Liberia: Coalition for Democratic Change to Endorse a Non-Partisan in Nimba County for December 8 Senatorial Race While Kicking Out All NPP's Incumbents

Monrovia — As the National Patriotic Party (NPP) appears to be on the edge of breaking away from the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC), the Coalition seems not to be bothered but rather taking steps to incorporate Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson's Movement for Democratic Reconstruction (MDR) in a bid to reinforce its grip on power.

The beef between the NPP, headed by Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor and the Coalition began right after the inauguration and a lot has transpired since then. But the most recent and threatening situation to the Coalition is the refusal of the Congress for Democratic Change - the largest constituent member of the Coalition - to back off from the NPP's stronghold and counties where the NPP already has sitting Senators as it relates to the December 8 Special Senatorial elections.

Hoping to maintain stability within its ranks, in 2016, the coalition adopted a Framework Document providing a common electoral platforms in which no member of the constituent party would field a candidate where there are incumbent legislators, and that in constituencies where the coalition members don't have seats, the candidates that provide the best options for victory shall be considered as the coalition nominees.

Article 7(g) of the Framework Document, in the possession of FrontPageAfrica, states: "That parties of the coalition which have seats in the legislature shall reserve the right of nomination to the seat. In constituencies where coalition members don't have seats, the candidates that provide the best option for victory shall be considered as the coalition nominees."

The NPP argues that the addendum of the Framework Document creating the Coalition spells it out clearly that the parties to the coalition which have seats in the legislature (Representative and Senator), shall reserve the right of nomination to those seats. This has not been respected by the Congress for Democratic Change, the NPP argues.

For this reason, Maryland County Senator Dan Morais, a member of NPP, filed a petition for a Writ of Prohibition on the CDC primary process in counties where the NPP already has a sitting legislator.

Interestingly, the National Elections Commission could not provide FrontPageAfrica any update when contacted for information on the status of Sen. Morais's petition.

Morais contended in all by-elections held in Montserrado County, the Congress for Democratic Change was left to decide who contest being it for the senatorial post or a seat in the House of Representatives.

Over the weekend, the NPP Bong County chapter distanced itself from the CDC's endorsement of Sen. Henry Yallah, noting that it was never informed of such decision or primary held in the county on July 29.

"We as an institution feel that the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) is not respecting the Coalition document signed in 2016, which saw the formation of a Coalition and clearly states in the Addendum that, parties to the coalition which have seats in the legislature (Representative and Senator), shall reserve the right of nomination to those seats, which has not been respected by the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC)," the NPP Bong Chapter stated in a press statement.

It added: "The County Chapter believe, no constituent party has ever gotten involved with Montserrado, because it is the base or strong hold of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), just as Bong County is to the NPP and warn the Congress for Democratic Change to desist from getting involved in the Bong County selection process."

The NPP has three seats in the Senate. These include Bomi County, Maryland County and Gbarpolu County.

The incumbent in Bomi County, Senator Sando Johnson has opted to contest on the ticket of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) while the Coalition through a primary endorsed former Speaker J. Alex Tyler.

Why Nimba County Is An Exception?

To the discontentment of the NPP, the CDC carried out primaries in almost all counties except Nimba County and they have planned to endorse Jeremiah Koung, a member of Senator Johnson's MDR.

Speaking in Nimba County, the Chairman of the CDC's primaries committee, Jefferson Koijee, disclosed in Nimba County on Saturday that there would be no primary in the county as the Coalition would endorse whoever Prince Johnson's Movement for Democratic and Reconstruction puts forth.

"We have conducted primaries in 14 of the 15 counties in Liberia, but we've come here to inform you that the CDC will not have any primary in Nimba. Whosoever that will win the MDR primary will be endorsed by the CDC," the chairman of the CDC primaries committee said.

Koijee noted that the decision is based on Senator Johnson's political support to CDC during the run-off presidential elections that brought President George Manneh Weah to power.

Currently, according to him, the CDC has a collaboration with three political parties in Liberia and the endorsement of Koung, might serve as pathway for a collaboration.

"It is no secret that Nimba County is important in the political arena of Liberia and is no doubt, that Senator Johnson is the godfather of this county who continues to support the CDC, so it will be necessary to also do likewise," Koijee, who is the Mayor of Monrovia noted.

