Liberia: Govt to Conduct Four By-elections

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MONROVIA – Now that the dust is gradually settling, it has become clear that the Government of Liberia has a Herculean task of raising extra money for by-elections in four counties. This is due to the election of four members of the House of Representatives who go elected to the senate as per the National Election Commission record so far.

The by-elections will be held in Senjeh District, Bomi County because the county elected Edwin Snowe to the Senate. Bong County District #2 will have a by-election for due to the election of Prince Moye to the Senate. Also, in Nimba County, Representative Jeremiah Koung has left a vacant seat in District #1. While in Grand Gedeh County, NEC will have to conduct to find a replacement for Representative Zoe-Emmanuel Pennue.

This is coming when the government is faced with a huge task of underwriting the cost of the just-ended Special Senatorial Mid-term election. According to reports, the Government of Liberia is yet to provide the remaining money of a reduced US$13 million budget for the just ended electoral process.

Many who spoke against electing a sitting lawmaker argued that budget for these expected by-elections could be used to fund several government projects in around the country. It could be used to support government road construction, Health system revitalization and provision of quality education for Liberians.

When Madam Davidetta Brown-Lansannah took over the NEC from its former chair Jerome Korkoyah, she reduced the previously submitted US$17.8 million budget for the December 8 polls to US$13.5 million, a reduction of 27 percent. That move was praised by both the government and the international development partners.

Before the end of his tenure, Cllr. Kokoyah, submitted a budget in the tone of US$23m to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. After rigorous reviews, the budget was reduced by US$ 5.2m or 23 percent.

In February, Cllr. Korkoya, appearing before the Senate, expressed doubts over the possibility of conducting a “credible election” in 2020, due to the Commission being beyond schedule to implement some pre-election activities.

The former NEC chair told Senators that up to time of his speaking, NEC was yet to receive a dime from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning of the US$17 million budget needed for the conduct of the election. 

Further, the NEC boss told the lawmakers that, since December 2019, where a commitment of US$7 million was made to get started, the Finance Minister is yet to make good on the commitment. He further stated that he had been informed by Minister Samuel Tweah that there was no allotment in the budget for the election and that he (Tweah) needed to seek approval from the Legislature to source funding for the election. “In my little experience, I do not believe we can achieve all that we should be doing by now effectively in keeping with transparency that should characterize the Special Senatorial Election in October of this year,” Tweah said at the time. “And in term of how late we are, I think we are very late.”

Even after the reduction, the government and development partners insisted that there was still a need for a further reduction but Kokoya and other Commissioners insisted that any more cuts would compromise the integrity of the elections.

The continuation of the examination and reduction of the budget for the midterm elections was now left to the new administration, chaired by Brown-Lassanah. After taking over as chair, she and her team immediately undertook a further review of the budget. That laborious review lasting for nearly two months, the budget was further slashed by 27 percent, bringing the total budget down from US$17.8 million to US$13.5 million, a difference of US$4.3 million.

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