Who Lead in Both Houses? Legislative Politics In Action
Liberia’s democracy is fast growing into maturity though there are yet a lot of works to be done for some political actors to fully grasp the beauty of it. Like never before, this era is one in which none can proclaim the dominance of a particular political class. The doors to the presidency, vice presidency, national legislature and other elective or public offices have been flung open to all irrespective of class, social standing, ethnic or religious backgrounds. It is no longer an elite caucus decision. It is rather the decision of the electorate.
What makes this era interesting is the unlimited democratic freedoms and civil liberties which the U.P. Government have allowed. Though regrettably, these freedoms are being exercised in manners by others that encroach on the civic liberties of the rest, yet they have produced an open Liberian society. When confronted, the President of Liberia who in most cases receives the most dastardly attacks and insults would, in a non-exasperated deportment, respond in these words: “didn’t we want democracy? Let the people exercise their democratic and constitutional rights.” Whao! My mind goes running to the Tubman’s, Tolbert’s, Doe’s, and Taylor’s Liberia.
The world stood breathlessly as Liberians demonstrated their new found civil and constitutional liberties during the just ended presidential and general elections. The political vibrations rocked the Liberian topography and hemisphere. The oceans and seas were restless and the clouds became darken. Would Liberia survive the political tsunami that hit her shores? Commentaries were run; columnists were at the best and worst of their analyses; the foreign ministry’s passport section was invaded by trembling Liberians; investors made phone calls and sat at perennial board meetings to analyze unfolded events. All in all, Liberia survived and the hails of commendations from the international community’s still rent the air.
Nevertheless, there are still knees bent in prayers for the peaceful co-existence of all Liberians. The calls for national unity and reconciliation to heal deep wounds caused during the electioneering period cannot be overlooked. Nevertheless, all losers in the legislative and presidential race must also look at the brighter side. Maxwell Maltz requests that we “remember that we will not always win. Some days, the most resourceful individual will taste defeat. But there is always in this case tomorrow-after you have done your best to achieve success today.”
On Capitol Hill, there is another exercise of democracy that is taking place. In this exercise, even the most resource legislator may taste defeat. Losers must realize that their mandate is to serve their constituents and not to boycott sessions or place the legislature into turmoil simply because they lose. After that democratic exercise, we expect good faith and not a pursuit of reconciliation as a consequence of dissatisfied contestants. Who will lead the 53rd?
Legislature? Who are the faces that are set to change the public perception of the Legislature? Interestingly, Legislative politics offer different challenges as the perimeters stretch beyond party considerations. While political parties may seek to vote along their lines, there are obstacles and other considerations that may diffuse the trend.
There is no single party that can obtain the required two-third majority to produce the speaker and President Pro-tempore. There must be alliances or collaborations. These collaborations or alliances may not be on party lines. They could also be regionalized or on the basis of the acceptable legislative practice of lobbyism.
The 52nd Legislature did tried to institute regional blocs; but this was un-successful as other greater interests of members dominated. Would regionalization politics be effective in the 53rd Legislative leadership elections? It is most doubtful. Expectedly, the most effective method may be the lobby politics which could be very expensive and ignore qualifications or partisan relationships.
However, there seems to be a coordination of views that would prefer the opposition to head both Houses. Would the Executive be comfortable? The radical postures of those preferring this trend suggest a body of Legislators that would demonstrate power and strength against the Executive. Analysts are of the view that this kind of posture could re-invent the friction, tension, and lack of rapprochements which existed between the Executive and the Legislature during the emergence of the Ellen’s administration. This could cause a setback for the attainment of the domestic agenda which she is set to accomplish according legislative experts. On the other hand, it is believed that democracy would not be active and inspirational were the U.P. to control both Houses. The balance of power would be offset.
In the race for the Speakership are notable Legislators. Current Speaker Alex Tyler wants to retain the speakership. To his advantage, he has some of his old cronies supported by the influential and tactical mobilizer Edwin Snowe which constitute what observers referred to as the Snowe’s bloc. With U.P’s having the highest representation of 35 legislators and collaborating parties, Alex Tyler appears to have great chances. But the opposition seems to be rationalizing the regional or county factor. They are claiming that Bomi has the Presidency and it would be unfair to give it the third most powerful position in the country. Would this be the undoing of Tyler? One thing is sure in democracy; the minority will have their say; but the majority will have their will and takes the day.
Besides Tyler, there is Edward Forh, Eugene Fallah Kpaka as well as newcomers Richard Toweh, and his kinsman Richard Tingban, both from Nimba County. While the NUDP believes this is the time for U.P. to reciprocate by giving support to Toweh, county politics is also supreme. It is believed that Toweh’s affluence could lead him to throwing around a million dollars to upset the Tyler’s ambition. But reason is prevailing that Nimba Legislative Causus should not split as the result of the speakership. Thus, the possibility of Toweh giving way to Tinban or verse versa is being seriously took at. On the deputy level, Dr. Chambers has thrown himself into the race. It is believed that his bitterness for President Johnson inspires such decision. But most Legislators spoken to says he is qualify and could be a good deputy speaker, but optimistic that Dr. Chambers only purpose is personal vendetta against President Sirleaf and to engage the Executive confrontationally and disrespectfully. In their view, he could be less productive to the House. How true this thought reflects, points to his public utterances.
On the Senate Wing, there are great Senators and some new comers that seek to democratically unseat the current President Protempore. Amongst them is Grand Bassa Senior Senator who is described by his colleagues as honest and straight forward. He once contested but lost. Would his colleagues give him consideration this time? There is the reelected Senator of Sinoe County, Joseph Nagbe, who is referred to as a decent and legal minded Senator with formidabilities. He has charisma and leadership abilities. It is believed the Senate could undergo lot of progressive changes under him. Would he be preferred? There are indicators that he might become the 18th Senator in the Nyenabo’s bloc.Maryland County Senior Senator, John Ballout, rated by students, and members of the public as uncontroversial, frank, eloquent, ambitious and endowed with potentials also has an eye on the lofty position of President Protempore. His dream is to make the Senate respectable as that of the American Congress.
Experts believe that the most formidable is Senator Jewel Howard Taylor who appears to have grasped more than 16 senators. She is an extrovert endowed with leadership abilities, negotiation skills and diplomatic postures. It is believed that under her leadership, the senate will be strengthened. Experts have pointed fingers at Senator Isaac Nyenabo, former President Protempore of the Senate as being the arrow head. He has, according to them, built a powerful political machine in the Senate that staffers referred to as the Nyenabor’s Political Bloc. Senator Taylor is an admired and progressive Senator of that bloc. She is in the opposition camp.
It appears that the current President Protempore who is out of the country may be in deep trouble to retain his position. Sources say though he has modernized the Senate Chamber, reformed the central administration among other achievements, his political status as a U.P. Stalwart may deprive him of victory as Senators are determined to bring in an opposition. Principally, the U. P. Senators totaling about eleven and their collaborators remain adhesive on the issue of the Senate leadership. Unless much is done by other contestants to lobby the Nyenabo’s machinery, congratulations will be extended to Senator Taylor.
As of this writing, it appears that the core position of Senate Secretary may be a white balloting democratic exercise as none seem to come forward that has comparative qualifications and experiences to match the current Secretary of the , Honorable J.Nanborlor F. Singbe Sr. The current senate secretary is versatile and has gain training and experiences from international parliamentary conferences, workshops; training programmes, and understands proficiently the workings of the Liberian Senate with gift of interacting with the Senate and the Executive. Until the winner of both Houses emerged, Thoughts, Politics, and People will make follow ups.