Commenting on his support for Koung, Senator Johnson, in an interview with FrontPage Africa, said: "We are officially endorsing Hon Jeremiah Koung, so what you see or saw on the internet is an old time recording from the Thomas Grupee group, recognizing that Thomas Grupee went on the NUDP ticket to the Senate, but later killed the party. I campaigned for him all over and 2014 when it was time to campaign, he supported Cllr. Gbesay and in 2017 when I was running for the presidency, he campaigned for Ambassador Joseph Boakai," he said.

Continuing, he added: "Such an ungrateful character is running to me to endorse him, and he's not in my party, why will I leave my party candidate to go and endorse him? What I said to him was politics, not knowing that they were secretly recording me in my house. You know he's an old car dealer, you know he's not a politician, if he was he wasn't going to send people to me when he has castigated me and the party."

Speaking about Koung's endorsement Wednesday, August 5, Senator Johnson said: "The endorsement will be held Wednesday in Ganta, Nimba County and Jeremiah Koung will go on white ballot. We will do that officially, and inform all our collaborating political parties."

Senator Johnson said his party's decision to hold the primary on Wednesday was done in consonance with Weah's CDC, who had thought of having a primary over the weekend in Ganta. "The CDC of President Weah thought we were doing our primary over the weekend, but we didn't plan it, that's why they went in Nimba County but we have decided to have it on Wednesday.

Describing Koung as a developer and not destroyer, Senator Johnson predicts victory for the lawmaker and named Sam Brown, runner-up to Koung in the 2017 elections and a businessman in Nimba, as Koung's immediate successor. "When Koung is elected Senator of Nimba County, Sam Brown will replace him because he's helping many people in the county when it comes to business. For Dorh Cooper, another aspirant for the Senate race in Nimba, he's my friend. We talk everyday but when it comes to politics, it's a different thing. Dorh is not in my party so I won't support him," Senator Johnson said.

Senator Johnson's clarity comes 48 hours after a damming audio of him went viral on social media where is heard bashing Koung's decision to contest the Senate race when he has three years left on his current tenure as lawmaker. His decision to backtrack on his earlier comment has prompted outrage from the public with many describing him as "inconstant".

CDC Flouts Coalition Framework

Also, Weah's CDC also failed to acknowledge the strength of Howard-Taylor's NPP in Bong County when the party ignored the Framework Document and settled for Senator Henry Yallah as its candidate in the county, despite him joining the party only three weeks ago.

Bong is seen as the stronghold of the NPP and Howard-Taylor, who is the first Senator in the history of the county to win two successive elections in 40 years (2005/2011).

Before contesting as running mate to Weah in 2017, Weah's CDC had struggled to win Bong County in previous presidential elections. In 2005 presidential elections, Weah's CDC finished third in Bong County, behind Unity Party who finished first and Winston Tubman's National Democratic Party of Liberia.

In 2011 presidential elections, Weah's CDC finished second to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Unity Party in Bong County. Unity Party accumulated 53, 608 votes which amounted to 70. 2 percent of the votes, while Weah's CDC obtained 22, 808, which amounted 29 percent of the votes.

During the 2017 presidential run-off elections, the Coalition clinched Bong County with 70, 668 votes amounting to 64.2 per cent against Ambassador Joseph Boakai of Unity Party with 39, 371 with 39, 371. It was an outcome political pundit attributed to Howard-Taylor's influence in Bong County.

It was hoped that the coalition would have given the nod to Howard-Taylor and the NPP to select a candidate for the coalition ticket in Bong as per the Framework Document because of the vice president's growing influence in the county.

But the decision by Weah's CDC to select Senator Yallah against the wishes of Howard-Taylor and the NPP has fuelled speculations in the county that the president is trying to disintegrate the NPP ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.

Amos Barbu, secretary general of NPP Bong Chapter, Amos Barbu had accused President Weah of trying hard to disintegrate the NPP after Howard-Taylor's ally of 27 years Esther Walker resigned from the NPP to join Weah's CDC. "The president wants to disintegrate the NPP and expects us to support his candidate for the party in the county, Henry Yallah," he said. "That won't work."

The vice president has promised to not to support Weah's candidate in Bong.

"Senator Yallah joined President Weah's CDC and so it's up to the party to ensure he gets re-elected," she said.

"I am not a loose talker. I am not someone who speak on top of my head. When I made those comments about Senator Yallah I thought about the situation that existed at the time in Bong County and those situations still exist. I maintain those comments about Senator Yallah heading to the December elections," she said.

With Howard-Taylor desperate to prove yet another political strength in Bong County in the December 8 election, the beef between she and President Weah could take a toll on the re-election chances of Senator Yallah despite his candidature as the ticket of Weah's CDC.

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