Rep. Yekeh Kolubah Says Weah Violated Constitution

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Rep. Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado’s eighth district says he will pursue a writ of prohibition at the Supreme Court in the course of the week to halt the pending by-elections slated for Montserrado and Bong.

The elections are meant to fill the vacancies created in the Senate as a result of the elections of two of its members – George Weah and Jewel Howard-Taylor – as president and vice president, respectively.

Kolubah says he is pursuing this court action because the president did not adhere to the constitution as the by-elections were not held early enough.

“I am going to issue a writ of prohibition against the holding of the by-elections because the constitutional timeline has passed,” he said. “Weah has willingly and knowingly violated the constitution and he must account for such.”

Kolubah said the president must apologize to the Liberian people for violating the constitution and not holding the by-elections on time, as he is setting a bad precedent. The lawmaker said if this violation of the constitution is not checked, this could eventually lead to Weah saying that there is no money to hold presidential elections at the end of his six-year tenure as president, thereby holding the entire country hostage.

The National Elections Commission was notified by the Senate on February 13 about the two vacancies. The constitution requires that NEC hold elections within 90 days of being notified of vacancies in the National Legislature.

However, following the notification, NEC said it would not be possible to conduct the elections within the constitutional timeframe because NEC’s budget for the elections had been rejected by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

The commission had earlier summited a budget of US$3.9 million for elections in the two counties, which account for 50 percent of the total registered voters in the country. However, the Finance Ministry said the amount was too high.

Both agencies eventually negotiated a lower budget of US$2.7 millon for the elections, with donors expected to contribute some funds. However, by early May, NEC announced that the elections would be held later than the constitutionally mandated deadline because the commission had only received US$500,000 from the government.

On Wednesday, May 23, NEC’s Chairman Jerome Korkoyah announced during a news conference that the government had now provided a total of US$1,509,938.

Korkoyah also said the commission received about US$566,000 collectively in donations from UNDP, the European Union, the Swedish government, Irish Aid, and the Canadian government. USAID also contributed US$11,450 through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

“The total amount received and committed for the conduct of the by-elections so far amounts to US$2,087,223,” he added.

The NEC chair said the government still needed to provide an outstanding amount of US$690,706 that the government needs to provide.

Kolubah’s protestations are a result of a communication from the president asking both houses of the legislature to come up with a joint resolution to essentially excuse his government’s violation of the constitution.

In his communication, Weah said the by-elections for the two vacancies had not been held within the constitutionally required period because of “numerous reasons beyond the control of NEC and the government, including financial constraints.”

Kolubah, who previously announced that he would run for senator of Montserrado, has said any attempt by members of the lower house to sign such a resolution will be in violation of the constitution.

“I am not going to affix my signature to any resolution,” he said, adding that the president needed to take responsibility for violating the constitution and apologize to the Liberian public.

According to the president, NEC now expects to hold the by-elections no later than July 31.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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