Liberia: Several Lawmakers Begin Intense Lobbying Following the Announcement of Vacancy for Deputy Speaker Post

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Capitol Hill, Monrovia – FrontPage Africa can confirm that there are ongoing intense lobbying amongst members of the House of Representatives following the pronouncement of a vacancy for the post of a Deputy Speaker by House Speaker Bhofal Chambers.

The post was left vacant following the election of then Deputy Speaker Prince Moye as Senator of Bong County in the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Elections.

Prior to the reconvening of the House following its legislative break, several lawmakers from various political parties as well as independent legislators have been trumpeting their desire to replace Mr. Moye after his ascendancy to the Upper House.

Unsurprisingly, Monday’s session, which marked the official opening of the Fourth Sitting of the 54th Legislature was not only dominated by discussions on the crippling economy, but the election for Deputy Speaker, as some heavyweight lawmakers on Capitol Hill reaffirmed their desires to throw their hats in the ring for the battle of the second highest position among equals at the House of Representatives.

Some of the names that are still making headways include Reps. J. Fonati Koffa (CDC, District #2, Grand Kru County), Samuel Kogar (People’s Unification Party, District 5, Nimba County), Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (Liberia Transformation Party, District #4, Montserrado County), Moima Briggs-Mensah (IND, District #6, Bong), Johnson Gwaikolo (CPP, District #9, Nimba County), Clarence Massaquoi (CPP, District #3, Lofa County), Richard Koon (CPP, District #11, Montserrado County) and Yekeh Kolubah (CPP, District #10, Montserrado County).

The House’s Rules call for the election of a Speaker and Deputy Speaker after every six years, but they can be replaced in the wake of death, resignation inability or other forms of disabilities through elections. According to Rule 6.2, during the election of a deputy Speaker, the Speaker of the House shall preside.

House gets Legal Backing

During Monday’s session, the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mildred Sayon read the communication from the National Elections Commission (NEC), informing the House that Rep. Prince Moye has been declared winner of the Bong County Senatorial race and the information constitutes the legal basis for the conduct of an election to fill the void.

“I have before me a legal document from the National Elections Commission that informs this August body that Hon. Prince K. Moye, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who participated in the midterm senatorial elections has been declared winner of the race in Bong County,” Ms. Sayon said.

 “And his election to that position creates a vacancy in the structure of the leadership of the House of Representatives. So, Mr. Speaker, this information constitutes the legal authority in ensuring that a deputy speaker is elected in the earliest convenient time for the leadership of this House to be completed.”

With that said, Speaker Chambers declared the process opened and called on every member desiring to contest to follow the legislative procedures, hinting that the process might continue today, Tuesday, January 12.

Intensive Lobbying Gets Underway

As the race edges ever closer, robust consultations are currently ongoing with several presumptive candidates reaffirming their respective candidatures to a team of Capitol Building reporters on Monday.

“I know that we have done extensive consultations, and we are still in close consultation with our colleagues and they are going very well. I am very confident that I will be a candidate with the blessings of my colleagues. We are having conversations across the floor; the numbers are aligning and realigning, because in politics, there are alignments and realignments. But at the end of the day, we will come up with positive results,” said Rep, Massaquoi, who has been endorsed by the Collaborating Political Parties’ Caucus at the House.

in a statement issued late Monday, the CPP Caucus said they were supporting Representative Massaquoi owing to cross-cutting  leadership skills, knowledge, and intellectual prowess.

For her part, Rep. Dennis debunked reports that she has backed off, adding, she was in the race to represent and inspire her generation and gender.

“I am still a contender and I am standing for my generation and my gender. And I am positive that we will have a good standing… Consultations are ongoing and everything is still open and anything can happen,” she said.

Speaking further, Rep. Dennis, a firebrand lawmaker who played an instrumental role in lobbying for a pro-war crimes court resolution to attain a two-third majority signatures in 2019, refuted claim that if elected as Deputy Speaker, she will be less effective because she will no longer be actively debating on the floor. She noted that as Deputy Speaker, she will be an ex-officio of every committee and will have the leverage to lobby with her colleagues to achieve her legislative agenda.

Her female colleague, Rep. Briggs-Mensah also told reporters that she remains a formidable candidate for the post of Deputy Speaker. The Bong County lawmaker rubbished the perception that having more than one female candidates will diminish their chances of winning.

“I decided to join the race at the request of my colleagues, and as far as I am concerned I remain a formidable candidates until the last whistle is blown,” she averred.

“Once you can win an election and come here, you are capable of being anything… I contested as an independent candidates along with 16 other persons and I won. So, I did not come here as a weakling. I came knowing that Liberia is a men’s world and we [women] have to withstand any tension that comes.”

There are reports on Capitol Hill that the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change is heavily leading the fight to ensure that Rep. Koffa is elected, and that he has attained the required numbers to win. But responding, the Grand Kru County lawmaker said he is certainly a contender and is still lobbying with his colleagues to prove his case and was not dwelling on rumors.

“Certainly I intend to enter my name for nomination for the post of Deputy Speaker. We have been trying to consult to make the case to our colleagues, and I hope we are successful when the vote is called. And I hope that it is called as soon as possible,” he told a team of reporters in the corridors of the Capitol Building on his way from a brief meeting with Speaker Chambers.

Functions of Deputy Speaker

Beside the hefty budget allotted to the office of the Deputy Speaker, the occupant of the post becomes the second highest ranking member of the House of Representatives.

As outlined in Rule Eight of the Rules and Procedures of the House of Representatives, “In the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker of the Honorable House of Representatives shall preside over the sitting of the August Body and shall exercise all rights and powers assigned to the Speaker.”

 The Deputy Speaker also “assist the Speaker in the discharge of his/her functions, and he/she shall perform such duties as the Speaker shall delegate or deem appropriate and shall also initial any financial and other transactions prior to the approval of the Speaker. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker shall serve as Ex-Officials of all committees.” 

Meanwhile, any candidate who emerges victorious will complete the unexpired term of the former Deputy Speaker, and by counting, this will be in 2023.

This report has been updated to include the endorsement of Rep. Clarence Massaquoi by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Caucus at the House of Representatives.

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