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Legislative Politics in Action: Election Fever in Both Houses

As Legislative politics become more and more pronounced each day for elective positions, alliances are being strengthened, threatened, or subtracted from. There are some Legislators who believe there is nothing in there for them. Others believe their association with blocs or alliances may earn them respectable and lucrative positions; while there are yet others who believe in the good alignment of their pockets to defray campaign expenses and improve their current home economies. Whatever is the case, the heat is on.

However, the numerical force and velocity which greeted the speakership position of the House of Representatives have been reduced. There have, at least, been a try to reach some compromises. But this does not however remove the current speaker from the danger line. To clink to the third most powerful position in the power structure of the state, Honorable Alex Tyler still has an uphill task unless a deal is truck with the newcomers. The Newcomers’ Bloc is headed by Representative elect, Richmond Anderson, a former two times Deputy Minister of Information, lecturer of Mass communication at the University of Liberia and President of the Smart Institute. The formation of the bloc began when Anderson sought to bring new members of the House together to create a common focus that would enable them to best represent their constituents. Informed sources say that the first meeting held at a local restaurant brought together thirteen new comers with the assistance of Nimba County Representative elect, Richard Tingban.

Unfortunately, the meeting did lost its original purpose when ambition overtook the agenda with Honorable Richard Tingban and Honorable Rick Toweh of the same county announcing their intents to contest the speakership.  This engendered mixed feelings and occasioned a sense of non-direction. The Anderson’s efforts to establish a working purpose and strategy for a productive tenure became a controversy.  However, Representative elect, Hon. Alex Grant of Grand Gedeh County took the initiative to bring together once again newly elected representatives at a local hotel. That meeting became a decisive forum on where the incoming Representatives stood and what would generally become their focus. About twenty six newly certificated representatives attended.

The forum elected Richmond Anderson to spearhead the creation of Newcomers formidable bloc with a composition of now over forty. To balance the gender aspect, Representative elect of Lofa County Maiama Fofana was preferred as Vice Chairperson while the organizer of that forum, Honorable Alex Grant became its Secretary General.

The first challenge of the bloc is to deal with the Tingban and Toweh divide over the speakership.  With the assistance of the Nimba Legislative Caucus and elders of Nimba County, the Anderson’s bloc is reported to have successfully dealt with that divide; thus giving Rick Toweh a clean and uncontestable opportunity in keeping with a consensus reached with Honorable Tingban. Regrettably however in recent times, Honorable Tingban is said not to be honoring his decision to give way to Toweh. His actions, if pursued, would be the beginning of a bleak future for the Anderson’s bloc. It is further predicted that his vacillating position may threaten the confidence of representatives. Nevertheless, with the new comers having a total of forty seven seats, a sustained unity amongst them could give Rick Toweh a win in the seventy seated House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, recent development within the bloc appears to threaten Rick Toweh’s chances. The surreptitious sneaking of journalists into a meeting which was deemed secret and the ditching out of transportation envelopes to attendants in the glare of press men by Rick Toweh has discredited the bloc’s decision to present Toweh as a morally accepted candidate as the public is made to believe his choice is the result of financial inducement. This has infuriated his colleagues and has invoked confidence crisis in Rick who fingers are pointed to as the master-mind. They believe Rick’s recklessness has brought them into public disrepute and as such, he might be the wrong choice for such high profile position. Honorable Richmond Anderson, head of the bloc and known to be a man of propriety and honesty debunked news reports and clarified that Rick had been preferred before his magnanimous gesture to pay attendants’ fare without solicitation and intent to induce.

As the democratic game is still being played, there are plans by some new lawmakers to return to the drawing board. This time, it is presumed that a deal might be struck with the current speaker to give the deputy speaker slut and some important leadership positions to the new lawmakers in exchange for their joint support. In their view, this would provide an opportunity for them to first understand the system rather than placing Rick Toweh in such high profile position without the experience and knowhow. If this deal materializes, Representative Elect, Alex Grant may stand a chance to become deputy speaker. This would end Rick Toweh and Richard Tingban ambitions according to inside sources.  

What would then be the chances of Maryland County Representative Chambers who seeks the deputy speaker position? Dr. Chamber is an experienced old guy who is seeking the endorsement of the newcomers. It is believed the CDC with nine seats is determined to divert their support from the current Deputy Speaker Honorable Togba Mulbah to Dr. Chamber. Sources say Chamber chances are slim if he fails to get the support of the new legislators. His chances are also endangered by what his colleagues described as his confrontational attitudes against the executive and callous disrespect for the presidency in the name of representing his people’s interests. They claim that the rules of public decency and constructive engagement with the presidency has been broken by him and could damage Executive/Legislative relationship if he is elected deputy speaker;  much the same way as it is affecting the good of his people.

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It is reported that Dr. Chambers broke the rules of national politics, constructive engagement and a vital principle of constituent representation by going too personal in his public attacks against the President and his public refusal to shake hands with the President during the certification programme at the National Elections Commission. But, Honorable Ascarous Gray, the CDC Secretary General, a party which Dr. Chamber aligns with, congratulated the President and told his constituents that though he vehemently opposed the President during the elections; yet he believes Liberia’s interest must be placed first. That was magnanimous and a demonstration of maturity and statesmanship according to political pundits.

There are also indications that strongman Edwin Snowe is untying his hands from Speaker Tyler in an effort to build his campaign machine for the speakership. This, according to legislative analysts, is the result of bickering within the Unity Party whether to support or not to support Honorable Tyler due to the fact that he and the President are from the same county.there is no constitutional breach however.  If this should be finalized, Edwin Snowe could emerge as the U. P.’s Choice.

