The National Election Commission (NEC) Thursday, May 20, 2010, released the time table for the River Gee County District No.3 by-election, describing delays in the passage of the threshold bill as “unwarranted”.
Setting of the threshold by the National Legislature, a constitutional mandate after the conduct of a national census, is cardinal to the holding of the country’s second post war democratic elections.
Several politicians including incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nimba Country Senator Prince Johnson and football legend George Weah, among others, have already begun lining up for the 2011 general and presidential elections.
However, the bill which should set the process in motion – the apportioning of electoral constituencies – has been dangling among the branches of government: the Executive and the Legislature on one hand and the Legislature and the Judiciary on the other.
The bill is currently trapped at the Supreme Court of Liberia, following several disagreements and vetoes, since the NEC submitted it to the Legislature two years ago.
President Sirleaf has rejected it twice: first, after the Legislature passed it, setting the threshold at 40,000 with a proviso, which the Liberian leader said was unconstitutional and, second, on ground that the threshold set had serious financial implications on the post war country struggling to rebuild and reduce poverty.
“With these “unwarranted delays” in the passage of the threshold bill, the National Elections Commission has not been sitting by itself,” the Commissioner’s Chairman James Fromayan said yesterday when asked whether the River Gee by-election would pose any obstacles to preparations for the 2011 electoral process.
He said the Commission has been working on issues surrounding delimitation and was rolling up its sleeves for voters’ registration.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fromayan said the River Gee District No.3 by-election, intended to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives, will be conducted on July 20, 2010.
The vacancy was created last month as a result of the death of Rep. Albert Toe, following a brief illness.
It brings to nine the number of Legislators that have passed away in the 52nd National Legislature, the highest from a single legislature in the country’s history.
Campaign for the by-election runs from June 26-July 18, while civic and voters’ education campaign run from May 27-July 19, according to the timetable.
The number of registered voters in the district, according to the 2005 general and presidential elections, is 7,035.
There are seven voting prescient and 16 polling places, Mr. Fromayan said.
Six satellite centers have been established to cut down long distances in areas where polling places are far apart to enable more people to participate, the NEC Chief disclosed.
All 2005 contenders and political parties in “good standing” with the NEC are eligible to contest for the vacant seat.
Eligible candidates must have lived in the county for at least a year, be above 25 and be a taxpayer.
A tentative budget of US$253,000 has been drafted for election, and Mr. Fromayan said several partners including UNMIL, IFES, the National Democratic Institute and UNDP are in full gear of preparation for the by-election.