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01.03.2021 Feature Article

Liberia: Analysis of the results of the special senatorial election and referendum

Liberia: Analysis of the results of the special senatorial election and referendum
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The Liberian National Elections Commission recently completed the results of the special senatorial election and referendum. According to the results, the Liberian people voted massively against the ruling party and rejected the referendum. The election was held on December 8, 2020.

The National Elections Commission (NEC), after much litigation, gave the majority of the results of the election. The results show that 10 candidates of the ruling party, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) lost, and 6 candidates of the Collaborative Political Parties (CPP) won. CPP is a coalition of 4 opposition parties: the Unity Party, the Liberty Party, the Alternative National Congress, and the All Liberian Party. 3 independent candidates won their respective elections.

CPP candidates Abraham Dillon, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Prince Moye, Brownie Samukai, and Jonathan Sogbie defeated their rivals for Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Bong, Lofa, and River Gee Counties respectively. The party lost in 9 counties, including Nimba, Margibi, Sinoe, and Maryland. CDC candidates Augustine Chea, Zoe Pennoe, and James Biney won Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, and Maryland Counties respectively. Jeremiah Koung of MDR won Nimba County while Emmanuel Nuguay of PUP captured Margibi County. Former representative Edwin Snowe, an independent, won Bomi election, defeating Senator Sando Johnson of CPP and Jenekai Tyler of CDC.

Tyler was a former speaker of the House of Representatives from 2007-2016 and was a member of the Unity Party that became the ruling party during President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration. After his removal from the speakership, he formed the Liberian People Democratic Party, which, together with the Congress for Democratic Change and the National Patriotic Party, became the Coalition for Democratic Change, CDC in 2017. CDC with George Weah won the presidential election that year. CDC complained to NEC of electoral frauds and requested the agency not to certificate Snowe as the winner of the Bomi election. While NEC was looking into the matter, the party ran to the Supreme Court to put a writ of prohibition on the certification, but the Court denied the request and on February 19, 2021, it ruled in his favor. NEC certificated him three days after.

Montserrado, Nimba, and Grand Bassa Counties were the most contested areas. They are the highest populated and vote-rich counties in Liberia. CDC, which claims Montserrado County as its largest stronghold, spent a lot of time, energy, and resources to recapture the county, which was lost in the 2019 election to Abraham Dillon of the Liberty Party. CDC 2020 candidate Thomas Fallah is a three-term representative for District 5 of the county. He is considered a developmental person with the construction of schools and other infrastructures in Montserrado.

Fallah is popular; he chairs the House Ways, Means, Finance, and Budget Committee and is the Vice-Chairman of Operations of CDC. Nevertheless, Dillon defeated him convincingly with 61% to 35.76%. Dillon ran his campaign with less financial resources compared to Fallah, who had large billboards with a picture of him and President Weah posted on major streets. He had a better-managed campaign. CDC was embarrassed by the defeat. However, Fallah gracefully conceded and congratulated Dillon before NEC announced the final and official results.

Nimba election featured Jeremiah Koung of MDR, Edith Gongloe-Weh of CPP, and Tarr Wongbe, an independent. CDC did not put out a candidate but supported Koung. His party’s political leader is Prince Johnson, a senator known as the Godfather of Nimba. The county is the second-largest subdivision next to Monserrado. Koung won the race by 4% with 36% to 32% of Weh. She would have won had Wongbe, a member of CPP not run as an independent. Tarr got 5% of the votes. He left CPP and went independent due to a primary dispute in which he felt cheated. CPP has complained to NEC of electoral frauds and irregularities. The agency ruled recently against the complaint. Weh has vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

With the Grand Bassa election, the CDC candidate was former Minister of Foreign Affairs Gbehzohgar Milton Findley. He resigned his post for the election when some elders of the county petitioned him to run. He was a senator for the county in 2005 and served as the Senate Pro-tempore in 2012 during Sirleaf’s presidency. But current Senator Jonathan Kaipee defeated him in the 2014 election. Findley was a member of the Unity Party went he ran in that election. He later left the party and supported President Weah in 2017. The president upon election appointed him to the ministerial position.

In the 2020 election, Gbehzohgar faced Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of CPP. Nyonblee is the political leader of the Liberty Party. She became the party head upon the death of its founder and standard-bearer Counselor Charles Brumskine, a favorite son of Grand Bassa and a Senate Pro-tempore under President Charles Taylor.

