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Days after a petition for a Writ of Prohibition was filed with the Supreme Court requesting a stay order (which is now in force) on the conduct of the special senatorial election, there are reports that the National Elections Commission has filed its returns with the court thus setting the stage for a conference.
The stay order from the Supreme Court suddenly halted all campaign and political activities across the country, leaving the population pensive, and to await a critical decision from the court that would determine the way forward.
The Public Affairs Chief at the Elections Commission, Joey Kennedy, confirmed that lawyers representing the Commission filed their returns on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.
The specific counter arguments contained in the returns are not known, however, Mr. Kennedy declined to comment further on matters that are before the court.
With this development, legal scholars say the Supreme Court could hold a conference with the various parties to determine the date for argument. While the nation awaits the decision from the high court, the election remains under siege as a result of the stay order.
Last Friday, the Justice and Public Interest Consortium Africa (JUPICA), filed a petition for a Writ of Prohibition before Justice-in-Chambers of the Supreme Court of Liberia to halt the senatorial election citing several constitutional breaches.
The Petitioners, Cllr. Syrenius Sayma Cephus and Atty. Edwin Martin said the prohibition is the only remedy available to restrain and prohibit the respondents from proceeding with the conduct of a purported midterm senatorial election, which according to them, is a violation of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Apart from the petition filed by Cllr. Cephus, the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and a group calling itself Eminent Citizens, which comprises former Internal Affairs Minister Blamoh Nelson and former Information Minister Rev. Emmanuel Bowier et all, filed a separate prohibition requesting the court to restrain the conduct of the election until constitutional issues are addressed.
Cllr. Cephus and Atty. Martin, who filed the petition on behalf of their organization, told the Justice-in-Chambers, Philip Banks, that the 1986 constitution neither provides for a mid-term election, nor grants the first and second respondents (NEC) and Government of Liberia the authority or power to do so.
They argued that the petition is necessary and it is the surest way of averting a serious constitutional breach, because according to them, the respondent's actions and activities for the holding of a mid-term senatorial election in December 2014 is unconstitutional.
Citing Article 83 (a) of the 1986 constitution as reliance, the two lawyers informed Justice Banks that the first respondent (NEC) is relying on the presidential and general elections as a basis for its action, which involves with electing a president, a vice president, senators and members of the House of Representatives.
The petitioners submitted that Article 1 of the 1986 constitution gives the people of Liberia the authority to determine electoral issues in the country.
Petitioners averred that to prohibit the respondents from proceeding with the senatorial election in any manner and form is necessary because the 1986 constitution does not provide for the holding of a midterm special senatorial election while senators are in power; rather, it provides for by-elections when the senators have served their terms and shall have vacated their offices as provided by Article 46 and 37 which state that “the seats of senators of the first category shall be vacated at the expiration of the ninth year.”
Petitioners prayed the Justice-in-Chambers to grant its petition to prevent the abuse and wasteful spending of precious state resources.