Liberia: Three Horse Race Between PUP, CDC, Independent Candidate in Bong County By-election

District Two, Bong County – It is barely 21 days to the District Two by-election in Bong County and as usual, the candidates are combing the length and breadth of the district to sell their manifestoes. 

There are 12 candidates vying for the coveted seat, declared vacant following the election of the district’s former lawmaker, Prince Moye, who won as senator of Bong County during the 2020 senatorial elections.

They are Edward Gboe, Independent candidate, James Kolleh, of the People’s Unification Party (PUP), Joshua Better of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), J. Mulbah Totaye, Independent candidate, Joe Better, Movement for Liberia Party, Matthew Siakor.

Others are Melvin Salvage of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Jefferson Blackie of the Rainbow Coalition Party, Passawe Yarkpawolo and James Tartor (Independent candidate, but in earnest, the by-election is a three-horse race between Kolleh, Salvage and Gboe.

The decision by CPP Senator Moye to endorse Gboe at the expense of his former chief of office staff Joshua Better has heightened the political atmosphere in the district. 

It has also turned the race into a proxy political fight between Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, District Three lawmaker Marvin Cole and the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, who are all rooting for the ruling party’s candidate Salvage, while PUP stalwart and former District One lawmaker Tokpah J. Mulbah and District Five lawmaker Edward Karfiah are in strong support of Kolleh, and Moye who’s looking to install his successor in Gboe.

Ahead of the 2023 presidential elections, the by-election on November 16 is also seen as a referendum for the popularity of the ruling CDC in Bong, having lost two successive elections to the opposition CPP in the county: 2014 and 2020 senatorial elections.

Factors that will determine the winner in this election will include the candidate’s personality and acceptability, party strength, support of critical segments of the population in the district, policies of the George Weah-led government, manifestos of the parties seeking to upstage it and of course, the party’s financial ability.

However, it must be noted that the projections below are subject to changes in the dynamics of politics as the race is highly unpredictable.

FrontPageAfrica now weighs in on the strengths and weaknesses of the three leading candidates.

Melvin Salvage: Salvage has contested the representative seat in the district once, finishing second to former lawmaker, Moye. In 2017, he contested on the ticket of Liberty Party. But in the pending By-election, he is aspiring on the platform of the ruling establishment.

This time around his ambition to become a lawmaker of the district is unabated. Indeed, Salvage, a native of Gbanshey Clan, has tested his political might and made impressive showings, even though he did not emerge victorious.

The agitation is rife today for Gbansey Clan to produce the next lawmaker in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness and the political wind seemed to be blowing in that direction of power shift.

Salvage has the support of the vice president who always produced impressive showings in District Two in the two elections she won as senator of Bong County in 2005 and 2014. It’s expected that her endorsement of Salvage would pay off considering her huge influence. 

Also, the introduction of a free tuition aid for students launched in Bong County could influence support for Salvage. Many young people in the district desirous of benefiting the tuition aid may support Salvage’s ambition.

Weakness: Savage seems not to be popular in Gbarnga, where fifty percent of the voting population resides. Besides, while many may consider the support of the vice president as a boost to his ambition, there are a faction of agitated partisans of the CDC in the district who have vowed not to support Salvage due to the vice president’s decision not to support the CDC candidate in the 2014 senatorial election in the county.

William Dolo, head of the group calling themselves ‘Disappointed CDcians told FrontPageAfrica: “The vice president didn’t support the party’s candidate in the 2014 senatorial election and this time around we are not going to support her choice of candidate.”

James Kolleh: From being branded as an underdog in the election, Kolleh has emerged as a major factor in the pending by-election – thanks to the support he continues to receive from Margibi County Senator Emmanuel Nuquay and Bong’s District Five lawmaker, Edward Karfiah.

Kolleh has exerted himself having toured the nook and cranny of the district by undertaking landmark projects, including town halls and constructing footpath roads. 

Kolleh’s major strength is his character and sense of purpose as a young man hailing from the district with enough exposure to tackle the developmental needs of the district.

His age is an advantage for him as young voters who form the bulk of District Two seem to want someone as their own as representative.

Weakness: Kolleh has a lot of work to do in Seanshue Clan as FrontPageAfrica’s findings show he’s lagging behind.

Chances: Representative-in-waiting? From all indications the odds are in Kolleh’s favor ahead of the November 16 by-election.

Edward Gboe: His first attempt at politics in 2017 was futile as he lost to Marvin Cole in the race for electoral District Three. If the election in District Two were about qualification Gboe would win unopposed. Of all the aspirants, Gboe, according to many in the district, is qualified and prepared for the job.

Strength:  After a futile attempt in 2017, Gboe, a native of Gbansia Clan, is back with a bang and has demonstrated that by commissioning people-centered projects in the district. 

Gboe’s major strength is the support he continues to garner in every nook and cranny of the district. Gboe has received mammoth endorsements from key stakeholders in his native Gbansia Clan, an area agitating for power shift in the district. 

Weakness: Gboe’s major weakness is that he seen as an introvert person who would struggle to get the support of the youth, who constitute majority of the votes, according to a data released by the National Elections Commission.

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