Both candidates have strong roots in the county. Nyonblee is the daughter of Rev. Karnga, a popular pastor in Grand Bassa. She was the only female in the Senate before the election. Findley’s father was Joseph Findley, a respected and well-known lawyer and former senator for Grand Bassa County. Gbehzohgar owns a large cocoa and coffee farm in the county. However, Findley lost the election. Like Representative Fallah, he accepted the loss and congratulated the senator. This defeat was another disappointment to the ruling party.

In January the National Elections Commission certificated five elected senators. They were Montserrado County Abraham Dillon, Grand Bassa County Nyonbless, Bong County Prince Moye, Margibi County Emmanuel Nuqueh, and River Gee County Jonathan Sogbie. On February 17, NEC certified Zoe Pennoe of Grand Gedeh. Earlier on February 6, it affirmed the election of Numene T. H. Bartekwa as the winner of the senatorial race in Grand Kru County. Bartekwa defeated incumbent Senator Coleman of CDC. NEC will certificate the other elected candidates upon the conclusion of electoral complaints. It has not ruled completely on the rerun of election in certain polling precincts in Gbarpolo. Preliminary reported results put Botoe Kunneh, an independent, in the lead with 97% reporting. Upon the rerun, CDC complained to NEC of election violence accusingly committed by Kunneh’s supporters. On February 24, NEC ruled for CDC. But the parties, Kunneh, and CDC candidate Alfred Koiwood, took their case to the Supreme Court. If Kunneh wins, her victory will make the number of winning independent senatorial candidates to 4 and also will increase the number of female senators to 2. Women’s participation in electoral politics in Liberia is limited, and there is a larger voice for the election of more women in public service.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that 104 polling places in River Cess County be rerun because of a complaint filed. Previously, election results showed that Wellington Smith, an independent, won the election. He led his main rival, independent candidate Steve Tequoh, by 116 votes. The CDC and CPP candidates were far behind. Whatever will the results be, an independent will most likely become the winner.

In addition to the senatorial election, there was a representative race in District 9 in Montserrado County and in District 2 in Sinoe County. The positions became vacant because of the deaths of Former Representative Munah Pelham Youngblood of Montserrado and J. Nagbe Sloh of Sinoe. Both were CDC representatives. The party retained the seats. District 9 election was close. CDC candidate Frank Foko won by three hundred votes over his main competitor CPP candidate Fubbi Henries. The results show that CPP would have won had some of its members not run as independents. This is the second time the party lost due to party infighting. CPP again filed a complaint of electoral irregularities with NEC but lost. Henries said he will take the matter with the Supreme Court.

THE REFERENDUM

The referendum was another part of the election. It has 8 propositions; namely, dual citizenship, reduction of the term of the office of the president and vice president, reduction of the term of the representatives and senators, reduction of the term of the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the senator pro-tempore, change of the month for a national election, and shorten the time for NEC to hear election complaint. The president and many members of the administration supported the referendum. Before NEC pronounced the official commencement of the campaign, a picture of the president supporting the referendum was posted over the country, particularly Montserrado County. CPP and other concerned organizations, including the Council of Churches, the Liberian Bar Association, and the Rainbow Coalition petitioned the Liberian Supreme Court complaining that the referendum was untimely and that the public had not been adequately educated for the referendum.

In November 2020, the court ruled that the referendum as presented was unconstitutional, “referring to the reduced propositions. But the ruling did not stop the referendum from being voted on. The court is said to have later stated that the referendum should be separated from the senatorial election ballots and each proposition should be voted on as a single item”.

Hence, the administration made minor changes by adding four propositions to the original propositions and put the referendum on the ballots. The public was unhappy with the government's insistence. In the election, the people overwhelmingly rejected the referendum, failingly it from reaching the constitutionally required 2/3 threshold. A key and important proposition was dual citizenship, which calls for the granting of dual citizenship to Liberians in the Diasporas who have obtained foreign nationality. The Liberian constitution forbids dual citizenship and says that a Liberian who becomes a citizen of another country loses Liberian citizenship and cannot own land, properties, and neither vote in Liberian elections and hold a political post. This proposition was the main focus and basis of the referendum. Some Liberians allege that many officials of the government have foreign citizenship and therefore wanted the proposition to pass to legalize and legitimize their foreign status.

Of the 15 counties of the country, only Sinoe County voted for the proposition meeting the threshold. Montserrado and Nimba Counties, which are the largest subdivisions of the country, outrightly rejected dual citizenship. Bomi and Grand Kru Counties followed the rejection.

