The November 7 presidential run-off between Boakai and Weah is off, at least for now; thanks to Charles Brumskine and the Liberian Supreme Court.
It is a brief setback for the country, the candidates and their ardent supporters, and a victory for Brumskine not known to shy away from court challenges the lawyer in him believes he can win.
Brumskine who is not known for his political smarts is regarded in legal circles as a smart lawyer, who challenged the November 7 run-off election in the Supreme Court of Liberia for irregularities and alleged fraud at the polls.
I don’t think Charles Walker Brumskine studied elections law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, but as a lawyer, he understands irregularity and the inconspicuous nature of an election he sees as not free and fair.
Charles Brumskine also knows the broken systems; he understands manipulation, and knows how to exploit the system to achieve his desired goals.
After all, Brumskine is an institutional insider who brings both his legal savvy and craftiness to his game; and he understands the broken systems that sprouted his legal and political careers that made him the successful person he is today.
So, if there is a person around who could (with good and honest intent) highlight the brokenness of the system and wants to help fix it, Charles Walker Brumskine is the guy.
Prior to his latest court challenge, Brumskine did not help fix the broken system that he now loathes, but like most nakedly ambitious Liberian, he ran for political office – ignoring what’s broken as if it will get fix by itself.
However, Brumskine got out of the Liberian box of acquiescence and complacency to singularly and successfully challenged the Code of Conduct law.
Anyway, instead of throwing in the towels and accept his defeat at the polls, perhaps his third since 2005 when he first burst on the scene as a presidential candidate, the third-place Brumskine let it be known that he is not your typical Liberian who will just accept defeat because those at the top told him so.
Brumskine’s latest challenge before the Supreme Court of Liberia proves that Liberians cannot and shouldn’t close their eyes to the nation’s broken systems and unenforced laws, and behave as it is normal to live in a corrupt and dysfunctional country.
Like his previous court challenge, this challenge will pave the way and ultimately set a precedent for future challenges before the lower courts and the highest court in the land.
The Supreme Court of Liberia is no stranger to interventions and the controversies that come with it.
Just before the October 10 legislative and presidential elections, Mr. Brumskine successfully challenged the Code of Conduct law before the Supreme Court of Liberia after his running mate, Harrison Kanwea, was barred from joining his ticket.
The Code of Conduct law, which was signed by President Sirleaf in 2014 and passed by the national legislature, forbids officials appointed by the President of Liberia to not engage in political activities; and required that those who hold tenured positions “shall resign said post three (3) years prior to the date of such public elections” (article 56.a).
In a 3-2 unanimous ruling, the court noted that “the act is not, in our opinion, repugnant to or in conflict with any provision of the Constitution to warrant its declaration as being unconstitutional as contended by the petitioner.”
The Supreme Court sent shockwaves throughout the nation when it reversed its own majority ruling when the justices ruled on the same case that the Code of Conduct law was not “in conflict with any provision of the Constitution to warrant its declaration as being unconstitutional.”
Citing the lack of due process in the previous court ruling, justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III noted that “due process is mandatory and must be accepted by all legal institutions and it’s a requirement.”
The court’s reversed ruling was a legal victory for Brumskine and a rebuke of the National Elections Commission, which the court blamed for denying Karnwea his due process.
The latest court ruling is also a rebuke of the National Elections Commission, as the Supreme Court this time ordered the NEC to investigate Brumskine’s complaint. And until that complaint is investigated, the November 7 run-off will be halted indefinitely.
Now the question is, what would have happened had Brumskine finished first in the October 10 presidential elections?
Would Charles Brumskine file a grievance to halt the scheduled run-off election because of fraud and alleged irregularities as he claimed, if he won?
Did he and others not aware of Liberia’s election problems and other problems to find practical and lasting solutions?
Instead of fixing the nation’s election problems, Brumskine and others decided to be candidates, only to later complain when the results go the other way and not in their favor.
It is so true that the nation’s institutions are broken and needs to be fixed, which I have written about countless times.
Do you expect to get neutral and independent election results, and free and fair elections when the President of Liberia is the one who hires members of the National Elections Commission?
I have also written on many occasions that instead of Liberians becoming painfully obsessed with the presidency as they have done throughout the decades and century, they ought to focus on building strong and lasting institutions, so that they (we) all can have a working and governable democracy that benefits the greater society.
Instead of Liberians putting so much energy in conspiracy theories i.e., blaming Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for Joseph Boakia’s lackluster presidential campaign, and blaming the National Elections Commission for inefficiencies and incompetence, Liberians ought to start focusing on building lasting and governable institutions.
That is because often times, you get what you bargain for if you don’t work hard to strengthen existing and pre-existing problems, like the imperial presidency, the National Elections Commission, and Liberia’s other failed and crumbling political institutions.
We will continue to have our election nightmares and other national problems if we don’t work to fix what is broken around us.