Monrovia — The October 2014 Senatorial midterm election in Liberia is inching closer as political parties line up to show strength at the polls in what is dubbed a possible indicator to who becomes president in 2017, replacing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is constitutionally ineligible to contest a third term of office. There has been political maneuvering, moving and shaking over the last few months with individuals crossing the carpet from one political party to another in a bid to grab a party slot in preparation to contest the election.
From indications, the main opposition CDC has seen the largest number of newcomers, followed by the Liberty party while 15 other parties have hit the rock in their preparations as a consequence of a ruling by the civil law court in in favor of a petition filled by the National Elections Commission revoking the licenses of these political parties for failure to comply with elections laws.
The 15 de-registered political parties are the National Vision Party of Liberia, the National Union for Democratic Progress, Citizens Unification Party, Freedom Alliance Party, Original Congress Party, Liberia Empowerment Party, Progressive Democratic Party, Liberia Destiny Party, National Reformation Party, National Democratic Party of Liberia, Liberia Reconstruction Party, National Social Democratic Party of Liberia, Liberia Equal Rights Party, Majority Party of Liberia and Progressive People's Party.
The court handed down the ruling after the NEC on February 10, 2014, filed a petition before the Civil Law Court seeking the revocation of the registration and accreditation of 20 registered political parties. NEC argued in the Petition that the political parties violated Articles 83(d) and 79 (c)(i) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia as well as Part II, Chapter IV of the Guidelines Relating to the Registration of Political Parties and Independent Candidates.
Article 83(d) of the Constitution of Liberia makes it mandatory that every political party in Liberia shall on September 1, of each year, publish and submit to the NEC detailed statements of assets and liabilities. These shall include the enumeration of sources of funds and other assets, plus a list of expenditures. Article 79(c)(i) in relevant part, mandates that no association shall function as a political party, unless the headquarters of the association is situated in the Republic's Capital.
Part II, Chapter IV of the Guidelines Relating to the Registration of Political Parties and Independent Candidates mandates that "each political party shall maintain an updated bank account with a balance not less than 10,000 United States Dollars or its equivalence in Liberian Dollars. With 15 political parties now off the mark, the ruling Unity Party, the Congress for Democratic Change, the Liberty Party and a few other political parties now have the edge to pick their candidates for the October Senatorial election.
CDC leads in primary
The opposition CDC has taken the lead in picking its candidates to contest the Senatorial election with 13 candidates now set to contest while another two are yet to be determined. The primary started off in the Port City of Buchanan on Friday with five candidates emerging victorious followed by another five in Gbarnga, Bong County and concluded Harper, Maryland County.
In Buchanan there was no much surprise besides the new face in person of Atty. Teplah Reeves, whose election seems disputed with CDC officials, providing conflicting information, but the other candidates, George Weah, Nathaniel McGill, Foday Kromah were all considered done deal ahead of the primary. The first batch of 13 torchbearers for the CDC are now known and with the party popular some locations, the CDC and its candidates now have a huge task in fighting to achieve the party's pronounced feat of winning at least right out of fifteen seats.
George Weah, Montserrado County
George Weah who previously contested as President in 2005 before playing a second role in 2011 serving as Vice Standard bearer to Cllr. Winston Tubman has long been rumored to be a candidate for the Montserrado Senatorial race.
Later, news surfaced that Weah is contemplating trading his support to Mr. Robert Sirleaf until the Vice Chairman of the CDC Mulbah Morlu, pronounced that Weah decided to be a candidate in the Senatorial race. Even before the Buchanan primary, there was no doubt that Weah would have won as no partisan could brave the storm to contest against him.
Incumbent Montserrado Senator Joyce M. Sumo has been crying foul that the CDC was pushing Weah against her political interest, yet without going through a primary process, but Senator Sumo officially resigned from the CDC about a week to the event. Before the start of the Buchanan primary, Weah told partisans of the CDC that it was time for the party to put aside wrangling and move ahead. "It's time for us to cease the opportunity, 2014 is our year and 2017 is also ours, so let's have a peaceful primary", Weah declared in a brief statement.
There was no known CDC partisan willing to put up a fight with Weah but Janjay Baikpeh, a senior member of the CDC primary committee in region one, Grand Bassa County told FrontPageAfrica in Buchanan that Weah subjected himself to a transparent primary and won, stating that there was no sign that a contender against Weah would have been cheated.
