Ahead of the midterm senatorial elections in 2020, the Daily Observer has gathered that 20 members of the House of Representatives, who claimed to be potentially strong candidates in their respective constituencies, have expressed interests to contest in the upcoming 2020 senatorial mid-term election. For those who would win, the upcoming mid-term election promises a nine-year (2021 – 2030) term and, before that, a much less complex political season than in 2023, when there will be presidential and general elections.
Also, senators earn more than representatives. In addition to lawmaking, representation and oversight, of which both Houses have similar responsibilities, senators have further duties of confirming Presidential appointment, where applicable, as well as administering and hearing impeachment trials of the president, vice president, the chief justices, associate judges and other judges — again, where applicable.
In accordance of Article 29 of the 1986 Constitution, “The legislative power of the Republic shall be vested in the Legislature, which shall consist of two separate houses: A senate and a house of representatives, both of which must pass on all legislation. The enacting style shall be: “It is enacted by the Senate and Representatives of the Republic of Liberia in Legislature assembled.”
The Constitution further grants the senate its own unique power: ratifying treaties, approving presidential appointments and a two-thirds vote of Senate is required before a person is impeached from office.
The Daily Observer has gathered that among the 73 members of the House of Representatives, there are at least 20, who are expected to contest the 2020 senatorial elections, including Deputy Speaker Prince K. Moye, and the House Judiciary Chairman J. Fonati Koffa, in Bong and Grand Kru counties, respectively.
Others are Representatives Samuel Enders (Montserrado County); Cryton Oldman Duncan (Sinoe County), Hanson Kiazolu (Grand Cape Mount County), Matthew Joe (Grand Bassa County), Isaac Roland (Maryland County) and Mambu Sonii (Grand Cape Mount County).
Also, Representatives Julie Wiah (Lofa County), Mariamu Fofona (Lofa County), Jeremiah Koung (Nimba County), Zoe Pennue (Grand Gedeh County), Alex Grant (Grand Gedeh County), Ivar Jones (Margibi County), Ben Fofana (Margibi County).
The rest, who will seek the senate election in 2020, according to insiders, include Representatives Rosana Schaak (River Cess), Nathaniel Barway (Grand Kru County), Francis Young and Kanie Wesso (Gbarpolu County).
Besides the 17 seats, the two former Speakers, J. Alex Tyler and J. Emmanuel Nuquay, are also contesting the senate election in Bomi and Margibi Counties, respectively.
Also in the 2020 senatorial Elections, Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar Findley, is expected to run in Grand Bassa County. Others are former Foreign Affairs Minister Thomas Yaya Nimley (Grand Gedeh County); former Finance Minister Amara Konneh (Gbarpolu County); and former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai (Lofa County) .
There is no doubt that a victory by any of the current members of the House of Representatives in the senatorial by-election would trigger a new round of by-elections for their seats left empty in the House.
Political connoisseurs believe that the mass entry of Representatives in the midterm senatorial race is unprecedented and, if a sitting representative should win, it will be the third times for a sitting representative to be elected. It can be recalled that former Representatives Francis Paye (River Cess County), and Saah Joseph (Montserrado County) were elected to the Senate.
Pundits further believed that, besides the probable US$37 million budget for the 2020 senatorial elections, the government should also allot US$10 million for the expected by-elections.
Senate Appeal Falls on Deaf Ears
A plea from Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie, begging members of the House of Representatives not to contest in the 2020 senatorial election and to avoid the surge of probabilities of the re-election of sitting senators, has fallen on deaf ears evidently, because of the increasing number of representatives, who have expressed their interests.
Chie informed his colleagues from the Lower House that the Senate is reviewing a “Bill of Ineligibility of Sitting Senators and House of Representatives Not to Contest Legislative Elections.”
He said that the bill has “political and constitutional implications.” Therefore, it would be used to stop sitting members of the House of Representatives from contesting in the 2020 senatorial elections.
“We want to use this time to appeal to our dear colleagues in the House of Representatives, without infringing on their constitutional rights, because we know they are very strong; but there is an economic implication in which this economy cannot afford to conduct such elections,” Chie said.
Senator Chie’s remark was greeted with laughter from his colleagues, who feel that, should the Senate approve the law, it would be forwarded to the House of Representatives for concurrence, which could be perpetually placed in the dust bin.
Additionally, there are 12 senators, who have expressed interest in seeking re-election. They include Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (Grand Bassa), Dan Morais (Maryland), Peter Coleman (Grand Kru), Matthew Jaye (River Gee), Henry Yallah (Bong), Thomas Grupee (Nimba), George Tengbeh (Lofa), Sando Johnson (Bomi), Armah Jallah (Gbarpolu), Oscar Cooper (Margibi), Dallas Gweh (River Cess), Augustus Chea (Sinoe) and Alphonso Gaye (Grand Gedeh).
Montserrado County Senator-elect, Darius Dillon is also expected to seek reelection come 2020. Meanwhile, the vacancy created by the death of Edward Dagoseh (Grand Cape Mount County) is yet to filled and, if by-election is held and there is a winner, winner will also most likely be seeking reelection in 2020.