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GeneralLiberia news

VP Koung, others boycott poll

-Amid low turnout in senatorial by-election

Liberia’s Vice President Jeremiah Koung and followers were visibly absent during Tuesday’s senatorial by-election held in his native Nimba County.

By Thomas Domah, Nimba County

Nimba, Liberia, April 24, 2024 – Amid low turnout in Tuesday’s senatorial by-election in Nimba County, Vice President Jeremiah Kpan Koung, who has been campaigning for the ruling Unity Party Candidate Nya D. Twayen, Jr., didn’t show up to vote, including about 20 UP partisans from the county.

However, the ruling UP national chairman, Rev. Luther Tarpeh, and others were in Nimba County on Saturday to close the campaign of Candidate Nya D. Twayen, Jr. 

But the conspicuous absence of Vice President Koung from the county on polling day is raising eyebrows among Nimbaians, especially those from the Rescue Team of President Boakai, so much so when the Vice President’s own MDR party, led by Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, supported People Unification Party (PUP) Candidate, Representative Samuel G. Kogar based on tribe.  

Kingmaker PYJ, from the Gio tribe, had rallied members of the Gio ethnic group, the largest tribe in Nimba, to vote for Representative Kogar, a fellow kinsman, against the ruling UP’s Nya D. Twayen, Jr.

The Nimba senatorial by-election was held on April 23, 2024, across the county, with four candidates participating, including former Senator Thomas G. Gruppe.

VP Koung, who usually casts his ballot at the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) in Ganta City, was visibly absent. However, his wife, Madam Koung, and an aide voted at the same Polling Center#2 in Ganta.

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There have been no reasons provided for the President’s absence, who is apparently caught between the scissors, struggling with whether to please President Boakai or his political leader, Senator PYJ.

Besides, the VP, about 20 UP partisans from Nimba did not cast their ballots in Tuesday’s by-election.

The Vice President had voted at the Ganta YMCA Polling Center#2 twice as a Representative candidate and then as a candidate for the senate before becoming VP, bringing along 20 of his followers, who did not show up yesterday.

The 20 followers are local executives of the ruling UP in Nimba, who are said to be unhappy with the Party’s and the MDR’s leadership over job allocation.

Vice President Jeremiah Koung has been using community radio stations in the county to campaign for Unity Party Senatorial Candidate Nya D. Twayen, Jr.

A few days back, he met with the chiefs and elders of Nimba and reportedly dished out cash as an inducement to vote for the UP, as they did during the 2023 elections.

The NEW DAWN gathered that if the UP were to win the just-ended by-election in Nimba, it could offset the influence of Kingmaker Senator PYJ, who dubbed himself as the godfather of Nimba politics.

On the other hand, if Representative Samuel G. Kogar wins the polls, another by-election would be in the making to fill his seat in the House. Still, pundits say Vice President Jeremiah Koung, who has his eyes fixed on the Presidency for 2029, might rally fellow members of his Mano tribe not to elect another Gio-speaking person, though the latter outnumbered them.

After Tuesday’s by-election, ethnicity will be another hot topic for discussion in the county. If District#5 Representative Samuel G. Kogar wins the seat for the senate, the county will set another record by electing two persons from the same tribe and region in the Liberian Senate.

Meanwhile, several voting centers covered by The NEW DAWN during Tuesday’s senatorial by-election indicated low turnout.

“Since voting started at 8 am up to 2 pm before the falling of rain that started from 3 pm, there has been no voter coming out to vote; some of them say they have not received money from candidates to come out and vote”, local staff of the National Elections Communication explains.

Several local and international observers, including the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC), Democracy International, and EISA, alongside the Liberian media, observed the polls. The ruling Unity Party and the People Unification Party sent observers to the field.

Candidates Thomas S. Grupee and Armstrong Gobac Selekpoh did not have representatives at polling centers.

From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. yesterday, various polling centers were virtually empty, and no voters came out to vote.

Addressing journalists at Radio Kergheamahn 94.5 FM, the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, urged Nimbaians to come out and vote, stressing that doing so will give them the power to elect the best person to represent them in the 55th Legislature, particularly in the Senate.

“One problem we are gathering is that some voters are complaining about not being able to get money before they can vote; don’t vote for cash. This is your future and the future of the children and the country”, she cautions.

Asked whether the poor turnout could be attributed to a lack of civic voter education, Chairperson Browne Lansanah says there was huge awareness carried out through community radio stations in the county prior to the polls, so the issue of awareness should not be the problem.

On Tuesday, the National Elections Commission conducted one senatorial by-election in Nimba County and one representative by-election in Grand Gedeh County, respectively.

Details of the polls in Grand Gedeh are still coming in and fresh update may surface subsequently. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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