Some analysts believe that the proposition was dead on arrival, that it did not have a chance of passing. Some blamed the defeat on the arrogance of the Weah administration for imposing the referendum on the Liberian people and ignoring the will of the people. This arrogance or overconfidence may have been a factor of false projection and fake news, giving the view and notion that the people would support the proposition. Citizens United for Constitutional Democracy- CUFCOD in September 2020 conducted and published a survey stating that 80% of the Liberian voting population wanted dual citizenship. The study further indicates that 77% of the survey respondents were from Montserrado County followed by Nimba and Bong Counties, which are Liberia’s three largest counties. CUFCOD wrote, “Montserrado is said to have accounted for 60% of the survey’s respondents, followed by Nimba and Bong Counties who accounted for ten and seven percent respectively. Lofa, Margibi, Bassa, Maryland, Sinoe, Bomi, and Grand Cape Mount counties shared the remaining 13% of the search’s questionnaires”. Accordingly, the majority of the 80% came from the first three counties.

CUFCOD stated that the research was peer-reviewed backed by other studies. Subsequent promotional articles for dual citizenship appeared in the Liberian media. Like CUFCOD’s investigation, they pointed out the benefits of dual citizenship and suggested the approval of the proposition. However, the election results proved otherwise or the opposite. As expressed before, Montserrado and Nimba Counties strongly defeated dual citizenship.

The Concerned Liberians against Dual Citizenship (CLADC), a Liberian based group, stated in its article and publications that the proposition is divisive, selfish, and is risky to Liberian national security, arguing that the proposition is geared to benefit a small element of the population and is not for national development. CLADC maintains that dual citizenship would create a class system and would further divide Liberia. Moreover, the main advocates of dual citizenship were capitalizing on the popularity of President Weah to gain their personal goals, which are land rights, properties, and political power. The group informed Liberians thus:

“Dual citizenship would put our national security at risk. In the event of a national crisis, let us say civil unrest, the dual citizens would flee to America. They could also escape from justice: they could commit a crime and run to America. The case of Ellen Corkrum is an example of what could happen if there is dual citizenship in Liberia… Proponents of dual citizenship are using President Weah to accomplish their aim. They know that the president is popular and has children born abroad. He has many properties. If his children are not Liberian citizens, who would inherit his land and houses if he is no longer around? The president may have thought about this and therefore sided with the advocates of dual citizenship for common interest; that is, to secure land and properties. So you see, the call for dual citizenship is personal and is not for national development as advocates claimed….. We urge Liberians to vote no to dual citizenship and no to the other propositions”.

CLADC advocacy may have had an impact as many Liberians listened and responded positively to its call.

ANALYSIS

In a democratic society, an election confirms the notion that political power is inherent in the people and only they can direct the state of things. Several factors may have contributed to the defeat of the ruling CDC. It underestimated the will of the people. Because of its power, it felt that the people will always follow its will. It overlooked the prevailing economic conditions of the country. Before the election, while the US dollar exchange rate had decreased, the costs of basic foodstuff in the Liberian market were up. Transportation cost did not reduce in response to lower gasoline cost. For instance, the cost of a 25kg bag of rice continued to be high, though the price has reduced now. The pack of dry boney has reduced from 5 pieces to 3 for the same price of $100 LD, an equivalent of about US60 cents. The pack of chicken has been reduced from 5 pieces to 3 or 4 for $100 LD. A pack of chicken feet has decreased from 5 pieces to 3 for $50 LD. The costs of foodstuff are high because the average Liberians live on less than USD 1.25 a day. Consequently, most Liberians eat one meal a day. They eat a breakfast meal consisting of dry cooked rice with red oil, murmur, bitter balls, okra, and bouillon cubes commonly called chicken soup. That meal is generally called “The first Phase”. It would carry a person for the most part of the day. At night the person would sleep with an empty stomach. In Montserrado County, carfare from the Dulai Market to Iron Gate increased $100 LD. The cost is the same for Sam Gipson junction, half of the destination to Iron Gate, Virginia.

Some observers contributed this problem to the lack of price control in the country. Because of this, merchants can charge what they considered to be a fair price. This could be true. For example, a cab or a keke driver would charge $60 -100 LD for the fare to Sam Gipson Junction. But some observers viewed that this problem is an old-age phenomenon, stating that Liberia is an import economy that has little control on market prices. Most of the country’s foodstuffs are imported, though the country has good fertile soil. Liberia neither controls the price of oil, as the cost is dictated by the world market.

