The Liberian Supreme Court is expected to hear a lawsuit challenging the decision of the National Elections Commission to certify 16 presidential candidates, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for next month’s election.
Article 52 (c) of the Liberian Constitution states that “no person shall be eligible to hold the office of president or vice president unless that person is resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election.” Last month’s referendum to change the requirement to five years failed. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, lawyer for the Concerned Citizens of Liberia, said the election commission violated the constitution when it certified the 16 candidates.
“The first thing we decided to do is to challenge the candidacy of Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Counselor Winston Tubman [of the Congress for Democratic Change party], Prince Y. Johnson [of the National Union for Democratic Progress party], and Counselor Charles Brumskine [of the Liberty Party] on purely constitutional [grounds]. The focus of [the] petition has to do with Article 52 (c) of the 1986 Constitution,” he said.
Cephus said his group believes all 16 candidates do not meet the 10-year residency requirement as stipulated in the constitution. His group has asked the Supreme Court to interpret Article 52 (c).
Elections Commission Chairman James Fromayan has said the 10-year residency requirement is ambiguous and that his commission did not want to disqualify any candidate based on what he called a vague constitutional provision. “What was being proposed for amendment was much clearer than the 10 years; that is very, very ambiguous and lacked clarity as to what the law is talking about. So, we don’t want to penalize anybody on the grounds of a particular constitutional clause that lacks clarity,” Fromayan said.