Liberia: VP Taylor Loses Legitimacy in NPP?

Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor

.... Party says she is no Longer NPP Political leader; but could this leadership struggle foil CDC’s reelection quest?

The prolonged internal legal leadership tussles within the National Patriotic Party (NPP), one of the constituent parties of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Charge (CDC), is now beyond boiling as the standard bearer or political leader position has been declared vacant and is now up for grabs.

The Chairman of the Party, James Biney, said that Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor is no longer the political leader of the party and that she has been duly informed of her fate within the party.

The decision to declare the position vacant, he said, is in keeping with the party’s constitution. The party has already extended notice for applications from members who are interested in becoming the next standard bearer.

“The NPP does not have a political leader or standard bearer now as we speak as per our constitution. We have already told VP Tayor that her tenure as the standard bearer of the party has ended,” Chairman Biney said at a press conference a fortnight ago after a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held at the Party’s headquarters in Congo Town.

“As of December 2, 2022, Jewel Howard-Taylor’s tenure as Standard Bearer of the NPP constitutionally ended in line with articles 3.2 and 9.1 of the NPP’s Constitution.”

Article 3.2 of the NPP’s constitution states: “There shall be a national convention held once every six years or during the year of general and presidential elections, amongst other things, to nominate and endorse candidates for presidential and legislative positions as a result of primaries held in the political subdivisions. According to Article 9.1, no officer or official of the Party can succeed himself or herself more than once.”

Except amended, which is yet to be done, the constitution of the NPP prohibits Madam Taylor and all elected officials from seeking a third term. She was first elected Standard Bearer of the Party in 2010 and was reelected in 2016 for another six-year term.

In observance of the National Elections Commission’s published electoral guidelines, and the NPP Constitution sections 11.1 and 11.2, which relate to the nomination of legislative candidates and presidential candidates respectively, the NPP’s NEC mandated its Secretary-General, Andrew Peters, to solicit applications from members for nomination as the Party’s legislative and presidential candidates.

NPP Legal Tussle

Trapped in a bitter leadership struggle dating as far back as 2018 between Taylor and Biney, the NPP also found itself in a legal battle that the Supreme Court’s intervention seems far from restoring calm. The nation’s highest court however granted legitimacy to the Biney faction of the party.

On August 4, 2022, the Supreme Court handed down two separate rulings in the NPP matter before it.  In the first case, “Jewel Howard Taylor, Standard Bearer vs James P. Biney, National Chairman et al,” the Supreme Court sustained a Civil Law Court ruling that said that VP Taylor, as an ex-officio member of  NPP’s NEC, has no authority to convene the meeting and or issue formal communications in the name of the Party.

“All actions taken by the Standard Bearer to convene meetings, to preside over meetings, conventions, and administer the affairs of the Party administratively were illegal and unconstitutional, and hence, reversible and unenforceable, and accordingly, the Standard Bearer herein are all, jointly and severally barred, prevented, prohibited and restrained from attempting to usurp, interfere with, obstruct, impede, and assume any of the functions and operations of the NEC,” the Court said.

The Supreme Court also upheld the 2004 Constitution produced by Biney’s leadership and its amendments which were adopted in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, in 2016. The Court furthered that the alleged 2016 revised Constitution relied on by Taylor be simultaneously declared illegal, null and void — adding that the National Chairman, the National Secretary General, and other ranking members of the National Executive Committee, are the proper and lawful authority to convene meetings of the Party and issue out publication in the name of the Party.

In its second ruling, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the National Elections Commission and recognized Biney as the legitimate Chairman of the Party and all other officers in his leadership, and requested him, Biney, to take the Party to its 7th Biennial Convention in line with the Party Constitution, and mandated the Civil Law Court to resume jurisdiction over the matter.

On the strength of these two rulings, the Civil Law Court mandated Biney’s leadership to take the Party to its 7th Biennial Convention — an event that became chaotic when the convention was convened on October 7, at the Paynesville Town Hall. 

But in an apparent disregard to the Supreme Court rulings, Taylor, on that same Friday at the convention, resisted Biney and Peters from presiding — a situation that led to violent clashes and holding separate conventions later. 

A man allegedly died during the incident.  

She presided over one group outside the hall, while Biney and Peters presided over the other. Biney was reelected Chairman from his end, and the VP later inducted herself as Standard Bearer for a third term and pronounced Cllr. Stanley Kparkillen as Chairman and Morris G. Paye as Secretary General for her faction of the party.

An enraged NPP Chairman Emeritus, Chief Cyril Allen, issued a public condemnation of Taylor’s action and termed it unconstitutional. Additionally, the Governing Council of the Coalition for Democratic Change released a statement affirming Biney’s leadership and rejecting Kparkillen.

The vice president stood her ground and called on the CDC not to interfere in the affairs of the NPP, an independent Party. She has since run parallel party structures in Monrovia and in counties where her actions are rejected by the NPP partisans. 

This time, the CDC appears careful — tight-lipped — to air its views on the NPP’s internal strife, since the legitimacy of its vice-standard bearer hangs in the balance. A request for comment from the Daily Observer to a high ranking official of the ruling party was replied with a request “for 24 hours to consult."

Will the Coalition have to choose between its institutional member (NPP) and its second-highest ranking partisan (VP Taylor), or can they sustain a unified front going into the October elections? A delicate balance, no doubt. 

With such a crisis within the NPP, this could be the least that President George Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) would want to face now as it prepares to focus on its reelection bid, come October, is any sort of distraction — be it an internal wrangling within the coalition or within any of the constituent parties. 

In 2016 the NPP through Taylor formed a coalition with the Congress for Democratic Change of then-Senator George M. Weah.

It was through that collaboration that Taylor became the running mate of President George Weah. With this new development, it is not known if Taylor will still run on the ticket of the NPP to maintain her seat as the vice standard bearer in the 2023 elections.

But at the end of the October 7, 2022 convention, Chairman Biney appointed a 16-member coalition framework review committee to look at salient issues in the agreement that bound the party to an agreement signed by the Congress for Democratic Congress (CDC), the Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP) and the NPP during the 2017 election.

The 16-member committee is headed by Cllr. Abel Momodu Massaly and Dr. Agnes Reeves Taylor as Co-Chairs, while Atty Allison Barco is the Secretary-General. Others on the committee are Samson Wiah, Albert Quenah, Charlyne A. Taylor, Dopoe Menkazon and other eminent partisans. 

These members hold the future of the party and would decide whether it enters collaboration with another political institution.

With this looming uncertainty within the coalition as well as the public pronouncement from Senator Prince Y. Johnson that his ties with the CDC have come to an end, many are waiting to see how the ruling party would fare at the ensuing October elections.