Monrovia — As the Senate goes on break to return early 2021, 15 of the 30-member Senate's seats are going to be intensely contested for in December 2020.
FrontPageAfrica (FPA) looks at the odds and challenges of the incumbents retaining their seats in the Special Senatorial Election.
This newspaper, in a detailed analysis, will take a survey of senators, who are contesting for re-election. The focus will be, what are their chances of retaining their seats. What also are the chances of losing?
FPA will also look at the chances of those members of the House of Representatives, who have come forward to contest for the seats in the Senate. If any of those representatives wins, that person automatically leaves the HOR and goes to the Senate thereby creating a room for a by-election.
This analysis will cover five of the 15 counties: Montserrado, Bong, Bomi, Grand Bassa, and Nimba.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) in September this year announced that 118 candidates have registered to vie for the 15 vacant positions in the Senate. 18 are women m, including five who are from the main opposition collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
For most senators the odds are very high. But election as it is in Liberia, people are not allowed to be complacent. On a county by county analysis, this newspaper will begin with Montserrado County, one of the most politically heated counties.
Ten candidates. Including the incumbent, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, are contesting for the single seat in Montserrdo County. In 2019, Dillon entered the Senate to fill the vacancy left by Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, who passed away.
Dillon defeated Ms. Paulita Wie, the ruling Coalition from Democratic Change's candidate. His winning numbers can be compared to the winning numbers George Weah received when he won the Senate seat for Montserrado in 2014.
Dillon still enjoys support from a wide range of supporters who believe he has lived up to some of his campaign promises. His critics, however, believe he has failed. Dillon, during his campaign for the seat, promised to be the "light in the darkness". By that he meant, informing the public about some "shady deals" in the Senate.
He also promised to disclose his salary and of that amount, will only take home US$5000 and give the rest to the county through a county development council for the purpose of carrying out development projects in the county. His supporters think he has lived up to this promise.
In addition to taking that amount home, he thinks the full take home salary, which is US$7000 or more is too much and so he drafted a bill calling for elected officials of government, including the President and legislators to receive only US$5000 as their take home pay. Dillon's bill is still in committee room.
Dillon was seen as the man in Montserrado County until CDC introduced Representative Thomas Fallah as their candidate to contest for the seat he occupies. CDC is focused on making Senator Dillon a short-term senator. They believe Rep. Fallah is the man to do that.
Fallah has to his advantage the ruling CDC and the experience of being elected three times as Representative in Montserrado County. Since his introduction and with the support from the party, he has shown that the race is not going to be an easy ride for the incumbent.
Arguably, Fallah poses a serious threat to Dillon. Fallah comes with a huge support base. Dillon needs to double his campaign strategy if he's to be assured of re-election in Montserrado County.
Grand Bassa County
Eight candidates including incumbent Senator Nyounblee Karnga Lawrence are expected to contest in the Grand Bassa County senatorial election. Senator Karnga -Lawrence is one of the five women on the CPP ticket and is one of the 18 women among the 118 candidates for the mid-term election.
Currently, Karnga-Lawrence is the lone female lawmaker in the Senate. She is the standard bearer of the opposition Liberty Party of the late Cllr. Charles Brumskine. She has to her advantage nine years of legislative experience in the Senate.
She has been a strong female voice in the Senate. Judging from what this newspaper has seen so far, Senator Karnga-Lawrence supports in the county are the women. She has managed to mobilize the women of Grand Bassa County and if she is to manage a re-election it will be credited on the women.
Karnga-Lawrence has an uphill task to retain the seat as Grand Bassa's Senator as she faces a serious challenge from Mr. Gbehzohngar Milton Findley. Findley is a former Pro-Temp of the Senate, and most recently a former Foreign Minister.
He comes to the competition with a worth of experience as a former senator of Grand Bassa and a former Pro-Temp. Findley is the ruling CDC's candidate. With his experience and the support from the ruling establishment, he stands a great chance.
Findley's chances of winning against Nyounblee are 50-50 judging from his defeat by Senator Johnathan Kaipay in 2014. As head of the Senate and member of the than ruling Unity Party, Findley saw himself being defeated by a "little known" Kaipay who had the support of Liberty Party, which Sen. Kargar-Lawrence now heads.
