EC powers questioned

The powers of the Electoral Commissioner to extend the return of writs date is being tested in court through a special Supreme Court reference.

The reference looks at what kind of powers the Electoral Commissioner has.

Filed by the Ombudsman Commission in July last year, the Supreme Court wants the reference to be heard quickly and has issued directions to the commission to comply with before February 14.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia today endorsed draft index to the reference books and proposed answers to the reference questions that were drafted by the Ombudsman Commission. This including the statement of facts from the Commission.

About 15 questions were proposed to the Supreme Court to interpret.

They relate to the powers of the Electoral Commissioner to extend the date of the return of the writs, especially in circumstances where a lot of seats are yet to be declared, and parliament convening to elect a Prime Minister.

This special reference seeks the court’s interpretation of the Constitution’s section 50(1) on the Right To Vote And Stand For Public Office, section 104 (2)(b) on Normal Term Of Office, or when a seat of an MP becomes vacant, section 105 (3) on General Elections, and section 124 (1) on the calling of parliament to fix return date after return of writ.

It will also seek the court’s interpretation of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Election, section 97 on Address of Returns and section 177 on Extension of time by the head of state on advice of Electoral Commission.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, the Electoral Commissioner and Attorney General are parties who joined as interveners in the reference.

(Picture of Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato returning the election writ of declared seats last year to Governor General Sir Bob Dadae) 

Sally Pokiton