The National Legislature last week resumed constitutional function following months of constituency break. The Liberian Senate remains incomplete as 10 newly elected Senators of that august body are still awaiting the outcomes of legal battles. It could be recalled that Liberians went to the polls on December 8, 2020 to elect a new batch of 15 of the 30 Senators, whose tenures were expired after serving for nine years.
During the elections, only three of the 14 Senators, who sought re-election, namely: Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County and Augustine Chea of Sinoe County, were re-elected to their respective position, with 11 of the sitting Senators seeking re-election defeated. However, since the election of these Senators, there been some legal wrangling from their different political rivals. Even though the Hearing Officer of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Board of Commissioners of the Commission had overturned some of those cases, several of them decided to forward their matters to the Supreme Court of Liberia, which is the final arbiter of justice in the country.
Accordingly, one of these major cases, which has to do with a complaint filed against elections workers in River Cess County by Independent candidate Steve Tequah was decided by the Board of Commissioners (BOC) of NEC, which recommended a recount in seven of the 111 polling centers. Independent candidate Tequah, in his complaint, alleged that several valid votes belonging to him were counted invalid in seven polling centers. Based on the gravity of the matter and admittance by an official of the Commission into the matter, the Chairperson of the NEC, Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah, then ordered a recount based on the ruling of the NEC’s BOC that a re-count will be conducted in seven out of the 111 polling places in RiverCess County.
However, following the recount of results in the seven of the polling centers, it was only the margin that changed to the top, but the result remains stable as Mr. Wellinggton Geevon-Smith still won the race. Geevon-Smith, also a former Assistant Minister for Technical Services at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, got a total votes cast of 6. Smith Geevon (IND) 3,302 or 23.3% of the total valid votes cast, while Steve Tequah (IND) obtained 3,248 or 23.0%. In the previous results released by NEC, Geevon-Smith won by 3,284 votes, which was then put at 23.4%, while Mr. Tequah got 3,158 votes constituting 22.6% at the time.
This means that the recount gave Geevon-Smith an addition of 18 votes and an addition of 90 votes to Tequah as per the record of the count. Madam Janjay Bloh of the Rainbow Alliance (RA), with an addition of one vote in the recount, now has 1,001 or 7.1%. Former Grand Bassa County Electoral District #3 Representative, Mr. Gabriel Buchanan Smith, who contested on the ticket of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) , got four votes added and now has 2,056 votes (14.5%). Outgoing Senator Dallas Gueh of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) got additional 30 votes and so his total votes come to 2,149 which is put at 15.2%, while Bob Rancy Ziankan, also a former Superintendent, obtained four new votes after the recount and so his vote tally sums up to 1,559 or 11.0%.
Meanwhile, several other cases are still pending before the NEC and the Supreme Court, even though the NEC recently certificated five of the 15 winners, while it awaits the outcomes of the remaining 10. Those certificated by the country’s electoral body recently included: Senators Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, NyonbleeKarnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County, Prince Moye of Bong County, former Emmanuel Nuquay of Margibi County and Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie of River Gee County.
Interestingly, four of the five certificated Senators are from the main opposition political force, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP). The CPP is a conglomeration of four political parties, namely; Unity Party (UP), Liberty Party (LP), All Liberian Party (ALP) and Alternative Liberian Congress (ANC). Senators Dillon and Karnga-Lawrence are from the LP, while Senators Sogbie and Moye are from the UP. Former Speaker Nuquay comes from the People’s Unification Party (PUP). The Senators-elect, whose elections have been contested, are: Edwin Melvin Snowe-Bomi, Wellington Geevon-Smith-River Cess, Augustine Chea-Sinoe, Brownie J. Samukai-Lofa County, Jeremiah Koung-Nimba (Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction-MDR), Simeon Taylor-Grand Cape Mount (ANC/CPP), Numinee T.H. Bartekwa-Grand Kru (Independent), James Biney-Maryland (Coalition for Democracy-CDC) and Zoe Emmanuel Pennue-Grand Gedeh (CDC).
The race in Gbarpolu, which was scheduled to be re-run in four of the 144 disputed voting centers, also suffered setback and could not be held as rescheduled for Wednesday, January 6, 2021 following a writ of prohibition filed by the lawyer of the CDC Candidate, Cllr. Arthur Johnson before the Supreme Court of Liberia. Constitutionally, the Senate, otherwise known as the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature, will meet the two-thirds majority for major decision making process, and will have quorum for the holding its regular sessions; however, the number will be incomplete. This means that in case of any descending view of a majority decision making process, that decision will not be passed as required by law as it will lack the required majority.