13 November 2017

Liberia: Six Contenders for Speaker

Photo: Liberian Legislature
Members of the Liberian legislature

Six names have emerged as candidates expressing their intentions to contest for Speaker of House of Representatives.

The names include Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue (Independent); Ways, Means & Finance Chairman Prince Moye (UP) and Cllr. Fonati Koffa (newly elected Representative - (LP).

Others are former speaker Edwin M. Snowe (UP); former chairman of the House's National Defense Committee Dr. Bhofal Chambers (CDC); and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Thomas Fallah (CDC).

According to sources among the six persons, there would be fierce competition among four candidates, namely Reps. Barchue, Moye, Snowe and Representative-elect Koffa.

The elections of Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other officers (including the Chief Clerk, Deputy Chief Clerk, and Sergeant-at-arms) are in consonance with the Liberian Constitution and the Rules and Regulations of the House of Representative.

Article 49 of the Constitution says: "The House of Representatives shall elect once every six years a Speaker who shall be the presiding officer of that body, a Deputy Speaker, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the House. The speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House."

Furthermore, rule six (6) of the House of Representatives, states: "Every six years, on the first day of Session, the Chief Clerk, whose term of Office shall not expire until his/her successor is elected, shall call the House to order, conduct devotions, and announce to the Members present that the House is without a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker. The Members then shall elect one of their members as Speaker to serve for a term of six years.

"The Chief Clerk shall then appoint a Special Committee, which shall escort the Speaker to his seat, and the Chief Clerk shall then retire. On the same day, the Deputy Speaker shall be elected to serve a term of six years. The Speaker shall then direct that a message be sent to the Senate and President of the Republic of Liberia informing them that a quorum of the House has been established, that a new Speaker and Deputy Speaker have been elected and that members have been given the oath of office and that the House is ready to conduct legislative business and is prepared to receive any communication from the Senate or the President."

So far, Deputy Speaker Barchue, Rep. Prince Moye, Representative-elect Fonati Koffa, Reps. Bhofal Chambers and Thomas Fallah have announced their intentions to run for Speaker," one source said, identifying the first three as the strongest candidates.

"Though Rep. Snowe has publicly said recently in an interview that he doesn't have any direct interest, but if his party (UP) nominates him, he would contest for Speaker," another source said.

"For reasons related to accumulated legislative experience, political charisma and eccentric lobbying influence, Reps. Barchue, Snowe, Moye, and Rep. elect Koffa are so far the strongest candidates," according to insiders.

"Rep. Chambers and Fallah are out of the race despite their party's having more seats but it is obvious that their party would support a collaborating Representative," another source said.

Rep. Hans Barchue

Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue

Mr. Barchue served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2011 to the present. He was re-elected as Grand Bassa County District # 1 Representative. He is also a Certified Accountant. His bid to replace Speaker J. Alex Tyler, under whom he served as Deputy Speaker for five years, was unsuccessful despite being the "host" of those who unseated former Speaker Tyler. His dream was dashed when his fellow lawmakers overwhelmingly elected J. Emmanuel Nuquay as Speaker.

"He felt robbed of the Speakership after they ousted former Speaker Tyler, so he is coming, believing to be the only qualified person to be the Speaker and he is collaborating with Liberty Party," according to a Daily Observer source.

Rep. Prince Moye

Upon his election in 2011 as Bong County District # 2 Representative, Rep. Moye was appointed as Co-Chairman to the Committee on Ways, Means, and Finance. His appointment was short-lived because of a political strife with his immediate boss J. Emmanuel Nuquay, chairman of the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance and the then Speaker - J. Alex Tyler.

After nearly four years, he was appointed as chairman of the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance when his former boss ascended to the Speakership.

He is also an accountant, and an executive member of the ruling Unity Party. He has tribal influence. It is obvious that the UP and the People's Unification Party (PUP) are in collaboration, which means they would have more votes.

Rep-elect Cllr. Fonati Koffa

Representative-elect Cllr. Fonati Koffa

He is the former chairman of the Liberty Party and prior to the election, he served as Minister of State without Portfolio. He is one of Liberia's respected legal minds who is heading the Special Presidential Task Force set up by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to probe the Global Witness bribery scandal which hooked several officials of the Liberian Government and other prominent individuals.

The Task Force is also investigating those who have been booked by the General Audit Commission (GAC), the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and other anti-graft institutions.

Besides his ties with the LP, he also has ties with the newly elected independent Representatives .

Rep. Edwin Snowe

Ex-Speaker Edwin Snowe

Rep. Snowe is the only former Speaker among the six contenders, and the only short-lived democratically elected Speaker under the Ellen-led government because of his "sour relationship" with the Executive.

He served as chairman of the House Rules, Order and Administration. Snowe is the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and currently one of the three Representatives of the House to represent the country in the ECOWAs Parliament.

He served twice as Representative of Montserrado County District # 6 as an independent candidate and was recently re-elected as Representative, in Bomi County, District # 1, as a UP candidate. Pundits believe him to have the most political charisma. UP has to decide between him and Rep. Prince Moye.

Dr. Bhofal Chambers and Rep. Thomas Fallah

Rep. Dr. Bhofal Chambers

Both men are executive members of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and serving their 3rd terms, respectively. Dr. Chambers represents Maryland County District # 2, while Rep. Fallah is from Montserrado County District # 5.

Neither of the two Representatives have the political charisma and the eccentric lobbying ability but solely depend on their party's influence, which probably would affect their chances if the CDC would lean to support a collaborating party's candidate or an individual who has better political charisma. Either way, the CDC has to decide between the two if the party decides to take the Speakership.

NEC's Certification determines the 54th Legislature

The National Elections Commission (NEC) is expected to certificate members of the House of Representatives next month, to qualify them for the 54th Legislature.

If the NEC does not qualify the incumbents and the newly elected Representatives, it means that there won't be members of the House of Representatives and to an extent, there will no Legislature, because neither can do the business of the Republic of Liberia nor convene without the other, according to Articles 29 and 41.

"The Legislative power of the Republic shall be vested in the Legislature of Liberia which shall consist of two separate houses: A Senate and a House of Representatives, both of which must pass on all legislation," Article 29 states, and 41 also states: "Neither House shall adjourn (also open for business) for more than five days without the consent of the other ... ."

Leroy M. Sonpon, III


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