By Nathan N. Mulbah
On October 10, 2023, thousands of Liberians across the country went to the polls to elect a new set of national leaders to govern the country.
The election has been generally described as well organized, free, fair and transparent by various international and local election observation missions that monitored the process.
In their post October 10, 2023, national elections in Liberia joint election observation statement, the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) emphasized that political parties should abide by commitments, use election disputes mechanisms, and address grievances within provided timeframes.
The AU and the ECOWAS also urged the Liberia National Police (LNP) to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of election violence, and ensure a safe and fair police involvement in the process.
Admittedly, the AU and the ECOWAS played pivotal role in the conduct of the just concluded round of the October 10, 2023, polls in Liberia.
In the particular case of ECOWAS, it deployed an exploratory mission, a pre-election fact finding mission, and provided capacity building, logistics support and financial assistance to the NEC. These interventions are laudable because it helped to strengthen the properness of the NEC in rolling out the process.
Worth mentioning herein is the fact that by and large the October 10 polls unfolded without any major incidence of violence.
Observers’ groups and civil society organizations generally graded the process as being civil, orderly and largely characterized as peaceful.
We doff our hats for the Liberian electorates for their awesome deportment during the elections.
Liberians’ voters exercised this national duty in keeping with Article I of the 1986 Liberian Constitution which among other things says: “…the people shall have the right to at such period, and in such a manner as provided for under the Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.”
More pointedly, Liberians voters are enjoined by Article 83 of the 1986 Constitution to vote when the need arises.
It says: “voting 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”.
Certainly, the task was performed by all and sundry in line with the Constitution and the designated day and we are under compulsion to salute the NEC for the proper administration of the process and the tranquil and more organized manner in which it unfolded across the country.
Except for minor glitches and irregularities at some polling centers and some inaccessible Electoral Districts, the process can be gauged as generally successful.
Upon the closure of polls at midnight October 10, 2023, the NEC commenced reconciling the ballots and subsequently counting of the ballots at the various Voting Precincts across the country,
At the moment, the NEC is tallying and announcing the results from across the country. Under our laws, the NEC has got 15 days within which to announce the final results.
Understandably, there will be some candidates and political parties who may raise contention against the announced results.
This is acceptable under our laws and there are certainly lay down mechanisms for the resolution of elections disputes and complaints.
We crave the indulgence of all concerned parties and candidates to take note and adhere to the lay down procedures for the resolution of electoral disputes on account of disagreement with announced election results.
For example, Article 83 (c) of the 1986 states: “The returns of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than fifteen days after the casting of the ballots.
Any party or candidates who complain about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission.
Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections.
The Election Commission shall, within thirty days of the receipt of the complaint, conduct an impartial investigation and render a decision which may involve a dismissal of the complaint or a nullification of the election of the candidate.
Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall later than seven days appeal against it to the Supreme Court.
The Elections Commission shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice of appeal, forward all the records in the case to the Supreme Court, which not late than seven days thereafter, shall hear and make its determination.
If the Supreme Court nullifies or sustains the nullification of the election of any candidate, for whatever reasons, the Elections Commission shall within sixty days of the decision of the Court conduct new elections to fill the vacancy.
If the Court sustains the election of a candidate, the Elections Commission shall act to effectuate the mandate of the Court.”
So, folks you see how simple and straight forward the complaint arising out of announcement of elections results adjudication procedures is. Let us take advantage of the law when we feel that elections results are being doctored to disadvantage us.
Believe you me, if we follow the rules to the letter and refuse to allow low-cost sentiment to cloud our thoughts, we will be paving the way to sustain our hard-won peace while at the same time promoting democratic culture in the Mother Land.
May the best candidates who contested in the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections win, as keeping the peace is a national imperative.