The Liberian Constitution, which is regarded as the organic law of the land, creates multi-tiered avenues for aggrieved persons to file complaints to the NEC, which is an autonomous agency in Liberia that supervises national elections of the country. Reflecting on the resultant effect of this constitutional provision, it can be safely said that justice and fairness can be so easily compromised. Here is why the assumption is made: the referenced constitutional stipulations put NEC in a duality of roles-referees and player at the same time.
This, in our view, amounts to a constitutional aberration and hence makes sense to opt for amends as is championed by the Civil Society consortium, Elections Coordinating Committee. For ease of reference, let’s consider the wordings of the relevant constitutional stipulation: “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 days after the announcement of the elections...”
We have noted with displeasure the practical application of the law, whereby if a candidate contesting an election in Bong County for instance feels aggrieved, she or he must filed the complaint to the resident magistrate and the next recourse for redress becomes the board of commissioners who will preside over the case transferred by the resident magistrate. These internal NEC mechanisms to adjudicate electoral dispute are very unlikely to be fair especially as the commission would not to want loss face where it is apparent that fraud and procedural lapses are provable against an official of the commission to dent institutional image. In such a circumstance the integrity of elections are going to be questionable thus putting the country in unwarranted crisis.
This is certainly the problem that other democracies in the sub region, as it were in the case of Ghana where an independent elections tribunal operates to avoid reputational damage of the country’s electoral management body.
In Sierra Leone there is a separate body that handles electoral disputes, the Political Parties Registration Commission as an autonomous entity outside the NEC as first point of redress before it gets to the court.
In the proposition proffered by Liberia’s largest election observers network- the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) to resolve the existing problem, it is recommended that “All electoral disputes arising from the conduct of an election shall be adjudicated by an ad-hoc electoral tribunal comprising five persons including judges, lawyers and individuals with experience in election management to be appointed by the Chief Justice. All electoral petitions shall be concluded within fifteen days from the date of filing a complaint.
To this end, in principle, the foregoing meets genuine criteria of independence, competence all-inclusiveness. The proposition would have need for referendum and well-meaning Liberians must be supportive of the initiative to responding to an inadequacy in the electoral law.