Liberia: House Saves Elections Magistrates from Sack

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Liberia: House Saves Elections Magistrates from Sack
Liberia: House Saves Elections Magistrates from Sack

Africa-Press – Liberia. The House of Representatives has rejected a legislative instrument from the Senate that would render all 19 election magistrates across the country jobless.

The bill, which the Senate passed in August with limited opposition, was slammed by critics as usurping the administrative function of the National Elections Commission.

It had aimed to remove all election magistrates from their posts and have them reapply, 90 days after the passage of the bill, which was an amendment to the New Election Law, came into force.

“Section 2.24(a) of the amended law states: “90 days after the passage of this Act, all Elections Magistrates in the 15 counties must be removed and positions considered vacant. This section also gives the right to those removed Magistrates to re-apply.”

But members of the House, having carefully reviewed the bill, had decided to vote against the Senate legislative measure on grounds that the move is dangerous ahead of the country’s 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

The House also believes that the job statuses of election magistrates are administrative decisions that are directly controlled by the NEC rather than the legislature.

“On the issues of magistrates and executive directors, lawmakers voted that the appointment of magistrates is purely administrative and should be left with the Commissioners,” the House said in a statement.

However, the House said that it “wants magistrates to be rotated so as to avoid them getting involved in the county local politics.”

This decision the House left to the NEC to decide. The lawmakers’ decision comes as election magistrates had threatened to sue the government if the Senate’s measure becomes law. They had argued that the Senate measure would negatively impact them “with no warranted justifiable reasons.”

Maintained registration fees

Also, a report from the joint Conference Committee of the House and the Senate, calling for the old application and registration fees to be maintained has passed the House.

The Committee establishment came after the Senate had differed with the House’s decision to triple the applicant fees for candidates’ registration as stipulated in the 1986 constitution.

Candidates for President, according to the constitution, would pay US$2,500; Vice President, US$1,500; Senator, US$750.00 and Representatives, US$500.00.

But the House nearly six months ago doubled the amount. The Presidential candidate under the House version was going to pay US$5,000; Vice President, US$3,000; Senator US$1,500; and Representative US$1,000.

“The Conference Committee agreed that candidates’ registration fees for the post of President, Vice President, Senators, and Representatives should not be increased but remained the same respectively with no increments,” the House release added.

30% gender representation

Meanwhile, the House also voted on the Committee’s recommendation to amend Section 4.5(1)(c) of the New Elections Law, calling on political parties to ensure that the candidates’ list submitted to the electoral body has no less than 30% of the candidates from each gender.

“For the 2023 elections and the 2026 midterm senatorial elections, the list of candidates of a political party, coalition or alliance of political parties, which does not have the minimum of thirty percent (30%) of the candidates from each gender shall be returned by the NEC with the understanding that the defaulting political institution may comply with this threshold for gender participation in politics by submitting a new list of candidates within the time published by the Commission for submission of list of candidates; which new list of candidates complies with the aforesaid threshold.”

“In the event that the defaulting institution fails to submit a new list of candidates which complies with the threshold, the NEC shall accept the rejected list of candidates or the new list of candidates, which does not comply with the threshold, provided that a fine of US$5,000 shall be imposed and into the treasury of the government. “

It says failure to timely pay the fine “shall cause” the NEC to absolutely reject the list of candidates submitted by the defaulting political institutions.

“Within six (6) months as of Election Day, the defaulting political party, coalition, or alliance of political party shall present to the Commission a plan and/or program of action intended to incentivize gender participation in elections with the view of complying with the thirty percent (30%) minimum threshold of candidates from each gender for every election thereafter; and the Commission shall approve such plan and/or program of action for implementation.”

“For constitutionally scheduled general legislative elections and midterm senatorial elections subsequent to 2032, in the event that a political party, coalition or alliance of political parties fails to submit list of legislative and senatorial candidates which meet the minimum threshold of thirty percent (30%) of each gender, such list of candidates shall be rejected by the Commission,” the Committee report which lawmakers voted for said.

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