The government, meanwhile, has made some efforts. It has met civil service monthly payroll unlike a year ago when the ruling party lost the Montserrado Senate race to Dillon in 2019. The government met IMF benchmarks to deserve the Fund’s $46M assistance last year. Part of the benchmarks is the government discontinued borrowing from the Central Bank reserve to meet economic shortfall or emergency, a practice which continued from the Sirleaf administration.

Was CDC loss due to the unpopularity of its candidates? Not necessarily. For instance, Dillon was not more popular than Fallah. While Dillon was viewed as “the light” in the Senate, he introduced no passed bill in the Senate and contributed little to the county development. But he scored high marks in the Senate by the Institute of Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) report on legislators’ performance. Neither was Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence more known and better qualified than Gbehzohgar Milton Findley.

This brings us back to the state of affairs of the country. The electorates were not happy with the economic conditions. Although the economy was not better under the Sirleaf government, CDC came into power to better conditions. It did not manage expectations well. Further, the state information arm failed to publicize the government program's successes or efforts. The opposition capitalized on this mistake and negatively focused on the government's shortcomings. At the same time, the administration took an arrogant approach to the problem. While it claimed that Montserrado is its biggest stronghold and it must regain the county, it failed to deal with the bread and butter issue of the voters.

It took this same approach with the referendum. The government failed to listen to the public view that the referendum was untimely and should not be put on the ballots. After the initial ruling of the Supreme Court, Minister of Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill called a press conference and stated that the referendum will proceed. He called those who opposed the referendum to be unpatriotic. Here the government took a personal interest to be a national cause. Dual citizenship, for instance, was the interest of a minority group for land and political power.

But as indicated earlier, this approach was fueled by wrong publications promoted by the media, such as Frontpage Africa and its family paper the Daily Observers. They are among the leading newspapers in the country. It was alleged and expressed that Minister McGill at or after the press conference dished out money to journalists to promote the referendum.

It is interesting to note that in the 2011 referendum, CDC, then an opposition party, protested against the referendum, which contained four propositions, including election to be based on absolute majority and not on the single majority for all non-presidential elections, and the increase of the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 75. CDC called for a boycott of the referendum stating that the propositions were geared to benefit the Sirleaf administration. The voters rejected the four propositions.

But Councilor Varney Sherman, the then chairman of the ruling Unity Party, and Councilor Fredrick Cherue, a senator of River Gee County, petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the defeat of the proposition for the simple majority on the ground that NEC also based the 2/3 threshold on invalid votes. The lawyers argued that the calculation should have been based only on the valid votes. The Court ruled in the lawyers’ favor.

Now the CDC in power had campaigned for passage of the referendum in this election. Like the party did in 2011, the CPP opposition gave CDC the dose of its medicine. As indicated, CDC disappointingly lost the election and the referendum.

While the ruling party failed in the election, the main opposition group, the CPP, does not appear to be the alternative. The party infighting caused it from winning more seats. There are potential leadership issues and integrity problems. Alexander Cummings, the political leader of the Alternative National Congress intends to be the CPP standard-bearer in the 2023 presidential election. A retired Coco-Cola executive, he has no prior experience in government. He is determined in his desire and has refused to run for the Senate in previous elections. He ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 Presidential Election and his party did not win a single seat in the legislature. Despite his determined ambition and an indication that he is an American citizen, he has no history of involving in corruption. Other members plan to make Former Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party standard-bearer. Like Cummings, Boakai massively lost to George Weah in the 2017 Election. Of the fifteen counties, the VP only won one, which is Loffa, his birthplace.

Boakai is not without corruption scandals. He worked as minister of agriculture under the late President Samuel Doe and was to carry out the “Green Revolution” program. “But he was accused of financial impropriety for taking $2 million from the program, according to published reports. A reliable source close to Doe stated that he was arrested and brought to the mansion in handcuffs after been in hiding for days with an associate called Foday Massaquoi. Also, the New Dawn reported that "Boakai and Mr. Massaquoi allegedly went in hiding for weeks before they were discovered and brought to the late Doe”.

CPP lost the deputy speakership in the House of Representatives in the House election recently. It did not support its member Representative Yekeh Kolubah who had indicated an interest in the post. CDC won the seat. This has enabled the ruling party to control the speakership and deputy position. The winning candidate Fornati Koffa of CDC was jailed in the US for criminal behavior before becoming representative in Liberia.