"Ambassador Weah subjected himself to the primary process and won, the party will announce the official results of successful candidates from all the 15 counties soon", said Baikpeh. NEC Magistrate for Grand Bassa when quizzed by FPA said the NEC was aware of primary and observed the process, describing it as free, fair and Transparent.
David Logan confirmed to FrontPage Africa in Grand Bassa on Saturday that the National Elections Commission officially observed the CDC political primary held on Friday night.
Mr. Logan said there has been no complaint from the party and that the NEC sees the primary as in line with the rules of the body. Despite rumor of attempted foul-play during the Grand Bassa primary, the Grand Bassa County Magistrate clarified that nothing of such was reported to his office.
Weah's election at the CDC primary means the dust is now settled and rumor surrounding the political ambition of the CDC standard bearer is now known. He is no doubt popular in Montserrado County and with him the CDC has a good chance of maintaining the seat it now occupies.
Nathaniel McGill, Gbarpolu County
CDC Secretary General McGill was elected for Gbarpolu County and should by now be preparing to faceoff with incumbent Theodore Momo, former Senator Daniel Naatehn and others.
McGill is a new comer in legislative politics but he will be counting on CDC youthful followers for success. McGill told FrontPageAfrica that he is excited by the opportunity to represent the people of Gbarpolu through the CDC
"I am Very excited that partisans of CDC from Gbarpolu County have elected me, I am very committed to changing the living conditions of the people. I see it as a challenge and a responsibility", he said
According to him, incumbent Theodore Momo has not done anything sufficient to change the condition of the people describing life in Gbarpolu as deplorable, education system poor, road conditions bad.
"Our people do not want money from the Senator; our people only want the little money coming to the county to be used wisely," he said.
"I blame the legislators, they have the county development council and have people on the council that do not represent people, and we will change that, because part of CDC platform is to change the living conditions of the people, the grass root people".
The Senatorial aspirant said there is a need to address the specific needs of the people, including ensuring that there is a good health system for the people to be able to make farms, which is their main source of living.
"The people depend on farming and as such, they need good health, places like Bocomu (sp) there is no road, how do you expect the people to move around", he wondered. McGill dispelled the widespread notion that the CDC is a Monrovia based political party with more support in Capital.
"CDC is popular across the length and breadth of this country, Sirleaf won according to the Elections Commission, we accepted results, but that does not mean the CDC is not popular around the country. In fact, our campaign has gained a lot of momentum in the county". The CDC Secretary General promised to unite the people of Gbarpolu County.
Foday Kromah, Grand Cape Mount County
Apparently eyeing the CDC ticket for Grand Cape Mount County, Kromah joined the CDC in April and that paid off as he elected to represent the party in the ensuing Senatorial election.
Dr. Kromah will take the CDC against the ruling Unity Party Chairman, Cllr. Varney Sherman and other candidates in October. Dr. Kromah told FrontPageAfrica that he has done a lot in Grand Cape Mount County and does not fear any other candidate.
"I am Happy to have been elected, that is the first step, the next step is to go out there in cape mount, continue the work of construction of markets, schools, those basic things that will improve the wellbeing of our people", said Dr. Kromah
He said he has done a lot for the county in line with the vision of the CDC. "I have done a lot of work in the county, true to the vision and mission of the CDC, improving the wellbeing of our people". On his potential contender, Dr. Kromah said Cllr. Sherman has lost touch with the people of Grand Cape Mount since the 2005 election.
"Cllr. Sherman has lost the feeling of the people in Grand Cape Cape mount, he has lost all touch with the people, going from village to village, dividing one thousand Liberian dollars here and there. So I don't think the people will judge us by that, they will judge us by what we have done, and I have done more for the people in the county than all the other candidates".
He described the belief that Cllr. Sherman is a strong contender as a 'Monrovia noise'. He said: "The noise is just in Monrovia, but the reality on the grounds is different. He does not have anything over people in the county".
Solomon Murray, Grand Bassa County
Murray was the CDC man for Grand Bassa after Liberty Party lawmaker Gabriel Smith attempted to hijack the ticket.
