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Indeed, Law Is Reasoning: The Postponement Of Midterm Senatorial Election

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

It is common sense that no society can exist without laws to guide the conduct and behavior of people of that society. That is, any society that is not guided by laws, is doomed to be in perpetual chaos and confusion. This is why the book, STREET LAW” defines law “as the rules and regulations made and enforced by government that regulates the conduct of people within a society.” It is said that such laws “reflect and promote a society’s values.”

Basically, it is said that some of the goals of laws include protecting basic human rights; promoting fairness, helping resolve conflicts; promoting order and stability; protecting the environment; representing the will of the majority, and protecting the rights of the minorities. Fundamentally, these are all of the goals every society strives to achieve, as anything contrary to these would be antithesis to the reasons and essence of enacting laws.

Noticeably, whatever laws are made, must be in consonance with the Organic Law of the land, which is principally the Constitution. In other words, no laws must be made that is repugnant to the Constitution.
In every democratic society, the laws of that society states when certain events such as elections should take place. In such society like ours, the presidential elections are to take place every six years and that it equally states when such event should take place in the year.

For example, in the Liberian Constitution, it states that there would be senatorial election every nine years and that those incumbents can seek re-election. This year’s midterm senatorial elections should be the Second Tuesday of October each election year as stipulated in Article 83 of the Liberian Constitution. But because of unforeseen situation, it is impossible to hold the process as stipulated in the Constitution, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Chamber of the Liberian Senate where some may return while others may pack their “sakota” (belongings), as only 15 of the 30 senators will be vying

Initially after the civil conflict when the Constitution came into force, Senators were elected and served based on Article 46 which states, “Immediately after the Senate shall have assembled following the elections prior to the coming into force of this Constitution, the Senators shall be divided into two categories as a result of the votes cast in each county. The Senator with the higher votes cast shall be the Senator of the first category and the Senator with the lower votes cast shall be Senator of the second category; provided that no two Senators from a county shall be placed in the same category. The seats of Senators of the first category shall be vacated at the expiration of the ninth year. In the interest of legislative continuity, the Senators of the second category shall serve a first term of six year only, after the first elections. Thereafter, all Senators shall be elected to serve a term of nine years.

Since that election of 2005, as stated in Article 46, all Senators are now being elected to serve for nine years, with reliance on Article 45 which states, “the Senate shall be composed of Senators elected for a term of nine years by the registered voters in each of the counties, but a Senator elected in a by-election to fill a vacancy created by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, shall be so elected to serve only the remainder of the unexpired term of office, “ like in the case of Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillon, who is now seeking re-election after completing the term of the late Geraldine Doe-Sheriff.

As a result of this, the elections have now been postponed to a later date, hopefully in December this year from the constitutionally-scheduled month of October this year. Reasonably, since news about the possible postponement, there have been no mixed reactions from the public as it could have been in other cases. It is from this aspect of the law being reasonable that I have decided to dwell on this matter from this legal point of view.

For me, this reasonableness comes about because the people are aware that election is not an event, but a process that entails lots of activities, some of which must occur before the day of voting. Presently, there are incessant calls from many groups, including the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) for voter cleaning and update. That is, certain events or activities like voter’s registration must take place before voting, to be followed by counting and then announcement of results. This in law is referred to as “Condition Precedent” before “Condition Subsequent.”

Mr. Malcolm Joseph of ECC

It is assumed in law that although there might be some events that are planned to be executed in a specific time, notwithstanding, because of some unforeseen circumstances, sometimes referred to as “FORCE MAJURE”- the impossibility- which denotes that a planned event may not take place because of happenings beyond man’s control, like the Coronavirus Pandemic.

FORCE MAJURE” is a French term which means, “a superior force.” An event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled. The term include both acts of nature such as floods, hurricanes and acts of people such as riots, strikes and wars.” It is because of this situation the world is faced with today, causing the postponement of major events, including the Olympic, which was set for Japan few months ago.

Also, when it is said that law is reasoning, among other things, simply means accepting a change of a planned event when it is not possible, as stated earlier. Unarguably, there were events planned worldwide before this virus, but cannot be executed because of the pandemic. Yes, the senatorial elections were scheduled but have been extended because of this “not-man-made” situation.

Conversely, had this been the fault of man and not Force Majure, obviously, this could have ignited unnecessary confrontation. In addition, had this been a case of government’s failure to hold the election on time because of the lack of financial resources to hold it, then, this was not about law being reasoning but about the egregious failure of the authorities to execute such.

As it is said in law, the government should have “REASON TO KNOW,” about such major planned event and work towards its implementation, as anything contrary to this would be tantamount to constitutional breach.

This latest acceptable action of the people regarding the postponement of the elections, which many see as a prelude to the presidential elections, without “NOISE,” or unnecessary politicking and wrangling, is clear that reason has prevailed because of the pandemic, but this should not be misconstrued that the people would exercise such in the absence of Force Majure, that is, when there is no such reason to do so.

Furthermore, the action of the people should not be used as a necessary precedent when such condition of Force Majure does not exist to say, ”If we can postpone senatorial elections without noise or protest, we can do the same this time.” In such a scenario, reason would not prevail, as this would be rejected with vehemence by the people.

Lastly, Force Majure should not be misconstrued for ineptitude and malfeasant or one’s failure to act when necessary, especially so when there is a “duty” to act.

I Rest My Case.

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