By Jonathan Browne
The National Elections Commission (NEC) releases the final list of six (6) qualified candidates, including five males and a female, for the Lofa County Senatorial By-election, pending a Joint Resolution by the 54th Legislature for a new date for the poll.
President George Weah’s ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the now disintegrated Collaborating Political Partiers (CPP) headed by main opposition leader Mr. Alexander B. Cummings are not fielding candidates for the by-election intended to fill a vacant seat created by the disqualification of Senator-Elect, J. Brownie Samukai, following his criminal conviction by the court.
Those qualified by the NEC to contest in the poll are Momo Tarnuekollie Cyrus (M) Independent Candidate; Mariamu Beyan Fofana (F) Independent Candidate; Joseph Kpator Jallah (M) Independent; and George Beyan Samah (M) Independent Candidate, respectively. Others include Galakpai W. Kortimai (M) Unity Party, and Sumo G. Kupee (M) People’s Unification Party.
Announcing the final listing in a press conference Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at the headquarters of NEC, Chairperson Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah revealed that already, two Hundred Fifty-four Thousand One Hundred (254,100) ballot papers for the By-election in Lofa County arrived in the country via the Roberts International Airport, on Monday, June 13, and are currently stored in the NEC Central Warehouse under tight security, pending deployment to the county Lofa.
“Additionally, the Commission brought in Four Hundred Seventy-seven (477) Tactile Ballot Guides to assist visually impaired persons during the voting exercise”, Madam Browne-Lansanah added.
She continues that about 2,000 temporary election workers have been recruited for the by-election, and training commenced on Tuesday, while five community-based organizations are participating in the NEC Civic and Voter Education (CVE) Cells. “They have been hired to educate and inform the citizens of Lofa about the Senatorial By-election”, the NEC boss explained.
The NEC had earlier set May 10, 2022, for the Lofa By-election, and released a provisional list of five (5) candidates without the UP’s candidate Galakpai W. Kortimai, who was being scrutinized by the Commission.
The UP’s Road to the senatorial by-election has been rocky, after a faction of the Liberty Party headed by Chairman Musa Hassan Bility filed a prohibition before the NEC, citing the CPP Framework Document that bars a constituent party from contesting independently in an election until after 2023 Presidential and General Elections.
The NEC sought interpretation from the Supreme Court, as the matter borders on constitutional clarification, indefinitely suspended the poll.
“Members of the press, as you are aware, the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia in its ruling on June 3, 2022, declared section 8.5(2) of the CPP’s framework agreement unconstitutional. The NEC has enforced the mandate of the Court, and the referenced candidate has been qualified, in addition to the five other candidates, making it a total of six candidates that are qualified to participate in the 2022 Lofa County Senatorial By-election”, Chairperson Browne-Lansanah noted.
She said with the ruling from the High Court, the Commission now awaits a Joint Resolution from the Legislature on a new date for the by-election.
Meanwhile, the Board of Commissioners has reaffirmed its earlier decision to transition from the Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) system of voter registration to Biometric technology for the 2022/2023 voter registration exercise.
Madam Browne-Lansanah recalled the NEC, working with the government, adjusted the 2023 Comprehensive Elections Budget to 61 million dollars of which 20 million dollars was approved in the 2022 (January – December) fiscal year budget.
She said the Commission has requested the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to provide the 20 million dollars in time in order to release tentative schedule for voter registration.
She continued that the Commission has gathered and reviewed all of the regulations that will guide the voter registration process, and that the Board of Commissioners and senior technical staff had been involved in this activity for the past few weeks, with the Procurement Plan for the voter registration already submitted to the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) for approval.