Liberians are expected to head to the polls on Tuesday December 8, to vote in a referendum and at the same time elect 15 new senators in an election that appears to have split the nation between the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
About 2,476,356 registered voters are expected to turn out tomorrow, a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ votes by two-third of the number of registered voters in the referendum could see a change in the Liberian Constitution or retain it just as is.
Voters will be deciding on 8 prepositions, each of the prepositions is intended to amend different articles within the country’s 1986 Constitution.
The prepositions seek amendments to Article 28 to allow dual citizenship, Article 45 and 48 reduction in Senatorial tenure from the current 9 years to 7 years and reduction in the tenure of Representatives from 6years to 5years respectively. Both Senate Pro-tempt and House Speakers will also see a reduction in their respective tenures from 6years to 5years.
The changes in the Constitution also seek an amendment to Article 50, to have a reduction in the Presidential and Vice Presidential tenures from 6years to 5years. It further seeks to amend Article 83 (a) to change the date of the General Elections from the 2nd Tuesday in October to November.
The ruling CDC has campaigned for a “Yes” vote to all of the prepositions, while the opposition parties led by the CPP, which comprises four parties including the former ruling Unity Party, Liberty Party, All Liberian Party and Alternative National Congress has not been cleared on its message. Rather, the opposition CPP has called for a boycott though it has not officially dismissed the prepositions but insist the time is too short to hold it at this time.
Another sticky issued surrounding this impending referendum is the fear that a change in the Constitution particularly the presidential tenure could reset President George Weah’s time limit, a fear the president has dismissed.
Weah’s dismissal of that fear is backed by Article 93 of the Constitution which makes it very clear that if the constitution is amended, under the term of a President that president does not benefit.
Article 93 states: The limitation of the Presidential term of office to two terms, each of six years duration, may be subject to amendment; provided that the amendment shall not become effective during the term of office of the incumbent President.
The Race To The Senate
At least 15 Senators across the country seats are up for grab on a crowded field of 118 candidates. By law, all political campaigning for the senatorial race ended Sunday midnight, in accordance with the guidelines and regulations of the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Of the total number of 118 contenders in the Senate race, only 8 are females, while the rest are males from the various political parties, coalition, alliances and independent candidates.
NEC reports that there are 5,911 polling places and 2080 voting precincts throughout the country for the much publicized December 08, 2020 Special Senatorial election and referendum.
The commission has also announced the deployment of poll workers, technical staffs and officers of the Liberia National Police at various polling places and precincts for a peaceful, transparent, free and fair voting exercise.
Though, there are 19 registered political parties, the senatorial race is being dominated by the main opposition CPP, and the CDC, with intense rivalry.
Pundits believe that the outcome of Tuesday’s Senatorial race would be the determining factor for the 2023 Presidential elections. Out of the 15 counties race, if the ruling CDC can win Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba Counties, that would signal its strength to maintain the Executive Mansion in 2023. Contrary to this, were the CPP to win these seats, the George Weah regime would have to work very hard in some places doubling their efforts for a second term.
The Battle Ground Counties
Montserrado County: The contested senatorial seat of Montserrado County is currently occupied by Senator Abraham Darious Dillon of the Liberty Party and the Collaborating Political Parties headed by Alexander Cummings. Since the 2005 elections, which kept former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for 12 years at the presidency, the CDC of George Weah has continued to rely on it, in terms of showing numerical strength.
The 2005, 2011 and 2017 general and presidential elections, saw Weah’s CDC winning the county not until the 2019 Senatorial by election, which the CPP candidate, Mr. Dillon collected the highest number of votes cast.
Grand Bassa County: the second oldest county of this republic will witness the Liberty Party political leader, Senator NyonbleeKarnga Lawrence coming face to face with former Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehnzohngar Milton Findley.
Findley, also a former Senator won the seat in 2005 and served as Senate Pro tempore of the Liberian Senate from 2008 to 2014 but was defeated by current Senator Jonathan Kaipee.
Mr. Findley recently resigned his ministerial post in the Weah’s administration to face Senator Karnga Lawrence in the 2020 Senatorial election. It is believed that Findley has built some grips among the youths. Priori But there could also be a surprise winner in Bassa with an aide worker Anthony Barchue, known as ‘Talk N Do’ joining the race and at the same time appealing to the market women.
Barchue who runs an NGO in the county has constructed schools offering free education to the children and also market buildings as well as making donations at police stations something both Findley and Mrs. Lawrence are not heard of.
Maryland County: The County and its inhabitants will witness two sons and partisans of the National Patriotic Party battle each other at the ballot box. Senator H. Dan Morais and former longest serving Representative James Biney are currently at each other’s throat for the senatorial seat of Maryland County. Sen. Morais who won the ticket of the NPP was kicked out of the party because of his refusal to contest in the primary of the Coalition for Democratic Change which NPP is part of.
The CPP could easily turn the table there, with the county being the home of its current Chairman Alexander B. Cummings. Delivering Maryland to the CPP would mean a great deal to the CPP.
Bong: Deputy House Speaker Prince Moye and incumbent Senator Henry Yallah will be at each other throat for the Bong seat. The both have influence and the voice command on the Kpelleh and at large the Bong County. It is believed to be a tough race between the two.
Though, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor has failed to endorse the candidature of Yallah who enjoys the support and admiration of the ruling establishment, the battle for Bong is open.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor, with additional files by Othello B. Garblah