Digging into Senator Jewel Howard’s Ambition

On the Senate Wing, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor still remains the most formidable. The ruling Unity Party membership of the Senate is still divided with no consensus built. Senators Ballout and Findley are each committed to unseat Honorable Cletus Wotorson, current President Protempore of the Senate and U.P. Campaign General Manager. Senator Findley did serve the U. P. as Campaign Manager for Grand Bassa County and is considered by colleagues as a U.P. Partisan even though he is an Independent. Would the President/Standard Bearer intervene? There are indications that she might not intervene but would leave the matter with the trio to work out a compromise.

Why do they want to become President Protempore of the Liberian Senate? Is it simply the exercise of their constitutional and democratic rights? What are they bringing to the table? Senator Findley believes his entry would bring trust and respectability to the Senate. He wants to build unity in diversities among senators and essentially equality. The Bassa Senator who once ran for the coveted position said the idea of building bloc is a democratic exercise; yet it infringes on the rights of some senators. He believes building bloc is to serve essentially the interests of bloc members. The Senator is confident of victory and says both incoming and current senators would do evaluation of contestants’ records and would find him not wanting but best suitable and capable for the job.

For her part, the un-maverick Senior Senator of Bong County is attached to a majority bloc and hopes to bring to the table collectivity of views and opinions that would transform the Liberian Senate. The former First Lady of Liberia holds two bachelors degree; one in economics from the University of Liberia and one in Banking from the American Institute of Banking in New Jersy. She also holds two masters degree; one in Business Administration with concentration in Finance from the Cuttington University College; and one in Professional Banking from the American Institute of Banking in New Jersey. Senator Taylor says in other to impact society, there has to be high on the senate’s agenda what policy makers might refer to as Domestic Policy Realization (DPR). To attain this realization, the Senate under her administration would pursue what she calls “THE NEW AGENDA FOR LIBERIA” (NAL).

Unlike the past, Senator Taylor says the New Agenda is not about the interests of Senators; though their dignities, honors, and representation facilitation must remain a priority, the new agenda will seek to cordially, respectfully, and productively work with the Executive Branch through excellent coordination without compromising the balance of power.  She hopes to work with her colleagues and principally the President to provide opportunities for disadvantaged young Liberians.

Senator Taylor says the Legislature should not see itself as an opposing branch to the Executive but the branch that buttresses Executive efforts to bring development to constituencies as mandated by the organic laws of the nation. She believes it is now time to make Liberians a conspicuous part of the growth of Liberia and to introduce the Local Content Law (LCL) which deals with Liberian partnership during investment considerations and community participation during concession agreements. The enunciation of the LCL will bring Liberians into the mainstream of the industrial, manufacture, and agricultural economies. She says this is possible when the Executive and Legislative branches coordinate and debate national programmes in an atmosphere of cordiality, honesty, and the principles of check and balance as well as the ideals of democracy.

Stating further her reasons for aspiring for the leadership of the Senate, Senator Taylor divulged other contents in the New Agenda for Liberia such as making the Liberianization Policy effective and workable by the amendments of the Act of Legislature which created the policy to include perhaps the Liberian Entrepreneurial Development Initiative or Commission that would provide technical, supervisory, and loan guarantee services to Liberian entrepreneurs. She hopes that jointly, the Executive and the Senate would work out possibilities to break foreign dominance over the Liberian economy.

On the local government level, she hopes to work with her colleagues and the president for the empowerment of local chiefs by ensuring their own budgetary appropriations and accounts opened under their signatures. The Senator says this will bring dignity to them; and for them to have a say in the development of their chiefdoms. Mrs. Taylor and her bloc members say they will bridge the gap of understanding between the public and the senate by taking the Senate to the people. This will be done by putting in place mechanisms for regular community engagements with the senate and regular radio and television programmes. According to her, the public would understand what is being done in the Senate and the collaboration between the Executive and the Legislature in assuring the development of the nation.

If considered by her colleagues, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor told this Columnist that her ambition would be the efficiency of oversight committees and methods to create productive and none-frictional relationships with the Executive and Judicial Branches of Government. In her view, both branches and legislative oversight committees would be able to interact and coordinate views before submissions are made to Plenary. When this is done, Senator Taylor says the Office of the President and the Senate will not experience conflicts that become disheartening to the public.     

Would the President be comfortable with Jewel Howard Taylor as head of the Senate? The Senator responded in the affirmative. She believes the President has just bagged a Nobel Prize for women empowerment and this is a test case for her. Some legislators also spoken to say the President’s support for Senator Taylor will declare to Liberians and the world her commitment to national healing and reconciliation. According to Senator Taylor, there is one cord which binds the President and her together and that is the love both of them have for Liberia irrespective of where they stood during the campaign. “I have congratulated her and declared that Liberia must be placed first,” Senator Taylor told Thoughts, Politics, and People.

As noble as Senator Taylor’s vision for the Senate is, there are many Liberians who expressed strong conviction that the UN Sanction may hurt her chances. But what are members of her bloc in the Senate think?  In a chat with a few of them who prefer anonymity, the bloc members believe that the original fears of the UN have been out lived as Senator Taylor has demonstrated her services to the peace and stability of Liberia. She cannot be found wanting and dangerous to Liberia’s peace and democracy. They believe she is a decent Liberian who the international community should cherish and given an opportunity to contribute her quota without the impediments of sanctions..

Thoughts, Politics, and People is set to present the vision of other contestants in its next edition. In conclusion, the race to the Senate lofty office may be competing. It is also believe the language of cash for position may dominate vision, principle, and nationalism. We hope that Senators and Representatives will exercise integrity and justify the confidence constituents reposed in them.

See you next week Thursday.

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