Murray appeared to be quite a surprised choice according to some CDCians of Grand Bassa County but he insists that he's a consistent and founding member of the CDC who has been upholding the principals of the opposition political party in Grand Bassa County while the other politicians' objective is to use the party for selfish gains.
"We've (CDC) always been open, but the phenomenon of politicians in Grand Bassa County as it relates to CDC is that they always want to use CDC just to fish during the election but they don't want to identify with the party," Murray told FPA.
Murray has been rated by some Grand Bassa-based partisans of the CDC as a weak-candidate, but he insists that he will be formidable considering the party's popularity amongst the Liberian people and called on his critics to wait for the election before making judgment.
"CDC has a very large home base in Grand Bassa County; it's undisputed because we've proven that in many elections, although we have not won any seat in Bassa, yet we know there are places in Grand Bassa County that we remain strong and we remain a phenomenon to contend with," said Murray.
Murray, who claimed to be a teacher says he has worked to mold the minds of countless students in Grand Bassa County and also says he's a developer and a youth leader who have impact on the lives of many Bassonians (people of Bassa).
Despite the optimism of CDC's choice for Grand Bassa County, it clearly remains an uphill task for him and the party to lure significant votes or supporters to the party on October 14, 2014. CDC Secretary General in Grand Bassa admits that the task ahead of Murray and the party is huge.
"Our primary was organized, the competition was high and I am happy we did not have any quarrel, everything went well and the only thing is that we have a lot to do to sell our candidate in this county where it is Liberty Party stronghold", said J. Bismark Karbiah.
Said Karbiah "Politically, every political party has their terrain, so when you see Montserrado, Grand Gedeh counties are our stronghold, but here, it is all Liberty Party so did not have more candidates from Grand Bassa for CDC because the Liberty Party sentiment is high". In Gbarnga, Bong County, another five candidates were elected to take the party to the election.
Galakpai Kortimai, Lofa County
Kortimai, dismissed from his position as Deputy Director-General for Administration of the General Services Agency (GSA) the very day he declared his membership with the CDC was won the CDC ticket for Lofa County.
Kortimai served as former superintendent of Lofa could rely on his past work in the county to get votes. Jefferson Koijee said it is wrong for the president to dismiss people for choosing their political affiliation.
According to Koijee the president's action raises fear that when the United Nations Mission in Liberia leaves, the life of the Liberian people will be at risk because she is not tolerance.
Ansu Sonii, Margibi County
Sonii is contesting for the third time having contested as Representative candidate in 2005 and Senatorial candidate in 2011. He contested the 2005 election on the ticket of the coalition for the transformation of Liberia (COTOL) in electoral District #1 where he obtained 3,912 votes out of total valid votes of 17, 617 representing 24.2%, coming second to Emmanuel Nuquay who received 5,794 votes representing 35.9%.
In 2011 Sonii contested the Senatorial seat winning 18,715 votes out of total valid votes of 79,778 representing 23.5%, coming second to eventual winner Oscar Cooper. Experience therefore seems to be on his side, both in government, administration and politics. His constituency of Kakata is replete with evidence of constituency and other projects with his imprint scattered all over the place. His constituents also bear testimony to his empowerment programs within the area and even beyond.
Getting the CDC ticket in Margibi is a big boost to Sonii quest for the Senate, but he will have to fight for it against incumbent Clarice Jah and others.
Dr. Bhofal Chambers, Maryland County
Chambers has won two successive elections as Representative of Pleebo Sodoken District in Maryland County. In 2005 he contested on the ticket of the Unity Party and in 2011 he moved unto the CDC. His district is the most populous in the county and that could help him oust incumbent John Ballout.
Other candidates elected in the south counties are-Marshall Dennis, Grand Gedeh County; Alex Yeaher, River Gee County and Richmond Toby, Sinoe County. The primary for Grand Kru was accordingly postponed.
Augustus Flomo, Bong County
Augustus Flomo won unopposed in Bong County and he now has a huge task ahead come October election.
The primary for Bomi County, according to our correspondent ended up in confusion and has now been postponed to take place in Monrovia.
Teplah Reeves, Rivercess County
In the most contested county at the primary, Cllr. Teplah Reeves defeated two other contenders, Rosina Shaack and Emmanuel Toe for the River Cess County seat. She served as the former President Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) 2011 to 2013.