But the CPP could not campaign against Koffa nor complain of his past crime apparently because CPP is equally guilty of a similar criminal offense. The party’s Elected Senator Brownie Samukai along with two other defendants was convicted by the lower court for misusing the soldier pension fund of over $1M while servicing as defense minister under Sirleaf. He did not deny the accusation for it was shown that some of the money was transferred to his personal account. He argued, however, that President Sirleaf authorized him to misapply the fund. He produced a copy of a letter of authorization supposedly from the president’s Minister of Presidential Affairs Edward McClain who died many years ago. He did not present the president as a living witness. He appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court and meanwhile ran for the Senate for Loffa County. Few days after NEC pronounced him the winner of the race; the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and required him and his associates to restitute 50% of the money in 6 months or face jailed term.

Senator Varney Sherman of the Unity Party, one of the Collaborative Political Parties, was in January accused by the US government through its Department of Treasury for engaging in corruptive behaviors. The Department alleged that he “offered bribes (in Liberia) to multiple judges associated with his trial for 2010 bribery scheme and had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in his favor in 2019.” Therefore, the US government has placed sanctions against him.

CPP has been tight-lipped on the Sherman issue. Newly elected Chairman Musa Bility of the Liberty Party, another CPP member, was found guilty by FIFA in 2019 of corruption. He was President of Liberia Football Association and executive member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). FIFA investigation found him “guilty of having misappropriated FIFA funds, as well as having received benefits and found himself in situations of conflict of interest, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics”.

While some members of the party have called for his resignation from the position, CPP has been silenced on the matter. Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Abraham Dillon of the Liberty Party supported his election. Senator Lawrence is the political leader of the party and is the current chair of CPP. She is not nationally known and has not tried presidential politics.

Vandalark R. Patricks and others have named the CPP as Corrupt Political Party. Though it won many seats in this election, some Liberians feel that because of its corrupt nature, it is not ready for state power. It has no moral standing against the ruling party. Meanwhile, some Loffa politicians viewed Samukai’s conviction as a witch hunt and vowed to mobilize other kinsmen to pay for the money on his behalf. This has brought public debate as the majority considered the move a bad precedent, which would encourage public corruption. It means that an official can steal public funds and if found guilty, his or her ethnic group can pay back the money to set him or her free.

When Samukai applied to NEC to run for the Senate, a concerned group in Loffa complained against the application because of his conviction. But NEC allowed the application to proceed because of his appeal to the Supreme Court and could not deprive him of running. The Ministry of Justice could not also write to stop the application for the same reason. Now that the high court has confirmed the conviction, the group and other entities petitioned NEC not to certificate him and to null and void his election. Cyrennius Cephus, Liberian Solicitor General of the Ministry of Justice, wrote NEC not to certificate Samukia. The letter stated that the Liberian Constitution forbids a convicted criminal from taking public office. While some Liberians support the petition against Samukai, others, including Benoni Urey, the political leader of the All Liberians Party, a member of CPP, back Samukia and view that the petition is political.

Urey headed the Liberian Commissioner of Maritime Affairs under former President Charles Taylor. In 2000, the UN sanctioned him “for his alleged role in arms procurement. His name was added to the US Treasury Department‘s Special Designated Nationals list, prohibiting him from conducting business with US companies, citizens and residents, and blocking all US-based assets. A 2005 report from the Coalition for International Justice reported that Urey helped Taylor "siphon off" funds from a shipping firm to pay for arms and was the primary contact between Taylor and Viktor Bout”.

The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) named Urey for committing economic crimes in the TRC final report on the Liberian civil war. The UN later stopped the sanction. It was said that the Treasury did the same. He ran for president of Liberia in the 2017 Election but lost gaining less than 5% of the votes.

CPP Senator Dillon called the Solicitor General’s letter to NEC unconstitutional, an embarrassment and had the Senate called in the minister to give clarity for the correspondence. Though the minister gave legal reasons, the Senate, by Senator Lawrence’s motion, voted for the Justice Ministry to withdraw the letter. CDC representative Moses Acarous Gray criticized the Senate’s action and defended the solicitor general’s correspondence. This was a classic displace of partisan politics. The legislators would not have reacted had the letter was in their party’s interest.

On February 24, the Supreme Court trashed the petition against Samukai and ruled in his favor. NEC should certificate him soon. Several Liberians have expressed dissatisfaction in many of the rulings of the high court regarding this election. They pointed out the inconsistency of the decisions. Even some of the elected officials are said, according to an editorial of the FrontPage Africa, to “argue that the Supreme Court of Liberia is in violation of the constitution”, a statement “which suggests (that) there may be more trouble for future elections, particularly the upcoming 2023 General and Presidential elections”.

