Your Questions About the Ongoing Elections Nominations Drama Answered

As the deadline approaches for the candidate nominations for the October 10 elections, there have been many developments that have called for clarification, especially with news of candidates being rejected and the nomination period being extended.

We’ve tried our best to answer some questions you may have about the process.

Was Liberty Party’s Candidate for Vice President Rejected? If so, what reason was provided?

Liberty Party’s Vice Presidential Candidate, Harrison Karnwea was rejected by the National Elections Commission.

NEC Director of Communications, Henry Flomo said Karnwea’s denial was based on his violation of the National Code of Conduct which prevents presidential appointees from contesting for political positions, except they resign upon desiring interest to contest far ahead of the elections.

The law was enacted in 2014 and calls for presidential appointees having the interest to contest for political positions to resign two years and three years for tenured positions before contesting.

Flomo said answers provided by the nominee to the commission were in a nomination form were used to determine his rejection.

“For us, it’s about doing what the law tells us,” he said.

Kanwea lastly served in the government as Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority or FDA, but resigned earlier this year, before being picked by Charles Brumskine as running-mate.

Liberty Party has filed a bill to exception to the Supreme Court against the NEC action against its Vice Standard Bearer.

The party argued that its Vice Standard Bearer had no desire two years in becoming a running mate to Brumskine contrary to the commission’s claim that he resigned from government to contest the elections.

The NEC maintained in a brief to the court that Kanwea did not meet the eligibility requirements for as provided by the Code of Conduct. The court has reserved its ruling into the matter for Thursday.

Who else had their candidacy rejected for similar reasons?

According to Flomo, the commission also rejected the vice standard bearer of the Alternative National Congress, Jeremiah Sulunteh, and two representative aspirants of Montserrado and Gbarpolu on accounts of the Code of Conduct.

Sulunteh had resigned earlier this year as ambassador to the United States, Canada and Mexico. He previously served in cabinet positions, including transport minister, labor minister, and minister of post and telecommunications.

Abu Kamara, who currently serves as assistant minister for post and telecommunications and aspiring for representative of Montserrado’s 15th district was one of the aspirants rejected. The other is a commissioner currently serving in Gbarpolu, who is also aspiring for a legislative seat.

On Tuesday, the court also reserved ruling into the petition of Kamara against the NEC for allegedly rejecting his nomination, after the parties’ legal arguments.

Kamara filed a writ of prohibition to the court seeking to prevent NEC’s proceedings after he was rejected for breaching the Code of Conduct.

Why is news about the rejection of candidates initially seeping out through privileged sources rather than directly from NEC through its website, Facebook page, and press releases?

News about the NEC denying candidates initially leaked to the public through privileged sources including political party officials, instead of the commission.

When questioned on the situation, NEC’s communications director said the commission is yet to formally release the names of rejected nominees to the public because doing so would contradict the legally set aside periods for publication of the provisional and final lists of candidates, which are July 14 and July 31, respectively. He said the commission will release information in line with those timelines.

“This is a process, and going through the process and no one telling you that you are disqualified doesn’t mean you are successful,” he said. “It’s only the final listing of qualified candidates will determine who was rejected or who was accepted,” he said.

Did the National Elections Commission extend the deadline to submit nominations? If so under what legal authority?

The Commission in a release issued on Friday, barely four days for the expiration of the original deadline extended the process of candidate nomination by additional 10 days.

Flomo defended the extension of the nomination, as he said it was in the interest of all political parties and independent candidates.

He said the decision by NEC was aimed at giving political parties and independent candidates the platform for inclusion on the ballot papers for the October elections.

Nomination of candidates which officially began on June 19 was scheduled to have closed on July 11 in line with the key electoral dates.

Liberty Party in a release issued on Sunday accused the commission of favoring Unity Party’s Standard Bearer, Joseph Boakai.

Boakai who is the republic’s current vice president two years ago announced his presidential ambition but did not name his presidential running mate until late on Monday.

NEC’s action, according to Liberty Party, clearly indicates that it is being controlled by Unity Party.

“It is blatant that the extension is intended only to give VP Boakai additional time to decide who he would have as his running mate,” the party wrote in a release.

“This action is alarming, not only for its brazen attempt to derail the elections but also because of the public manner in which the election process has been hijacked by the unholy alliance of the ruling Unity Party and the NEC, an institution that should be a neutral arbiter in the process.”

However, the commission said the extension was driven by its astuteness and the level of enthusiasm on the part of political parties and aspirants, in addition with the statutory demands relating the 50 percent candidate requirement and the 30 percent gender requirement for each party.

According to Flomo, the Inter-party Consultative Committee comprising of political party representatives and partners of the commission, in an emergency meeting held on Tuesday, overwhelmingly endorsed the extension, amid the ongoing Supreme Court probes.

The New Elections Law requires that a political party should endeavor to ensure the governing body and its list of candidates has no less than 30 percent of its members from each gender, and its list of candidates sent to the Commission for election must include a candidate for at least half of all the constituencies in the election.

The commission believes that with the additional days, parties would be able to satisfy the statutory requirements.

Featured photo courtesy of Zeze Ballah

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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