20 February 2013

Liberia: Who Replaces Sen. Whitefield?

The battle to replace fallen Grand Bassa County Senator John Whitefield has commenced with a notification of the National Elections Commission (NEC) by the Liberian Senate to conduct a by-election to fill the vacant seat.

In a letter addressed to the Acting Chairperson of the NEC, Cllr. Elizabeth Nelson, President Pro-Tempore Gbehzongar Findley said the vacancy is a result of the recent death of Senator John Francis Whitfield of Grand Bassa County, according to Joey Kennedy, Public Affairs Director at NEC.

He told The NewDawn that the notification was contained in a letter written by the Secretary of the Liberian Senate, Nanborlor Singbeh upon the directive of the President Pro-Tempore Findley.

The letter constitutes the legal authority of the National Elections Commission to conduct a senatorial by-election in Grand Bassa County.

The Letter of Notification is a requirement of Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution, which states that "In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature created by death, resignation, and expulsion or otherwise, the Presiding Officer shall within 30 days notify the elections commission thereof."

"The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held....."

Senator Whitefield passed off on Thursday, January 17, 2013 while in intensive care at the St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital in Monrovia after he suddenly collapsed and suffered breathing difficulty.

Reports gathered by this paper and corroborated by sources in the Liberian Senate, said the late Senator Whitfield was scheduled to have been flown to Accra, Ghana for medical examination when he gave off the ghost.

The National Elections Commission says it has with immediate effect begun preparatory activities that would lead to the conduct of a senatorial by-election in Grand Bassa County within 90 days.

Already, three aspirants, including former Defense Minister Daniel Chea, incumbent Representative Gabriel Buchanan Smith and Madam Nyonblee Karnga have declared their intention to contest in the by-election.

But views sampled by this paper suggest that Mr. Chea is more popular with the people of Grand Bassa than the two others. During the 2011 Presidential and General Elections, he came second to the late Senator Whitefield in a close race.

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