial issues and COVID-19 as reasons to have the date changed.
The lawmakers were requested by the President to see how possible it would be to have the referendum and the election on the same date holding COVID-19 pandemic and financial issues constant.
The lawmakers in their wisdom saw it prudent that they fully agree with the president to have the two processes done concomitantly in December.
They resolved that “the appropriation made by the Legislature for the conduct of the Senatorial Election and referendum for December 8 2020 shall be adhered to, as reasonably practical, and that the executive shall make funds immediately available so as to ensure that no delay or interruption of the election and referendum will be precipitated by the unavailability of funding.”
The Lawmakers in their joint resolution also called for a clean-up of 2017 Final Registration Roll (FRR) by the NEC with the involvement of political parties and other stakeholders.
They added “that the Voters Registration Update shall be conducted for the 2020 Senatorial election and referendum” requesting that ” without diminishing the constitutional and statutory power, authority and function of the NEC, the NEC shall employ and use the Inter-Party Consultative Committee(IPPC) as a functional mechanism for consultation with political parties while also employing the services of technicians from political parties for the cleaning up of the 2017 FRR and VRU for the 2020 Senatorial election and referendum.”
In line with health protocols, the Legislature mandated the NEC to make a written progress report to them after every thirty days as well as physical appearance to react to concerns.
They were as well told in the resolution that they (NEC) shall continue their engagement with the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute.
With all the adjustments in date, recommendations from the Legislature and President, Liberians, political commentators are doubtful that the process of holding such an important election and a referendum on the same date is not going to august well for the Democratic process of Liberia having in mind that politicians are only going to focus on their elections and leave their electorates to decide on the propositions that are going for the referendum.