Liberia: Ellen,15 others cleared to run in October polls but...
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and 15 other presidential candidates have been qualified to contest the October 11 polls by the country’s National Elections Commission (NEC), as it issued the final list of candidates on Friday.
The NEC released the final listing of the 16 presidential candidates in Monrovia, despite reports that most of those on the list have not met the 10 years residency requirement in the Liberian constitution.
Reducing the 10 years clause to five was among proposed constitutional amendments rejected by Liberian voters in last month’s referendum, prompting some groups to threaten to take the NEC to court, if it qualified the candidates in question.
But in an interview with WADR, NEC Chairman, James Fromoyan said his commission had no legal basis to disqualify President Johnson-Sirleaf and other candidates because of the 10 years residency, which he describing as "vague and ambiguous."
"As far as we're concerned, there is no basis for us to prevent any candidate that meets all other requirements to contest the presidential election on the basis of the existing 10 years residency clause," the Liberian elections chief pointed out.
According to the list, President Johnson-Sirleaf will be challenged by two other woman candidates for Liberia’s highest office.
Friday's move to clear Liberia's incumbent President and a number of other presidential candidates on the list, including Winston Tubman of the CDC, Dew Mason of the Democratic Alliance, etc will probably trigger some serious objections from various Liberian groups and individuals both at home and abroad.
One of the groups is the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) Council of Eminent persons Persons (UCEP), Inc.,which has been agitating for the disqualification of all presidential and vice presidential aspirants not meeting the 10 years residency clause requirement. In a statement released this week the UCEP urged the electoral commission "to conclude its historical mission by announcing the names of the Presidential Candidates who are qualified to run in the pending election in accordance with all the requirements of the Liberian Constitution as maintained by the result of the August 23rd Referendum."
"AND IN THIS REGARD, We call upon the Liberian Government including all of its component branches to respect the will of the people regarding this Referendum as law of the land; recognizing that our government is a democracy; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them. Since the people have spoken through the ballot box, their voices need no further interpretation."
FINALLY, we call on the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United States of America (USA), the European Union (EU), and the entire international community to support the rule of law in Liberia by lending their support the faithful execution of the laws of our land as supported by the August 23rd Referendum," the UCEP said.
However, President Johnson-Sirleaf has dismissed claims that she is not qualified to run under the 10 years residency clause. A senior official in her office told WADR this week, that claims that the Liberian leader had permanent residency status in the US or other countries over the past years "are not true".
The official threw up the challenge to those who think Africa's first elected woman president should not run in October to challenge her in the Liberian Supreme court.
The last elections in 2005 won by Johnson-Sirleaf was a "special election" in which the controversial 10 years residency clause (Article 52c of the Liberian constitution) was suspended under the 2003 Comprehensive Accra Peace Agreement to end the country's 14 years civil war. The provision along with others suspended at the time was automatically restored upon the coming into office of the the new government in January 2006.
Click audio below to listen to WADR Frank Sainworla’s interview with Liberian NEC Chairman James Fromoyan