The Governance Commission (GC) has recommended that Part V Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Conduct be considered “inapplicable” to the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
Part V Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Conduct seeks to exclude from candidacy, high officials of the Executive Branch of Government who did not resign from their positions within a given period of time.
The Commission also recommended that there must be a pronouncement declaring the 10-year residency requirement for presidential hopefuls inapplicable as stipulated in the Constitution during the pending elections.
The above are part of several recommendations the Commission made to the Supreme Court of Liberia and the National Elections Commission (NEC) in its 2016 Annual Report released recently on Liberia’s 2017 electoral system.
It can be recalled that in early March, the Supreme Court, in a 3-2 vote, declared the Code of Conduct constitutional and binding for all intents and purposes. This decision gave birth to a controversy that is now brewing during this electioneering period.
At the heart of the controversy are the political leaders of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), Mills Jones; the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander Cummings; and former Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Harrison Karnwea, now vice standard bearer of the Liberty Party.
Political pundits, for and against, argue that Jones, then Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), falls victim to the Code for his failure to resign two years prior to declaring his intention to contest the presidential election.
Karnwea also did not resign two years prior to his selection as Vice Standard Bearer of the Liberty Party (LP), while Cummings is allegedly caught in the web because he was appointed member of the Board of Directors of BWI by President Sirleaf early this year.
However, the Governance Commission noted that in view of the doubts about the provision “as it is now under challenge” and the disruptive effect its enforcement will have on the 2017 elections, the provision should be considered inapplicable to the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections in the same manner and spirit the 10-year constitutional provision was considered inapplicable to the 2005 and 2011 elections.
“Thus, far from seeing the 2017 elections as a sanitized process, the report considers the elections as building blocks upon which Liberia should advance to another level of inclusive, participatory, transparent and accountable governance capable of delivering increased public goods and services in partnership with the Liberian people and international partners.,” the Commission pointed out.
It noted that the report also addresses elections challenges within the context of Liberia’s long-term needs of strengthening citizenship, pursuing the national vision, achieving reconciliation and advancing the agenda for development.
The report perceives the 2017 elections as the vehicle which must create a successor government to protect and build upon these gains, rather than ignore or reverse them.
“While recognizing that elections are contests among parties and individuals, a conscious effort must be made in the public realm to promote elections as a time to strengthen citizenship commitment to Liberia,” the Commission said.
According to the Commission, the Constitution and Elections Law provide strong groundings for elections.
It indicated that in some instances they are highly prescriptive, stipulating specific dates and timelines for events such as the holding of elections, adjudicating electoral disputes and for political parties to elect their officers ensuring internal democracy, among others.
The Commission stated that the enforcement of some of the prescriptions has been problematic due to the inapplicability of these provisions or the lack of enforcement capacity of the Elections Commission.
It added, as an example, the 10-year residency requirement for President has been inapplicable over the last two presidential elections; and the requirements for monitoring and inspecting financial records of political parties by NEC have not been enforceable due to capacity constraints, among others.