With barely a week to the conduct of an election that would usher in the next Deputy Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives, finding from an investigation launched by the Liberian Network puts Grand Kru District#1 Representative Jonathan Fonati Koffa well ahead of rivals.
Sources say Rep. Koffa, Chair of the House's Committee on Judiciary, has already secured vote guarantees from 18 out of 73 lawmakers.
According to sources close to Rep. Koffa's office, additional commitments have been made by lawmakers who were undecided in the upcoming Deputy Speaker election which political analysts say would be very charged.
"I will put his chance of winning the position at 85%," one lawmaker, who claimed to be in the camp of lawmaker Koffa said without making his name public for fear of exposing the group's winning strategy.
"I can tell you for sure that he would win the Deputy Speaker position. Amongst the aspirants, I think he's the most qualified, competent, experienced, and very accessible to his colleagues," our respondent replied when quizzed further on the election," the lawmaker boasted.
The impending Deputy Speaker contest at the Liberian House of Representatives comes following the election of incumbent Deputy Speaker Prince Moye as Senator-elect of Bong County. Mr. Moye replaces outgoing Senator Henry W. Yallah.
His transitioning to the Liberian Senate leaves the slot open for competition amongst lawmakers who have expressed vested interest in filling the vacant position.
Analysts have predicted a tight race between Representative Koffa who hails from the governing CDC party and the Unity Party aspirant Clarence Massaquoi, who represents the opposition bloc. There are reports that Representative Massaquoi is also engaged in an intense behind the curtains campaigning with members the House of Representatives in an attempt to nab victory. Details on the outcome of these meetings are still emerging.
The election is a constitutional fulfillment, including rules 8.1 and 8.2 of the House's Standing Rules. Rule 8.1 of the House's Standing Rules states that: "in the absence of the speaker, the deputy speaker of the Honorable House of Representatives shall preside over the sitting of the august body and shall exercise all rights and powers assigned to the speaker."
In the same vein, Rule 8.2 also states that: the Deputy Speaker shall assist the speaker in the discharge of his/her functions, and he/she shall perform such duties as the Speaker shall delegate or deem appropriate and shall also initiate financial and other transactions prior to the approval of the Speaker."
The Deputy Speaker election is to also accompany the President's address to the Liberian legislature, an event which takes place on the fourth working Monday each year, according to the 1986 Liberian constitution.
The Liberian constitution provides that the President, who's also the Head of State, addresses a full assembly to satisfy this constitutional mandate. The upcoming Deputy Speaker vote is expected to complete the terms and agreement of the constitutional phrase "full legislative assembly".
So far, Representative Koffa is expected to compete with Rep. Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County District#3, Rep. Samuel Kogar of Nimba County District#5 and Chairman of the People's Unification Party (PUP), among others.
Political analysts predict that the election would be highly concentrated on party and sectional lines. There are also indications that the political playing field would have some minimum influence of bipartisan politics which is not common to the Liberian political theater.