Maryland — -over NEC's ruling
Days after the National Election Commissioner (NEC) ruled in favor of incumbent Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morais from the National Patriotic Party (NPP), supporters of the Senator, attired in green berets, have celebrated in the county, terming the NEC ruling as first victory for Morais, who is seeking re-election.
According to them, the jubilation took place in all three electoral districts of Maryland following the ruling by the NEC that the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) which the NPP is a constituent member, violated the rights of Senator H. Dan Morais when it denied him exclusive right as an incumbent senator to re-contest for the senate on the Coalition ticket.
The CDC instead, conducted primary last month in the county and named NPP chairman James Biney as its candidate for the midterm senatorial election on December 8, 2020.
Speaking to this paper, Jasper Goodluck Woods, Public Relationship Officer for Senator Morais said though they await the impending election, the ruling from the National Election Commission demonstrates its credibility in electoral matters.
The NEC board of commissioners recently ruled, "We conclude that the agreement informs that if a constituent party to the Coalition has a sitting Representative or Senator in the National Legislature and that the legislative seat is up for election, the right to nominate a candidate to contest the said election on the Coalition's ticket belongs solely to the that party".
The NEC's ruling followed a complaint filed by Senator Dan Morias against the CDC primary, arguing that as an incumbent senator of the NPP, he is entitled to the seat in line with the framework that binds member parties of the Coalition.
Morais argued in his complaint that the framework agreement that the three-party Coalition (CDC, NPP LPDP) submitted to the NEC during the 2017 elections has an incumbency clause that provides that a party to the agreement with seat(s) in the House of Representatives and/or the Senate shall reserve the right of nomination of the seat(s), noting that on the basis of the agreement, the right to nominate a candidate to vie for the county's senatorial seat that he currently occupies belongs exclusively to the NPP.
But the Coalition has appealed the ruling before the Supreme Court of Liberia. Pending opinion from the High Court, it is not clear whether or not Senator Morais will contest on the Coalition's ticket, knowing already that the NPP Chairman James P. Biney has been nominated to contest for the same seat on the Coalition ticket.
However, Jasper and other supporters of Morais are optimistic that in as much as the Senator is still in the race, his hard work and development in Maryland County will speak for him even if he doesn't appear on the Coalition ticket.
Senator Morais in a recent press conference in Maryland County said, whether the Supreme Court opinion will be positive or not, his major focus is not to be on the Coalition ticket at all cost, but to show that Liberia is country of Law, not men.
He addressed the press conference after filling his petition before the National Elections Commission, accompanied by the framework document that seals the marriage of the three parties.
He maintains that as an incumbent senator seeking reelection, he supposed to be the automatic choice of the Coalition in accordance with its framework. The Maryland County senator explains that the Coalition signed a framework document that unites the NPP, LPDP and the CDC, detailing that the document clearly states in Article 7(g) that an incumbent who goes to the Coalition with his or her seat shall be given preference to said seat in an election.
Despite the arguments about who to contest on the Coalition ticket in the County, the National Elections Commission has called on the ruling tripartite Coalition to return to status quo and implement its own rules established in 2017, particularly Article 7, which states:
"That parties of the Coalition which have seats in the Legislature shall reserve the right of nomination to the seat. And in constituencies where there is no candidate for Coalition members, the candidates that provide the best option for victory shall be considered as the Coalition's nominees."
"In reference to the facts derived from the framework that brought together the National Patriotic Party, the Liberia People Democratic Party and the Congress for Democratic Change into the now ruling Coalition of Democratic Change, Sen. Morais and all other incumbent Lawmakers who desire to contest an impending election have automatic right to become candidates for the ensuing election," said Barsee Kpankpa, in ruling on behalf of NEC Board of Commissioners.
Kpankpa reminded the Coalition (predominantly led by the Congress for Democratic Change) that it agreed that once an incumbent Lawmaker is not in conflict with his or her constituent political party, he or she stands the chance of becoming a possible candidate for the Coalition.
Relying on the CDC's framework, he noted that the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) qualified without any opposition from both the LPDP and the NPP to produce a candidate in 2017 for Montserrado Senatorial By-Election after the dead of Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, who was elected on the Coalition ticket. Similar disagreement occurred recently between Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and President George Weah over who should contest on the Coalition ticket in Bong County.
VP Taylor, who herself represented the NPP in Senate before ascending to the Vice Presidency is in disagreement with Senator Henry Yallah, who crossed over to the CDC and begged to be considered as the Coalition's candidate for Bong County in the upcoming senatorial elections.
VP Taylor had argued that she cannot support Senator Yallah because the Bong County slot belongs to her party, the NPP; therefore, the Coalition erred by conducting primary in the county without the NPP's consent.