Battle for Legislative Dominance Rages -UPists Look Up to JNB To “Rescue” UP Alliance -Weah’s CDC Consolidates to Maintain Grips
MONROVIA: While the echoes and hurts of the epic political contestation between incumbent Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the opposition Unity Party or UP Alliance still bellows freshly on the horizon, there is another battle in the offing—and it is seething rather ferociously. The two archrivals are once again fiercely locked into the battle of dominance over the first branch of Government, the National Legislature. From the point of fair play, it would sound good suggesting that, for the sake of political balance, the CDC which lost Executive Powers should be allowed to take control of the Legislature. But that’s just from a sentimental lens. The true is the Constitution does not say so; in fact, the situation is compounded by the fact that the outgoing ruling CDC, for five years, essentially occupied both the Executive and Legislature leaderships of the Country. With the precedence, the incoming Unity Party has launched a full-scale “war” with all expectation that President-elect Joseph N. Boakai will add stem to their struggle towards replicating full political power dominance which the CDC is not willing to relinquish over silver platter. The Analyst reports.
Victorious Unity Party, which snatched away Executive Powers from the Coalition for Democratic Change is seemingly not resting until it also takes control of the Legislature with the powerful seats of Speaker of the House, President Pro tempore and Deputy Speaker of the House up to grab.
Doing so, according to some pundits, is not just lying down because the CDC, which is fresh on the political field, having maintained both Executive and Legislature powers for straight six years, is fighting back with all its experience and power. And because of the foregoing, UP stalwarts now believe the contestation for legislative dominance against the CDC cannot be won without intentional efforts on the part of President-elect Joseph Boakai, who is not only a longtime statesman but also a 12-year Vice President and Presider over Senate proceedings.
Upists contend that after their party had successfully wrestled executive power from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC), it was time to subdue the Legislature if the new president and his government will have unhindered powers to implement its policies if it takes national duty as of January 22 this year.
The 1986 Constitution of Liberia provides that principal officials of the House of Senate and House of Representatives be elected before the inauguration of the incoming government. This gives every elected lawmaker the franchise to cast their ballot in favor of their choice as it relates to who becomes the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate.
The Legislature, popularly revered as the First Branch of Government is responsible to make laws, approve and or ratify important national decisions, confirm government appointees, deliberate and pass the national budgets, among others. This makes the National Legislature or Parliament as it is called in other jurisdictions as the heartbeat of a functional democracy.
Any president’s success is largely contingent upon his or her relationship with the National Legislature, which has the political wherewithal to thwart or embolden the Executive’s policies and programs.
All these considerations define the ferocity of the ongoing political contestation which followed the presidential elections of last month.
The Lineup in the Battle
After intense negotiations and compromises along the way in the last few weeks, the boxing ring has narrowed a bit, with some of the previously known contestants on both sides give in for their compatriots. Now, those having their hats in the ring for the House of Representatives are Representative Richard Koon of District #11, Montserrado County (UP), and current Deputy Speaker Fonati J. Koffa of Grand Kru County (CDC) after Representative Thomas P. Fallah stepped down on the advice of the party hierarchy.
Also in the race is the national Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP), Musa Hassan Bility, who was recently elected in District #7, Nimba County.
For position of Deputy Speaker, UP is reportedly not fielding any candidate but cedes it to any of its alliance member parties and independent lawmakers. This is the party’s strategy to attract approval and votes from independent circles that will help to bolster the chance of its candidate, Representative Koon.
Meanwhile, the CDC is said to be putting forth Representative Thomas Fallah who stepped down for Koffa.
There is no information from the Bility camp whether he has chosen any Deputy Speaker or whether he has decided to leave it for any other person who will decide to contest the post.
For its part, the Senate is relatively politically tranquil compared with the House of Representatives. Though Margibi County Senator Emmanuel Nuquay has reportedly expressed his intention for the President Pro Tempore, not much noise if supporters and himself are making. The loudest of noise is coming from Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, as CDC Albert Chie has backed off from the race, or at least shows no interest at all.
Some pundits this this leaves Senator Lawrence almost for the white ballot.
Our reporter who is closely following the legislative politics, all the political parties, mainly the CDC and UP, are taking the contestations very seriously, as they consider it crucial to their own pursuit of political dominance and relevance in the public space.
According to the reporter, some pundits believe the CDC, having lost state power now regards taking control of the National Legislature a strategic and powerful way to reposition itself; to rebuild the party and restore confidence in their members as they move to retake state power in 2029, and meanwhile to be able to effectively keep the UP ruling establishment in check.
