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Pres. Weah Vetoes Reformist New Elections Law

President George M. Weah has vetoed several legislative amendments to the electoral law of Liberia, stressing that the amendments were in conflict with already existing constitutional provisions, and other laws. 

It can be recalled that the 54th National legislature revisions of the new elections law sought to make 30% gender representation mandatory, as well as give Diaspora Liberians voting rights among other ideas.

Additionally, the law would have also empowered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to fine or delis any political parties that failed to adhere to the gender quotas.

But the Liberia leader, in a communication to House Speaker, Bhofal Chambers stated that that he prefers the law staying the way it is. “The country is just seven months away from the 2023 general and presidential elections.”

“As such, certain changes in the elections law at a time so close would tend to send mixed signals to the electorates and present the potential to cause delays in elections processes,” the Liberian Chief Executive maintained.

(L-R) Senate Pro-temp Albert Chie and House Speaker Bhofal Chambers

However, the vetoing of the Bill by the President comes more than five months after the bill’s passage, and can be overridden by members of the legislature, depending on how many lawmakers maintained their previous support for the bill.

Bills passed by the Legislature need the President’s signature to become law, and on rare occasions, the President may choose to veto or reject legislation because of some policy disagreement.

Additionally, the President’s veto is in line with article 35(1) chapter V of the 1986 Constitution which grants the President the right to veto any instrument passed by the Legislature but can be overturned by the Legislature by a two-thirds majority in accordance with the Constitution.

The President asserted that he could not accept the amendments when there are existing laws that provide for checks and balances regarding the scrutiny of persons to serve as commissioners of the country’s electoral body.

The President’s veto also means that Elections Commissioners would not be forced to retire as a result of reaching 70 years of age, even if their tenure had not expired. “The period within which a commissioner would become statutorily ineligible to serve as a commissioner is already addressed, limiting a commissioner’s tenure to a maximum of two terms.”

“The existing section 2.10 of the Elections Law already provides for proper administrative functions and supervision within the NEC and that the country is about seven months away from the 2023 General Elections, and such administrative changes should be considered in a non-election year.”

The president’s veto, which also cancels the election of magistrates, says the existing election adequately captures the roles of magistrates. “Also, article 83(c) of the 1986 Constitution gives the NEC thirty days to investigate and issue a final ruling. Assuming the NEC uses the entire thirty 30 days, [there] will be [limited] deadline for the NEC to render a final ruling.”

“The dissatisfied party would then have seven days to perfect its appeal to the Supreme Court which has seven days to render its decision.” Hence, election cases should be disposed of before the second working Monday in January 2024, which is the date the 55th Legislature shall first assemble.

“The Presidency is willing to work with this Legislature on ways to enhance the NEC’s capacity to speedily dispose of election cases.”

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