The above editorial expression is of concern. If there are problems now with the election of 15 senators and 2 representatives, there could be “more troubles” with the election of 73 representatives and an election of a president in 2023. Thus, both NEC and the Supreme Court need to do much better for a fair and peaceful electoral process in the future.

If CDC continues its arrogant approach as discussed before, the party could be a one-term administration and would disappoint the masses that brought it into power. The loss would also make things difficult for a young person of the soil from a poor background to gain the presidency. But the defeat in this election could be a wake-up call for the party to do the people's business. As occurred in the US, the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton and Obama lost the midterm elections of 1994 and 2010 but it bounced back for successful reelections in 1996 and 2012 respectively.

In addition to the victories of opposition parties, one other interesting element of this election is the success of independent senatorial candidates. The number of winning independent candidates is the most in previous senatorial races. Independent candidacy is relatively new in Liberian electoral politics. Historically, the True Whig Party has dominated elections in the country for over 100 years from 1870 to 1980. With the advent of multi-party democracy in the 1980s, over fifteen political parties have entered the arena. But almost all have been organized structures. Individual politicians have avoided trying on their own and therefore allied with the established institutions. Bernard Benson, who unsuccessfully tried for the 2018 and 2020 Montserrado Senatorial elections, commented that independent candidacy takes a lot of money and energy. The independent candidate operates at the disadvantage. Everything falls on his or her shoulder. But with an organized party, the campaign costs and logistics are largely handled by the party, though the candidate must contribute some funds. Some politicians ran as independents because they did not win their parties primaries and were unhappy with the results.

While it is unknown how well the winning independent candidates would do politically, the victory deserves to be applauded. It could reduce the number of political parties in an election and minimize the dependency on mainstream political parties for electoral participation. There would not be primary and inside politicking. Independently, a well-prepared politician can enter the game and possibly win.

In other countries, independent politicians upon victory tend to gradually ally with the established parties, mostly the ruling party for survival. Perhaps, cognizant of this, Alexander Cummings, outgoing chairman of CPP, expressed that the party intends to approach the newly elected independent senators to join CPP. This would strengthen the party’s standing in the legislature. CDC would certainly do the same. In 2018, Edward Flomo won the District 13 Montserrado representative election as an independent. But in a few months in the House, he joined CDC and became a strong supporter. Representative Yekeh Kulubah of Montserrado County, upon ascendency to the House as an independent, became a member of the Alternative National Congress.

Most of the independently elected senators are financially well-off. Let us take Edwin Snowe for instance. He became the speaker of the House after the 2005 election. After his removal from the position, he ran successfully for two-terms as a UP representative for Montserrado County. In 2017 he moved to Bomi County and won the election that year as representative. He left the Unity Party and ran on his own for senator in this election. He owns a large farm in the county and is considered one of the wealthy businessmen in Bomi. He can do well independently in the Senate.

Whether be an independent or a party legislator, the politician to be re-elected must meet the needs and seek the interest of his or her constituents and ultimately the interest of the country. To achieve this goal would require the working cooperation and negotiation with colleagues for the passage of bills; particularly those regard state or county projects. A good relation with the speaker or with the senate pro-tempore could lead to an appointment to committee membership. The chairmanship of a committee is influential and powerful.

Specifically in the United States, the legislature is one recruiting ground for the presidency. It is the field for national leadership. Therefore, an election to the Senate or the House is very important.

On February 18, the Liberian legislators summoned the National Elections Commissioners to give reasons why they have not timely completed adjudicating election cases and certificating the remaining senators-elect. The legislators gave NEC 5 days to report to the body for imprisonment for a constitutional violation. Article 83 C of the Liberian Constitution gives NEC 30 days to resolve election complaints. The legislators indeed have the power to call in an appointed official to give reasons for an action and can give a vote of no confidence on the official, but it is not known or clear if the legislators can imprison an official or officials. A radio talk show host and a political leader of an opposition party called the Senate’s decision a joke.

However, because 5 elected senators have not been certificated, the Senate lacks quorum in some deliberations. But part of the reason for the delay in the certification is that a losing candidate can appeal NEC’s ruling to the Supreme Court. The Court sometimes can take longer to decide on the appeal. On the fifth day, the Supreme Court placed a writ of prohibition on the Senate’s action, indicating that the legislators have no power to interpret the constitution.

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