Apparently lacking the financial wherewithal and the political pedigree since they have been out of power for six years, UPists opine that their efforts amount to little or nothing without the direct and full participation and intervention of their standard bearer, president-elect Boakai in getting the Legislature under their control.
One UP stalwart is quoted as saying that way president Weah and CDC controlled both houses for six years, ensuring that the opposition stopped effectively from having its influence derail the legislative agenda of the Weah administration, it is time Boakai added his voice and efforts for UP to also take similar positon.
He UPist told our reporter: “Remember, UP made a lot of promises that must be fulfilled before the Liberian people start to boo them. They have a whole new government to set up, where confirmation of nominated officials will have to pass; where budgets will be submitted for approval; where concessional loans and other agreements have to be ratified, amongst many other things.
“If we miss the opportunity to getting the legislature on our side, we run into failing to meet public expectations on development and transformation promised the people of Liberia, and we must be prepared to serve one term like the CDC.”
Other obstacle facing the UP in getting the desperately sought legislative dominance regime is the Musa Bility factor.
Sylvester Tomanason, a political analyst, said CPP’s leader Musa Hassan Bility should not be overlooked in the game as he could benefit from “the spoils of the rivalry between CDC and UP as some representatives. He said especially the new and independent ones could just go the Bility way to avoid getting burned and stalled in back and forth fight between the two main parties, CDC and UP.
Bility and a satellite of independent lawmakers could pick an opportunity where they would want to rally around one another of their own block as fast track settling down in sessions and beginning to push things for their constituencies with Bility reciprocating their votes to get him elected.
Accessing Strengths of Candidates
A number of pundits have made their independent assessments of the candidates in the legislature leadership positions.
For instance, for the chances of each of the three main candidates running for the Speakership, some pundits contend that the CDC candidate, Koffa, could have a comparative advantage as far as statistics are concerned.
The CDC currently has 25 members out of the 73 representatives recently elected or re-elected and when they decided to vote as a bloc, though some are doubting it could happen, the party would just need an addition of at least 10 persons making it to 35, assuming the remaining 38 will be shared between Koon and Bility.
And if the same persons vote the same way as they would be expected to vote for the Speaker, it is also surmised that Representative Thomas Fallah stands the chance of being the next Deputy Speaker.
Assessment is also made of the Senate contestants. Recently, while speaking on the Spoon Network, Senator elect of River Gee County, Francis S. Dopoh conjectured that Representative Koon was in a better position, putting his numerical strength at 14 and 10 representatives from UP and 4 from its alliance member, the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction(MDR).
He added: “But we are in negotiation with other parties, including the CDC and independents victors, who are collaborating with us. We have the experience of legislative politics and we are doing every possible to ensure that at the end of the day, Representative Koon will be the next Speaker.”
He disagreed that people insinuating that CDC will vote in a bloc are not telling the truth.
“But I can tell you by the first week in January you will know what I am talking about,” he said.
In a related development, Representative Samuel Kogar of Nimba County who publicly declared that he was contesting to be the next Deputy Speaker said besides the UP members, many other smaller parties including his People’s Unification Party (PUP) and independents are solidly behind Representative Koon and the numbers will show on election day.
Another pundit following the legislative leadership elections saga put it this way: “The race in the senate will be a tricky one. If it is confirmed that Senator Nuquay who once served as Speaker during the 53rd national legislature is actually in the race then it will be a very rough ride for Senator Nyonblee who seems to enjoy the support of the President elect and some of her colleagues since there seems to be an understanding that she should take the position by acclamation or white ballot.”
Nuquay, though elected to the Senate on the platform of the People’s Unification Party (PUP), will have the support from the 12 senators elected on the tickets of CDC, others say.
If they give him a bloc support, then he will now have to get just 3 new persons plus himself to vote him in the house that has 30 members.
With this kind of uncertain situation, and given the fierce battle expected in the race for the speakership, UP stalwarts say President Elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai is the hope to make them succeed.
“JNB will be needed most to change the tide around using the proximity to what in Liberia is called the nearby imperial presidency,” an UP stalwart noted. “It is said that outgoing President George Manneh Weah used similar proximity in 2018 to have the outgoing Speaker and the Pro Tempore Bhofal Chambers and Albert Chie elected to their respective positions.”
If Bokai were to follow suit, he said, “this could be the reliance for the UP to start celebrating of having our candidates in the positions they are canvassing for; something that will in no small way be a definitive step forward to stamp our administration’s authority on governance in the country for the next 6 years until another election in 2029.”