Liberia’s special senatorial election has again been rescheduled from Tuesday to Saturday (December 20) after the country’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to halt campaigning over its constitutionality and fears of Ebola.
A member of a coalition that brought the petition against the National Elections Commission (NEC) said the commission was wrong to hold the election when Liberia has not yet been declared Ebola-free.
However, Chief Justice Francis Kporkpor said the petition was political and the court does not discuss political issues.
NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya said the commission is under legal obligation to hold the election before the end of the year.
“We called the political parties and all other stakeholders to a meeting on Sunday. We all agreed that the election should be adjusted finally to the 20th of December. The reason for that is that the controlling law on the conduct of this election is Joint Resolution No. 002, and that resolution mandates the commission to have the election no later than December 20th,” he said.
Some have argued that there may not be enough time for the candidates to campaign, especially when the high court suspended campaign activities for a week while it considered the prohibition petition.
Korkoya said that given the abnormal circumstances under which the election is being held, most of the candidates have agreed that the additional four or five days of campaigning should be enough for them to make their case to the voters.
Under the constitution, the election should have been held on the 14th of October, but it was rescheduled by the national legislature to the 16th of December. Then, the Supreme Court halted campaigning for another week.
“So, one could argue that the time is not enough but, under the circumstances, I think the time is enough. They (the candidates) all agreed; so they have the additional three or four days that will be added. They can make their case that they could not make during the two weeks that were taken away from them,” Korkoya said.
The Supreme Court reportedly ordered the election commission to put in place measures that will reduce the further spread of the Ebola virus.
Korkoya said although he has not seen the Supreme Court ruling, his commission had already taken steps to safeguard the public during the special election.
“Assuming the court ordered that, we will do that. As a matter of fact, prior to the ruling of the court, in consultation with the WHO (World Health Organization), the Centers for Disease Control, and our own Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, we worked together to put in place guidelines that will minimize or prevent the spread of Ebola during the campaign,” Korkoya said.
He said those measures include no hugging, shaking of hands, and the constant washing of hands.
“We have asked the political parties to limit their [campaign] activities in the precincts or local areas, and whenever they do so they have got to ensure that the people wash their hands. And then, on the polling day itself, first you’ve got to wash your hands, and then you’ve got to stand three feet apart from each other. Sometimes voters use the same pen or pencil. We have eliminated that. Every voter will use his or her own pen or, in the absence of their own pencil, we can provide some,” Korkoya said.
Korkoya said the commission has prohibited the use of ink pads on polling day. Instead, officials will swap cotton balls. He also said voters will not be allowed to give their identification cards to polling officials. They will only display the cards and leave the polling station immediately after casting their ballots.