Five candidates including incumbent Senator Sando Johnson are contesting for the vacant position in Bomi County. Senator Johnson won Bomi on the ticket of the National Patriotic Party of former President Charles Taylor who is serving a 50-year prison term in the UK.
Currently, Sen. Johnson is the candidate for the CPP in Bomi County. He was chosen over many other loyal partisans since he broke ranks with the NPP, who are in a Tripartite Marriage with the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Liberia People's Democratic Change (LPDP).
The Incumbent senator has an uphill task as he faces up with the likes of Representative Edwin Snowe and former House Speaker Alex Tyler. Candidates Snowe and Tyler have proven to be hard rocks to crack.
Representative Snowe, in 2017 left Montserado County where he served as Representative for District #6 to contest for a seat in Bomi County. He won and is now contesting to be Senator of that county. He resigned his membership from the Unity Party to allow him contest as an independent candidate. He poses serious threat to the incumbent.
Another candidate with serious influence is former House Speaker Alex Tyler. Tyler, who won two successive election as Representative of Bomi County as member of the Unity Party, broke ranks with the UP in 2017 and established his own LPDP.
Tyler is the CDC candidate in Bomi. He has to his advantage the support of the ruling establishment and his experience as former Speaker for more than eight years. Tyler poses serious threat to the incumbent senator.
In Bong County, eight candidates are contesting for the one vacant Bong County seat in the Senate including incumbent Senator Henry Yallah. Sen. Yallah is the CDC preferred candidate in Bong County. He faces challenges from the current Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Prince Moye and few others.
Yallah, a founding member of the People Unification Party (PUP), has served nine years in the Senate. He wants to retain his seat. Yallah has supported the dividing of the county into two separate counties.
When he was elected, he was one of the youngest candidates to be elected to the Senate in the history of Bong but is popularity and support base have faded away over the nine years he has been in the Senate.
Sen. Yallah's popularity has dropped. Most of those who supported him in his last bid have now declined to do so, including Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, even while he is the candidate of the CDC in Bong County.
In an interview with this newspaper, Vice President Jewel could not say whom she would support but was clear that Henry Yallah was not an option despite appeal from leaders of the CDC. "I maintain my stance that I will not be supporting Senator Henry Yallah for the Senate seat in Bong County," the VP said.
To his advantage, Yallah was recently endorsed by the Alternative National Congress' former Vice Standard Bearer, Ambassador Jeremiah Sulonteh.
To be re-elected Yallah has to prove to the people of Bong County that he is better than others who are contesting against him, including current Deputy Speaker Prince Moye. Moye is the CCPP's candidate in Bong.
Moye has proven to be a serious force to reckon with in the politics of Bong County. As one who has managed to win two successive elections as a representative in Bong County, he sits at the elite table in the county, second to Vice President Taylor, who has proven great influence.
Statistics have shown that Nimba County is the second most populated County, second to Montserrado County with a population of close to a million. Nimba has over the years proven to be a decider in who becomes the President of Liberia.
In this midterm election, there are six candidates including incumbent Senator Thomas Grupee. Grupee was elected 2011 as Nimba Senator. He won on the support of Senator Prince Johnson but their relationship began to sour when he joined the former ruling Unity Party.
In his latter days, he has fallen prey to illness that has kept him out of the country for several months. Some think that Grupee's illness cause him to loose contact with his base making his re-election a difficult one especially when he no longer has the support of Senator Prince Johnson, the man considered as the Godfather of Nimba politics.
Like him or not, Senator Johnson has proven to be a kingmaker at the level of the county and national politics levels. Every politician vying for elected post in Nimba wants Senator Johnson on their side.
With the absence of Senator Johnson, getting re-election is difficult if not impossible. Grupee is still confident that with or without Senator Johnson's support he can win re-election in Nimba County for another nine years.
In the wake of his confidence, Grupee has huge task ahead has he faces the likes of former Senator Adolphus Dolo, Madam Edith Gongloe-Weh, a former Superintendent of the county and Representative Jeremiah Koung who is serving his second term as Nimba County's Representative. Koung also has to his advantage the support of the Nimba "God father" Prince Johnson and is believed to be the candidate supported by the CDC by extension. Nimba is the only County the CDC didn't put forth a candidate and it is being widely believe that Jeremiah Koung is their candidate especially with their relationship with Senator Johnson