EDITORIAL: May The Legislative Leadership Elections Be Peaceful

TODAY, MONDAY, January 15, 2024, the newly elected government is beginning to boot its operations with elections for the leaderships of the National Legislature—the Senate Pro Tempore, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker of the House. The event is a landmark activity kickstarting a new political dispensation of governance for the next six years. However, it is important to note that the process already begun generating much public interest, especially in the wake of debates over whether an all-ruling Unity Party leaders should be elected or a politically heterogenous leadership, or mix of both ruling and opposition leaders should emerge the winners.

THE POLITICAL DICHOTOMY characterizing the legislative leadership elections is expressed in the names that have emerged as candidates. For the House of Representatives, two major camps have come out: Opposition candidate Deputy Speaker Fonati Koffa and his opposition supporters on the one hand and Representative Richard Koon and his incoming ruling Unity Party Alliance loyalists on the other. The Senate, which is fondly called ‘House of Elders’, is truly elderly conducting its affairs, candidates Nyonblee Karnga-Lawarence and Milton GBEZOHNGAR FINLEY, ALMOST playing it cool.

Throughout the campaign for the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker posts, there have been trading of accusations and mudslinging, one candidate or their apologists incriminating the other. The campaign has hardly been about issues; it has rather been about personalities. Others who support Representative Koffa are arguing over issue of exclusion or inclusion, with one group opting for an opposition House Speaker since the incoming President and possibly the President Pro Tempore are all hailing from the same party. This, they argue, will ensure better checks and balances called for by the Constitution and ensure political inclusion, since Koffa hails from the Southeast and the President, the VP, and possibly the President Pro-Tempore hail from different regions of the country. The Koon bloc counterargues that it will not be unconstitutional to have both the Speaker and President and even the President Pro Tempore from the same party, citing past governments such as the CDC, NDPL and the very UP in its first 12-year term.

WITH SPECULATION THAT deputy speaker Koffa is heavily lobbying amongst his colleagues to secure their votes during the speakership election, it was also reported that President-elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai held a meeting with representatives at his residence with the aim of soliciting their votes for the Unity Party’s candidates, Montserrado County District #11 Representative Koon. In fact, it was said that the president-elect had offered money to the Representatives that he met as a way of enticing them to vote for Representative Koon, but the political officer of President-elect Boakai Mohammed Ali rubbished the claim as untrue.

ANOTHER DISTURBING FACTOR is the report that the incoming Unity Party is challenging Deputy Speaker Koffa’s nationality, to the effect that they are saying he holds dual citizenship and is not by law eligible for the Speakership. Similarly, the Fonati bloc is also accusing Representative Koon of holding dual citizenship. These cynical overtures by both sides don’t seem to promise a peaceful conduct of the legislative leadership elections. Things could go awry and disruptive as tensions bud between the blocs, every camp placing an uncompromisingly firm eye on power.

IT IS AGAINST THE backdrop of these ominous signs of tensions that we are calling for peaceful legislative elections not only at the level of the House of Representatives, but also at the Senate where there the Pro-tempore election is concurrently taking place. Already, the country is squarely divided following a rather highly competitive presidential and general elections, and citizens are angry since. A peaceful legislative leadership electoral process today does have the potential to set the stage for successful governance.

WE THEREFORE CALL for calm from all sides; let there be calm from the all the fierce bickering during the proceedings today so that they don’t generate distraction for the successful governance process. It must also be said that whoever become the speaker or senate pro tempore is a Liberian, and notably will not be inclined to forestall the policies that will benefit the people of this country. As we all know, this country, the politics of this country is not ideologically and philosophically clear in difference and outlooks, and it will be folly to tear each other apart on who becomes House Speaker or President Pro Tempore.

ACCORDINGLY, WE ARE reminding those who harbor fear that an opposition leadership of the Legislature will be detrimental to the good policies of the President to rethink their position, because one man or woman may not be inclined and able to forestall any progressive and beneficial policy for all Liberians while the rest of 102 lawmakers look on aloof and unconcerned. This is why we are seeking the indulgence of the legislators to conduct a peaceful election which will set the agenda for a peaceful and successful government in the coming regime.

INDEED, THE ECHOES from the elections today, whether ferocious or peaceful, will impact the country and its people for months and years to come. That’s we care must be taken now.

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