27 March 2013

Liberia: Another Opposition Political Party Rejects NEC Chairman-Designate

The National Reformation Party of Liberia (NRP) is calling on President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf to immediately withdraw the nomination of Cllr. Jerome Kokoya as Chairman of the National Election Commission (NEC). The Liberian leader recently appointed several commissioners to the NEC. Among them is Cllr. Kokoya.

The latest call from the NRP brings to two the number of opposition political parties that are calling for Cllr. Kokoya's nomination to be withdrawn by President Johnson-Sirleaf. It can be recalled that the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) recently planned to threaten the ensuing Grand Bassa County by-election through legal and democratic means if the President does not withdraw the nomination of the NEC Chairman-designate.

According to the Vice Chairman for Operations of the NRP Mr. Anthony Chea Dennis, Cllr. Kokoya must be replaced because he is not "neutral and independent." He said the admittance of Cllr. Kokoya that he (Kokoya) contested the 2011 general and a presidential election creates a "serious credibility problem over his ability to preside over the NEC."

He described the appointment of Cllr. Kokoya as a "troubling sign to Liberia's fragile democracy."

Mr. Dennis made these comments on Monday, March 25, 2013 in an exclusive interview with this paper in Monrovia.

He added that the NEC needs competent individuals that have no connection to a political party or institution in the country. He said although it is the constitutional mandate of the President to appoint individuals in government but, the nomination of Cllr. Kokoya is not in the interest of the country.

"We have come to add our voices to the many voices that have been heard concerning Mr. Jerome Kokoya, a defeated representative candidate of Bong County in the election of 2011 being placed at the NEC. We see it (appointment) as troubling because if we should have transparency and fairness in the electoral process in our country, we think the appointment of him is not in the best interest of the country," he stated.

Mr. Dennis stated that the NRP would collaborate with other political parties in the country to adopt a "posture of non-compliance with the newly constituted Board of Commissioners of NEC" if the President failed to withdraw the nomination of Cllr. Kokoya. The NRP through its Vice Chairman for Operations suggested that the Liberian Chief Executive consult with political parties in the country before appointing individuals to head the National Election Commission (NEC).

According to a research conducted by this paper, Cllr. Kokoya contested the Representative seat of district # 1 in Bong County on the ticket of the ruling Unity Party (UP) in the 2011 general and presidential elections.

Our research established that Cllr. Kokoya was defeated by the former speaker of the 52nd legislature Hon. Tokpah Mulbah of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). Amongst other things, our unraveled pointed out that the NEC chairman-designate accumulated 2,321 votes or 13.4% of the votes cast, while Rep. Tokpah accumulated 2,379 votes or 18.9% of the total votes cast.

At the same time, the opposition political party has expressed regret over what he called the demotion of Cllr. Elizabeth Nelson as acting Chair of the NEC to a "mere member." Cllr. Nelson served as acting Chairman of the commission following the resignation of Mr. James Fromayan.

According to Mr. Dennis, the demotion of Madam Nelson is not "administratively prudent" and would only "fuel conflict and negative impact of the commission's deliverables." He said "the party believes that the relegation of Cllr. Nelson remains unjustified until the President can tell the Liberian people the failure or inability of Cllr. Nelson to perform while serving as acting and co-Chairman of the NEC."

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