Special Awards In Pictures

-Legal Experts Ponder Over Constitution
As if Liberia was on the verge of cementing its hard-won democracy and making another history, unfolding developments proving otherwise disconcerting amid possible constitutional struggle that is beginning to dawn.

Image result for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf LiberiaLanding safely or not depends on the outcome of a Liberty Party’s election ‘fraud and irregularities’ complaints before the National Elections Commission, which politicians seem to be making use of to push their deluded agendas in a craved interim government.

But whether such arrangement is permissible constitutionally under the existing conditions is another long road said to be lying ahead which experts say might not affect President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. As The New Republic reports, they argue the president could go remain in office until otherwise, but how realistic.

The possibility for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remaining in office beyond January 16, 2018, the day she is expected to turn over to a new president, is said to be very likely if the current political uncertainty arising from the challenge to the outcome of the October 10 poll remains unabated, this paper is gathering from legal experts.

Some politicians are anticipating an interim government to take over at the expiry of President Sirleaf’s tenure because of the imbroglio and stalemate hovering over the runoff elections.

The runoff scheduled between the ruling Unity Party (UP) and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) should have been held November 7, about week ago, but is delayed due to the legal challenge from the Liberty Party.

When the legal tussle will end and how overshadows the transitional preparations for the new president which should have been in full swing by this time.

Citing fraud and irregularities, the opposition Liberty Party (LP) filed complaints against the elections of October 10 and even prayed for either recount or rerun. It has been joined by the ruling Unity Party (UP), All Liberian Party (ALP) and Alternative National Congress (ANC), thus complicating the issue.

The Supreme Court of Liberia also advised party litigants to return to status quo, in response to Liberty Party’s writ of prohibition which sought a stay order on the runoff until its complaints were looked into.

Almost two weeks of ongoing legal proceedings at the National Elections Commission are said to be marred intrigues and other forms of dilly-dallying tactics.

Liberians and their partners are calling for speedy trial of the matter to enable the conduct of the runoff as soon as possible to avoid a possible constitutional crisis.

The downward trend of the electoral stalemate is a reported increase in prices of goods and services, as it is also said to be adversely affecting the economy. According to reports from the southeast, a gallon of gas is being sold at LS900 as compared to LS400 in Monrovia and parts adjacent.

An already soared exchange rate between the United States and Liberian dollars is also skyrocketing at an uncontrollable speed of LS130 to USD1.00 as a result of the situation.
Liberians fear the situation could go explore out of control if the political situation is not resolved as anticipated.

The trend of the situation is blamed on plans by politicians to install an interim government that would oversee election since some of them are not comfortable with the current NEC arrangement. There are reports some politicians, some of whom in the National Legislature, are interested in interim arrangement to go as president.

But legal experts hinted that any interim arrangement might not be possible as the Liberian Constitution is completely silent on such arrangement as the political impasse present portends.

“The constitution is completely silent on this issue, and this could mean that President Sirleaf remains until otherwise; the constitution only talks about impeachment, resignation, death and incapability to rule,” a lawyer explained in answering this paper’s inquiries.

Who becomes President in whatever form and manner is provided for in Article 63 of the Constitution.
In Article 63(b) it is stated “Whenever the office of the President shall become vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, or the president shall be declared incapable of carrying out the duties and functions of his office, the Vice President shall succeed to the office of the president to complete the unexpired term.” “In such case, this shall not constitute a term.”

According to him, none of the stated reasons fits president Sirleaf as she is not being impeached, resigned, sick and dead or resultantly incapable to rule.

Another intriguing situation is that what is mentioned of the vice president is not mentioned of the president when he/she is in such condition in Article 63(d).

It states “whenever the office of the vice president becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, and inability or otherwise, the president shall nominate a candidate.”

A legal mind says “the otherwise” as applied to the case of the vice president should have formed any legal justification in the case of the president, but it is silent in the preceding article. “This is the reason I think the president could remain in office beyond January,” he stated.

Otherwise, the national legislature has not complied with its mandate in Article 63© which says “the National Legislature shall , no later than one year after the coming into force of this constitution, prescribe the guidelines and determine the procedures under which the president, by reason of illness, shall be declared incapable of carrying out the functions of his office.”

However, there is already heightened contention amongst politicians concerning who will head a possible interim government which is not too clear about how it should be done.

Some Liberians say President Sirleaf should not leave office if the runoff elections were not held before the expiry of her tenure because of the uncertainty that associates with such move. By law, she supposed to turn over to an elected successor, something which seems highly constitutionally impracticable.

The vice president, speaker or president pro tempore is qualified under the law to succeed the president in the case of death, resignation, impeachment, none of which is said to be applicable to the current situation as Madam Sirleaf does not fit in any of those.

The Democratic Republic of Congo finds itself in similar political imbroglio and President Joseph Kabila whose constitutional tenure since expired remains in power. In spite of months of negotiations, political leaders have not come to term on a way out.

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