MONROVIA - Liberia’s Supreme Court on Sunday lifted a government order suspending campaigning in and around the capital for next week’s Senate election imposed on the grounds that electioneering risks spreading the Ebola virus.
Liberia is the country hardest hit by the epidemic and has recorded more than 3,000 deaths out of a total from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea of 6,055 victims, according to World Health Organization figures on Wednesday.
The country’s epidemic is gradually being brought under control, but the toll has damaged health care and has caused a delay in Senate elections that had been set for October in a country that emerged from a long civil war in 2003.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government imposed the executive order last week banning the holding of political rallies in Montserrado County, which includes the capital, because the area has been hard hit by Ebola.
It was contested by her son, Robert Sirleaf, who is running as an independent candidate for Senate. He appealed for a temporary lifting of the ban, arguing that to stop campaigning in just one part of the country is discriminatory.
The younger Sirleaf is one of the president’s leading advisers and analysts say he is seeking an independent political base ahead of elections in 2017 when the president must step down due to a two-term limit.
Presiding Associate Justice Philip Banks issued Sunday’s Supreme Court ruling, Minister of Information Lewis Brown said on national ELBC radio.
“The government intends, in keeping with its long-held tradition of respect for the various authorities and democratic actions of each branch of government, to honor this order of the Supreme Court,” Brown said.
The court will hear a petition on Monday by some political parties, civil society groups and others to postpone national Senate polls from Dec. 16 until Ebola is eradicated. It will also hear Robert Sirleaf’s petition on Wednesday, Brown said.
The initial Senate elections set for October were delayed at the height of the outbreak in Liberia.