-as NEC releases final listing
The National Elections Commission releases final list of contestants, officially qualifying 199 candidates for the nationwide special senatorial election and two representatives’ by- elections in Montserrado and Sione County respectively, on December 8, 2020.
The electoral body also formally declares campaign opened from Wednesday, 18 November – December 06, 2020, precisely 24 hours before polling day.
NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah says of this number, 181 are duly qualified as senatorial candidates, besides eight representative candidates each for the Montserrado and Sinoe counties by-elections.
Madam Lansanah explains political campaign activities should have commenced since October 10, 2020, but due to Stay Order placed on the process by the Supreme Court, the electoral house suspended all activities, pending investigation into a complaint filed by aspirant Mulbah Jackollie from Margibi County. Mr. Jackollie has reportedly dropped his concerns, according to the Supreme Court.
Chairperson Davidetta Lassanah strongly warns against electoral violence, urging candidates and parties to observe the rule of law at all times during the campaign period and beyond.
She encourages political actors and stakeholders to submit their respective calendar of events to the commission with precise dates for public engagement to avoid clashes of rival supporters.
She notes that already, some political parties and independent candidates have submitted calendar of events for their respective campaign activities, which she terms as laudable.
The Commission had announced earlier 299, 969 new registrants following the conclusion of the Voters Roll Update (VRU) exercise in September.
“We are pleased to announce the conclusion of the 2020 Voter Roll Update exercise; during the update exercise, a total of two hundred, ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and sixty-nine (299, 969) new registrants were captured nationwide,” she had reported.
She details that of this number, One Hundred, Eighteen Thousand, Nine Hundred and Twenty-three, (118, 923) constituting 39.6 percent, are females, while One Hundred Eighty-one Thousand, Forty-six (181, 046) constituting 60.4 percent are males. However, she reminds that these numbers are provisional and they could likely be changes due to the ongoing voter roll cleaning exercise.
She says prior to the VRU exercise, the NEC data center had done a lot of work in furtherance of cleaning the 2017 voter roll and the total number of registered voters at the beginning of the VRU exercise stood at Two Million, One Hundred, Eighty-three Thousand, Three Hundred Eighty-one (2, 183, 381).
Now with the inclusion of the additional two hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred sixty-nine (299, 969) new registrants, the total number of registered voters stands provisionally at Two million, Four Hundred, Eighty-three Thousand, Three Hundred Fifty (2, 483, 350).
“We are also pleased to inform the Liberian people that the Exhibition of the voter roll was concluded on October 31, 2020 as scheduled and results from that exercise are being processed by the data center.”
Meanwhile, as campaign activities progresses across all 15 political sub-divisions of the country, this paper has earmarked four counties that are likely to become tough battlegrounds in for the senatorial race namely; Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Maryland, and Bomi Counties.
Montserrado County: The contested senatorial seat of Montserrado is currently occupied by opposition Senator Abraham Darious Dillon of the Liberty Party. The LP is member of the Collaborating Political Parties headed by form presidential candidate, Alexander B. Cummings.
During the entire 12-year presidency of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the now ruling Congress for Democratic Change of President George Manneh Weah retained its numerical strength in the county, accumulating more votes.
In the 2005, 2011 and 2017 general and presidential elections, the CDC topped all political parties that participated until the 2019 senatorial by-election when CPP candidate Dillon overturned the table, convincingly defeating CDC candidate Paulita Wie.
Now the CDC has combined forces with the Liberia People Democratic Party and the National Patriotic Party to march on the opposition. Following primaries conducted throughout Montserrado County recently by the ruling establishment, the Coalition for Democratic Change has put forward Representative Thomas Fallah, who currently enjoys a third term in the House of Representatives.
Fallah presides over Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee of the House of Representatives and is vice chairperson for operations of the ruling party. There are reports that President Weah has instructed all officials of government to ensure the Montserrado County seat is retakened.
The CDC under the leadership of Chairman Mulbah Morlu, Chief Cyril Allen, Alex Tyler and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, is digging its heels deep into the ground to make a comeback. The Coalition is leaving no stone unturned to regain the county, which is the seat of government before 2023 presidential election.
But Sen. Dillon currently enjoys the support of the CPP which comprises four political parties: the Unity Party, the Liberty Party, the Alternative National Congress and the All Liberian Party.
Dillon, who brands himself as the ‘light’ in the Liberian Senate, is seen here as someone who stands a greater chance of retaining the Montserrado seat. However, the ruling establishment is building up strategies to make Dillon the shortest-serving senator.
Senator Dillon’s popularity swelled when he publicly declared his salary, allowance and other benefits to the public, the first ever by any of the 30 senators on Capitol Hill. He also broke the news of senators receiving US$6,500 each as operational funds immediately after endorsing the State of Emergency declared by President Weah in a joint resolution.
The money totaling US$195,000 was dished out among senators at a time nurses and other health workers leading the Covid-19 fight cried for incentives and personal protective equipment or PPEs.
Though Dillon said the amount was operational funds, Senator Prince Johnson of Nimba County strongly debunked the Montserrado County Senator when he revealed on a live talk show that the money was lobbying fee from the executive for recalling senators from their Easter Break. Senator George Tengbeh of Lofa County later stated that the amount was understated by Dillon, saying, they actually received US$8,000 each.
Grand Bassa County: the second oldest county of the Republic will witness the Liberty Party political leader, Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence coming face to face with former Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehnzohngar Milton Findley.
Findley served as Senate Pro tempore of the Liberian Senate from 2008 to 2014 but was defeated by current Senator Jonathan Kaipee.
He recently resigned his ministerial post primarily to face incumbent Senator Youngblee Karnga Lawrence also from the CPP in the 2020 Senatorial election.
Madam Karnga Lawrence is daughter of a popular and influential gospel prelate, Rev. Dr. Karnga Lawrence who established the Worldwide Church and the JCCA Bassa singing group. Both religious groups are very popular in the county.
Maryland County: the county and its habitants 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 throats for the senatorial seat of Maryland County.
Bomi County: the people Bomi are currently being entrenched in political noise and tensions as two former speakers of the House of Representatives battle for the senatorial seat of that county. Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe and political leader of the Liberian People Party, former Speaker Alex Tyler will spend time with the people in persuading electorate, ahead of the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections.
Tyler is contesting on the ticket of the ruling CDC and is a native of the county unlike Snowe, who crossed over from Montserrado County Electoral District #6 after two terms and contested in Bomi during the 2017 election and won.
Snowe is considered a heavy weight, based on establishment of his huge farm which is currently producing palm oil for export. He recently resigned from the former ruling Unity party, and is contesting as an independent candidate.
On ther other hand, Tyler is a man with serious cash but he’s blamed for not investing in Bomi; instead, his investment is based both in Monrovia and Margibi County. Between the two, is current Senator Sando Johnson, who seeks re-election thru ticket of the All Liberian Party and the CPP.
-By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne