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Ascendency Clause vs Election

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 -As senators battle for Pro-tempt post

Serious consultations are reportedly ongoing among Members of the Liberian Senate in search for the replacement of outgoing Grand Bassa County Senator Milton G. Findley as President Pro Tempore ahead of  their election in early January of next year.

Some of the newly elected Senators are also involved.

The consultations (lobbying) follow last Saturday’s announcement of the official and final results of the 2014 Special Senatorial Elections by the National Elections Commission or NEC.

While consultations are ongoing for the election for the new President Pro Tempore, the argument of ascendency over election is also being advanced.

Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morais, who is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Liberian Senate, has announced that there is no vacancy at the Senate, and that only the ascendency clause will be invoked by him.

Senator Morais said he will invoke the ascendency clause in the Constitution of Liberia giving the power to the President Pro Tempore to preside in the absence of the President of the Senate (the Vice President of Liberia), and as well as the Chairman on Foreign Relations (him) in the absence of the Chairman on the Executive (who, he said, shall preside in the absence of the President Pro Tempore).

Senator Morais’ argument is that since both President Pro Tempore Milton G. Findley and Chairman on the Executive, Senator Clarice Jah were not re-elected, it was a glaring fact that he ascends to end the remaining three years of the outgoing Pro Tempore Findley.

Morais, who won on the ticket of the National Patriotic Party or NPP, intimated that Article 47 of the Liberian Constitution and rule 11 of the Senate’s standing law give him the sole authority to ascend to such administrative post of the senate.

As it relates to the leadership structure, Sen. Morais is fourth in command and he’s the highest ranking officer in charge of the senate since the December 20, 2014 Special Senatorial Elections.

But the same Article 47 cited by the Maryland County Senator says “the Senate shall elect once every six years a President Pro Tempore, who shall preside in the absence of the President of the Senate, and such officers shall ensure the proper functioning of the Senate. The President Pro Tempore and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the Senate.”

However, there is no precedence where the ascendency clause of the leadership structure has been invoked. It can be recalled that when former Speaker Edwin Melvin Snowe was forcibly removed as head for the House of Representatives, the Deputy Speaker at the time, Representative Tokpah Mulbah of Bong County remained in his position and the election was conducted, bringing on board Speaker Alex Tyler as head of the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, when Grand Gedeh County Senator Isaac Nyenabo resigned as President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate in 2008, there was election conducted to bring on board Senator Cletus Wotorson as his replacement.

But many senators, who confided in this paper, said there will be elections for the positions of President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate and all Chairmen of Statutory committees.

It is a known fact that plenary of both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate are masters of their own rules, i.e, the plenary of the Liberian Senate can suspend its rules by two-thirds of the membership.

Meanwhile, names have begum emerging for the position of President Pro Tempore. The Political Leader of the Congress for Democratic Change or CDC and Senator-elect George Mannah Weah is reportedly holding consultations with a few senators to be President Pro Tempore. His decision is being influenced by a few of his CDC inner-circles. With what it takes for such position, in terms of leadership characteristics and traits, especially the ability to understand and express national issues, Senator-elect Weah may not need the same fame or popularity as the just-ended elections.

Bong County Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor will still attempt as she’s reported to have expressed to a few colleagues following her victory. But her ‘weakness’ and political instability as they relate to her official interactions with her colleagues. According to many of her colleagues who confided in this paper, could deny her. Further more,mmany of her colleagues regard her as someone very quick to compromise and may ‘sell out’ to the Executive quickly.

The National Chairman of the ruling Unity Party, Cllr. Varney Sherman is among a few heavy weights at the center of discussions in certain quarters of the Liberian society for the position. But of serious threat to his ambition should he attempt may be regional and party politics, considering the fact that he, Speaker Alex Tyler and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are from the western region of the country and the same Unity Party. Moreover, the current fifteen Senators may want to make experience and continuity as key requirements for any eyeing such position.

Also among the few ‘heavy weights’ being tipped is Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper- a Senator regarded by many of his colleagues as an independent mind who command high respect, despite his whatever relationship with which he’s attached.  Perhaps, that’s why a few colleagues are currently engaging him to consider vying for the job. But Executive influence may be a serious obstacle because of his independence. His colleagues also see him as an influential stabilizer and the only Senator who commutes daily to work between his farm in Margibi County and the Capitol Building. For continuity and his experience, he could a potential candidate come early January.

Former Presidential contender, Sen. Armah Jallah of the National Patriotic Party is reportedly building a block within a group of senators  did not participate in the just-ended election, probably, in his quest for the post. A fine and experienced Senator, Ammah Jallah also attracts a high degree of respect from his colleagues, and such qualities are something to go by, he could be well positioned among his colleagues. 

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