16 October 2017

Liberia: Five Incumbents Lose House Seats in Bong County

Photo: Liberian Legislature
Members of the Liberian legislature

Preliminary results coming in from polling centers across Bong County show that five incumbent lawmakers will lose their seats.

Out of the seven incumbent lawmakers, only two are retaining their seats.

The two are electoral District #2 lawmaker Prince Moye of Unity Party (UP) and District # 5 lawmaker Edward Karfiah of the People's Unification Party (PUP).

Rep. Moye has led overwhelmingly at almost 95 percent of the polling centers in the district while Rep. Karfiah is freewheeling to victory after 90 percent of the results from polling centers in his district ahead of his closest contender, human rights activist and Independent candidate Silas Siakor.

A factor that is proving decisive is first-time voters, who constituted the vast majority of young voters and who did not follow the old history of politics in the county while turning out in their numbers to vote.

In electoral District #1, the People's Unification Party candidate Tokpa Mulbah is struggling behind businessman and All Liberian Party candidate Albert Hills, Jr.

From tallied votes so far, Hills is leading his closest contender, Independent candidate E. Richard Dillon, by 500 votes.

In District #3, the incumbent, Rep. George Sylvester Mulbah, who is seeking his third term, is losing to former Gbarnga City Mayor Josiah Marvin Cole of the Coalition for Democratic Change.

Rep. Mulbah could not repeat the overwhelming votes he secured in 2011, when he earned 89.2 percent of the votes.

He was one of three lawmakers from Bong County attempting to return to the Capitol for a third term.

One factor that is responsible for Rep. Mulbah's defeat is his alleged involvement in the sacking of former Gbarnga City Mayor Josiah Marvin Cole. Rep. Mulbah has repeatedly denied his involvement and has told the citizens that he did not know anything about Cole's dismissal, but his denial did not sit well with voters, who petitioned Cole to contest against Mulbah.

Cole was dismissed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for what the President called "unlawful" demolition of structures in Gbarnga. "Mulbah and Moye were not involved in the dismissal of Marvin Cole; the President took the decision because Cole violated international law. Forced eviction is prohibited under international law,"said one of the contestants in electoral District # 3, Mr. Edward Emmanuel Gboe.

The United Nations Declaration on Forced Eviction fact sheet No. 25 in 2014 defined forced eviction as "The permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes or land which they occupy without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection," he said.

Next to Cole is the former executive secretary general of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Edward Gboe.

Gboe put up a strong fight, mainly in the rural areas of the district, but fell short of the votes in Gbarnga when compared to the number Cole accumulated.

Another incumbent who might not return to the Capitol Building is District #4 Rep. Lester Paye of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).

District #4 is divided into two administrative districts, Panta and Zota. The incumbent hails from Panta District, where he overwhelmingly won but performed poorly in Zota District, where his failure to provide an ambulance for the district threatened his re-election.

The race in District # 4 was seen as a political fight between the two administrative districts; and Robert Womba, chairman of Unity Party in Bong County, became the consensus candidate to citizens of Zota District.

Out of the 11,400 registered voters in the district, Womba won 75 percent of the votes and put up a strong challenge in some parts of Panta District.

In District #6, the incumbent, Adam Bill Corneh, could be heading out after his gloomy showing from the results so far. It was a tight race between former Bong County superintendent Selena Polson-Mappy of the Coalition of Liberia's Progress and Independent candidate Moima Briggs-Mensah. Provisional results are putting Briggs-Mensah ahead of Polson-Mappy.

In District #7, there is an incredibly narrow 64-vote margin between the Liberty Party candidate Papa Kolleh and Coalition of Liberia's Progress candidate, former Deputy Minister of Information, Andrew Tehmeh. Kolleh leads with who leads with 3791 (17.5%), while Temeh trails close behind with 3727, of the (17.2%). Regardless, the total votes tallied so far show that the incumbent lawmaker, Corpu Barclay of the Unity Party, has been given the boot by citizens of the district.

The poor performance of incumbent lawmakers from Bong County reaped decisive blow to themselves at the ballot and serves as a warning for other incumbents.

The October 10 polling results could serve as a huge lesson to incoming lawmakers. A similar situation occurred during the 2014 special senatorial election where only two out of 15 senators nationwide were re-elected.

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