Senate Pro-Temp Albert Chie 2nd from left on the front row at the opening of 54 legislature on Jan. 16.

Liberia: Pro-Tempore Chie Troubled over Senators’ Re-election Jinx

..... “Despite years of hard work and constant visits to constituencies, history has unfortunately never been kind to Senators seeking re-election,” said Chie.

A troubled Senate Pro-Tempore, Albert Chie, could not hide his fear when lawmakers returned for its 6th and final session for the 54th Legislature.

Chie, one of 15 senators who will be seeking reelection this year, is worried that as Liberians go to the polls in October, many incumbents may not return as history has never been kind to them when seeking re-election in the postwar history of Liberia.

Being cognizant of this fact, Chie took out some time during his deliberations on January 16, to practically seek divine intervention for a change in fortune for him and 14 of his colleagues who are up for re-election. 

“Most of our seats are up for electoral contestations in the last quarter of this year. Despite years of hard work and constant visits to constituencies, history has unfortunately never been kind to Senators seeking re-elections,” he said. “We hope this class will be an exception and the return rate will be high. I urge all of us to work towards this goal.”

The Grand Kru County Senator is right to be troubled as he is conscious of the fact that there exists a jinx that hangs over the upper house, as only two of 30 senators who sought re-elections in 2014, and 2022 returned.

In 2014, the returnees were Vice President, Jewel Howard Taylor, then Senator of Bong County, and Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County. President George Weah and the Senate Pro-temp, himself, were two of 13 new senators who dislodged the then incumbent Senators.

Weah replaced Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo, who was elected on the ticket of the CDC, while Chie replaced Slpopadoe Gbenimah.

However, the biggest casualty of the 2014 special senatorial elections was former Senate Pro-Tempore Gbehzongar M. Findley (Grand Bassa), who could not triumph despite huge assistance from then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Other new senators elected that year were Morris Saytumah (Bomi), Daniel Naatehn (Gbarpolu), Jonathan L. Kaipay (Grand Bassa), Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount), Stephen Zargo (Lofa), Jim Tornonlah (Margibi), Gbleh-bo Brown (Maryland), Conmany Wesseh (River Gee), Francis Paye (River Cess), and Marshall Dennis (Grand Gedeh).

The 2022 special senatorial elections were no different either, as only two incumbents again emerged victorious, while only 14 sought reelections. Senator Alphanso Gaye did not seek reelection.

The two who returned in 2020 were Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence Abraham Darius Dillon of Grand Bassa and Montserrado Counties respectively. The re-election chances of many senators were made slimmer as a result of the huge numbers of contestants across the country.

On December 8, 2020, the National Elections Commission revealed that a total of 118 aspirants were vying for 15 senatorial seats across the country. The aspirants included 8 females, 100 males, 44 independent, 74 political parties and alliances, and 17 members of the House of Representatives, respectively.

That was the first in the contemporary history of Liberian elections for a special senatorial poll to produce the highest number of incumbent members of the House of Representatives, seeking to go to the Liberian Senate.

The new senators who emerged out of those contestations were Edwin M. Snowe (Bomi), Simeon Taylor (Cape Mount), Wellington Geevon Smith (River Cess), Botoe Kanneh (Gbarpolu), Brownie J. Samukai (Lofa, though he was not allowed to take up the seat), James Biney (Maryland), Numene Bartekwa (Grand Kru), Prince Moye (Bong), Emmanuel Nuquay (Margibi) Crayton Duncan (Sinoe), and Zoe Emmanuel Pennue (Grand Gedeh), Jeremiah Koung (Nimba), and Jonathan Boyce-Charles Sogbie (River Gee).

Of the total 118 candidates who contested the 2020 senatorial elections, Lofa County topped the list with 11 individuals, followed by Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount counties with 10 aspirants each, closely chased by River Cess, Margibi, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, and Gbarpolu Counties, featuring nine aspirants each in the much-publicized pending election.

Bong, Grand Bassa, and Maryland Counties produced eight aspirants apiece, while Nimba County produced seven with Bomi County registering five, and River Gee and Sinoe Counties putting forth four aspirants each.

Meanwhile, Pro-temp Chie, in his opening remarks on Tuesday, also claimed that multi-party democratic elections do not always produce the best elective public servants, and believes there are many reasons for this.

“Nevertheless, multi-party democracy, which ensures one man, one vote, is the surest way, laid down in our constitution for the will of the people to be met and satisfied and their own voices to be heard,” he said.

 “As the next presidential and legislative elections approach later this year, I commit the Liberian Senate to ensure free, fair, credible, and violence-free elections through our actions, statements, and oversight responsibilities,” he added.