The New Elections Law of 1986

By Mohamedu F. Jones, Esq

The Perspective

March 18, 2002

“Mea culpa.” This is a Latin phrase that means “acknowledgment of personal fault or error.” I was wrong in my conclusion that Liberia has no effective elections law, even while I was correct in my analysis that the 1984 Elections Law, promulgated by the People’s Redemption Council was “was obsolete, inadequate and not valid for the purposes of holding constitutional elections in 2003.” So how did I get to the wrong conclusion from the correct analysis?

When I began researching Liberia’s elections law, I consulted the “Liberian Codes Revised (1998).” Liberian law scholar, Cllr. Phillip A. Z. Banks, former Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia, and three other noted Liberian lawyers are the editors. The Liberian Codes Revised was published in 1998 under the authority of the Government of the Republic of Liberia. Cllr. Peter Jallah, then Minister of Justice wrote the preface, and Her Honor Gloria M. Scott, Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia, wrote the foreword. The 1984 Elections Law appeared in the Codes as Title 11, “Elections Law.” This was prima facie evidence that this was the valid law in place.

After reviewing the 1984 laws, the questions that I have previously raised on “The Perspective” website, stood out in my mind. Simply put, the 1984 Elections Law had a great deal of problems. I was “sure” there had to be “another” elections law. I consulted Liberian lawyers in Liberia; I was told that this was the “elections law on the books.” On this basis, I took the 1984 Elections Laws to be the current law, applied my analysis and reached the conclusion that I did.

After my two articles were published on “The Perspective” website, I noticed a reference to a “1986 Elections Law” in a post 1997 Election Report by the Carter Center. This report had been distributed at the Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia’s January 2002 Conference. After reading “The Perspective” articles, Cllr. James A. Pierre also told me that there was a 1986 Elections Law. I contacted the Carter Center, which have since generously supplied me a copy of the 1986 Elections Law.

The “New Elections Law (1986),” which repealed the 1984 Elections Law, was approved by President Samuel K. Doe on September 29, 1986, and on that same day, he transmitted it to Mr. Isaac Randolph, then Chairman of the Elections Commission. The Bureau of Printing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published it on October 4, 1986. The timing makes perfect sense. The first post military rule elections were scheduled to be held on October 7, 1986; they were elections for paramount chiefs.

In an interview with “The Perspective” in February, Cllr. Charles Brumskine indicated that he was confident that Liberia had valid elections law, even though he did not mentioned the 1986 law specifically. He was right. The next step is now for us to apply the same scrutiny to the 1986 Elections Law, that we did to the 1984 law, to be clear in our minds that it is constitutionally adequate to regulate the 2003 elections.

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