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Run-Off Court Saga: A Legal Take

HomeAYV NewsRun-Off Court Saga: A Legal Take

Run-Off Court Saga: A Legal Take

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I am not oblivious of the fact that by section 164 of the Public Elections Act 2012, “The Electoral Commission may, where the circumstances so require, by order, enlarge or reduce the time prescribed in this Act for the giving of any notice or for the doing of any act or thing”. But unfortunately, the provision of holding presidential run-off elections within 14 days from the date of the announcement of the result of the first round of elections is a constitutional provision and not a provision of the Public Elections Act. But even assuming that the said 14 day run-off period provision was contained in the Public Elections Act of 2012, it would still not have been enough for it to have benefitted from section 164 of the Public Elections Act quoted above. This is so because, firstly, wherever there is an inconsistency between the Constitution and any act of Parliament, the Constitution takes precedence. Therefore, that the Constitution says run-off elections *shall* be held within 14 days after the announcement of the first round of elections result, any position reached by virtue of section 164 of the Public Elections Act to the effect that that mandatory 14 day constitutional run-off period can be altered ( provided that 14 day run-off period provision was also contained in the Public Elections Act in the first place ) would be a position inconsistent with the mandatory position of the Constitution on the matter and will therefore be untenable by virtue of section 171 (15) of the Constitution which says “This Constitution shall be the supreme law of Sierra Leone and any other law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void and of no effect”.

Again, just in case, (assuming the 14 day run-off period provision was also contained in the Public Elections Act of 2012), it cannot be correctly argued that section 164 of same somehow amends Section 42 (2) (f) of the Constitution referred to above. This is so because by section 108 (7) of the Constitution “No Act of Parliament shall be deemed to amend, add to or repeal or in any way alter any of the provisions of this Constitution unless it does so in express terms” (emphasis mine).

For the reasons contained above, it is my considered opinion that as things stand now, we will be holding the runoff elections on the 31st of March, 2018 in clear contravention of section 42 ( 2)(f) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991.

Whilst this order by the Supreme Court in contravention of the Constitution as explained above may have been the product of the High Court injunction on the conduct of the run-off (now vacated) and or NEC’s halt of its logistical arrangement in what it said or what appeared to be in compliance with the said injunction ( a move which may not have been squarely advisable since the said injunction did put a stop on the conduct of the said run-off – whatever that means considering that the injunction was granted pending the hearing and determination of the Plaintiff’s application on Monday 26/03/17 , a day before the date that was set for the runoff), but not the preparations for the run-off, it is still yet not any less in contravention of the Constitution. And whilst the purose the said contravention seeks to achieve may be popular, that still doesn’t make it any less a contravention of the Constitution.

Contraventions of the Constitution and our laws must, at least, be pointed out irrespective of their popularity or otherwise. Popular contraventions open the way for all sorts of contraventions including the unpopular and or the inimical.

My two cents.

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