Liberia: Nine Counties Under-represented at the Senate
MONROVIA – It appears that the multiple legal actions filed against the conduct of the just ended December 8, 2020 senatorial and representative by elections in Liberia by some defeated candidates are strangulating adequate representation and impeding legislative debates and decisions intended to help improve the living conditions of citizens and guarantee sustainable developments across the country.
The situation comes as political debates, activities, intensify at Capitol Hill, and newly elected Senators’ recent vow to continue to checkmate the Executive and put more pressure on the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government of President George Manneh Weah to deliver to the Liberian people.
Following the conduct of the political processes and subsequent declaration of winners by the National Elections Commission, several defeated candidates filed separate legal complaints before the NEC and the Supreme Court respectively.
The defeated candidates claimed that the electoral processes conducted in their respective counties were marred with multiple fraud and irregularities.
The counties that remain under represented at the 54th National Legislature due to legal proceedings filed against the senatorial elections include: Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, River Cess, Lofa, Grand Kru, Maryland, Gbarpolu, Sinoe and Nimba Counties respectively.
In Grand Cape Mount County, the defeated senatorial candidate of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Victor Varney Watson, filed a complaint at the NEC, alleging of double registration and voting, counting of invalid votes in favor of Senator-elect Taylor, and inflicting numbers on the records of account.
His complaint was filed after the NEC declared Simeon Taylor of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), as the winner of the election.
Watson lawyer’s latest action taken to call on the Board of Commissioners (BOC) of the NEC to recall its Hearing Officer, Fumba Swaray, on grounds that he (Swaray) was proceeding wrongly and denied their request for the Clerk of the Court to produce copies of the minutes of the Co-respondent first witness, Mr. Simeon Taylor to properly prepare them for the cross-examination, was quashed by the BOC.
The case was sent back to Hearing Officer Swaray for the entertaining of rebuttal witnesses, final argument and conclusion.
Ahmed Kromah and James Mallay, and Kessellee Gayflor and Peter Flomo of Lofa also filed appeals to the Supreme Court of Liberia after the BOC sustained the election of Senator-elect Brownie Samukai.
Ruling into the electoral case of fraud and irregularities filed by CPP defeated candidate Edith Gongloe-Weh against the declared winner Jeremiah Koung, is pending ruling by the assigned Hearing Officer, while the case between Madam Grace Scotland Brimah and the NEC/CDC is also being heard by the Hearing Officer at the commission.
In Bomi County, the NEC thrashed a complaint filed against the electoral process by CDC senatorial candidate former House Speaker Alex Tyler. But an appeal was filed to the Supreme Court from the BOC’s decision, affirming the Hearing officer’s ruling and re-affirming Hon. Snowe as the winner.
Senator-elect Snowe won 16,476 votes, while Tyler got 8, 834.
In Grand Kru County, defeated senatorial candidate, Nathaniel Barway, who is also the current Representative of electoral district # 1, filed a complaint against the senatorial election conducted in the county and called for a recount of the entire 113 polling places.
He had earlier called for re-run in three polling places in the county, something which was done by the NEC.
But Representative Barway’s decision taken to call for re-run at all of the 113 polling places was not granted by the Hearing Officer as well as the Board of Commissioners of the NEC.
The ruling compelled the defeated Grand Kru County Senatorial Candidate to file a complaint to the Supreme Court.
Senator-elect Bartekwa accumulated 3,679 votes, while Representative Barway got 3,579 votes out of the total valid votes cast.
According to the NEC, the winner of the Grand Gedeh County Senatorial election, Representative Zoe Emmanuel Pennue is being certificated as the winner.
The electoral case between Senator-elect Wellington Geevon Smith and defeated candidate Steve Tequah is also before the Supreme Court on Appeal from the BOC’s decision to have the remaining 104 polling places recounted.
In Gbarpolu County, the results of the senatorial election have not been announced due to the Supreme Court’s stay order on the petition filed by defeated CDC candidate Representative Alfred Koiwood.
He complained of electoral violence against the smooth conduct of the process.
The Board of Commissioners of the NEC is yet to give a ruling on the matter.
Legal actions were also instituted against the two Representative by-elections that were jointly conducted along with the sensational election and national referendum in Montserrado county district # 9, and Sinoe County District # 2.
In Montserrado, the CPP filed a legal process against the December 8 polls, after the ruling party candidate Saah Foko was declared the winner.
A Bill of Exception was filed on February 15 by the Appellant and it is currently awaiting the Board’s signature.
As for the Sinoe case which was filed by defeated candidate Othello D. Nagba of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), ruling is pending by the Hearing Officer.
Though these electoral cases are being adjudicated by the National Elections Commission (NEC), through either its Hearing Officers or the Board of Commissioners and the Supreme Court, mounting concerns are being expressed by citizens over the prolong delay for these cases to be settled in a timely manner.
The situation is said to be denying citizens their right to adequate representation at the level of the first branch of the Liberian government-the Legislature.
Counties that have been affected as a result of the prolong delay in the adjudication of electoral cases before the NEC and the Supreme Court are experiencing difficulties due to the fact only one Senator each is representing their interests at the Senate.
The situation makes it impossible for Senators who are already seated to liaise with their colleagues before debating key issues or taking votes during deliberations on legislative matters.
Most often, legislative decisions taken by lawmakers are reached based upon a legislative caucus’ consent, or the will of the people.
Lawmakers are normally seen moving from their regular seats and engaging their colleagues, especially those hailing from their counties or political parties during deliberations, in a bid to solicit views or inform their votes during key legislative discussions.
There are reports that citizens of some of the underrepresented counties are planning to stage peaceful protests if these cases are not finally adjudicated in a timely manner to give them fair representation as compare to other counties that are ably represented in the national legislature.