Clarke Challenges Incumbent Rep. Pennue to Debate

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One of the contestants for representative seat of District #1 in Grand Gedeh County has told the Daily Observer that the last thing incumbent Representative Zoe Pennue would think of is to encounter him in a policy debate anywhere in the country.

“That could be the end of Rep. Pennue’s political sojourn,” said Justice Randall Clarke.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) has already accepted the nomination papers of Mr. Clarke, a broadcast and print journalist, who is now running on the ticket of the Vision for Liberia Transformation party (VOLT) in Tchien District.

Following the inclusion of Mr. Clarke’s name on the NEC’s progressive provisional candidate listing, he told this paper over the weekend that it was very essential that the electorate vet the different candidates based on their moral characters and how they intend to tackle key issues that affect the growth of the district, its people, and the county.

He urged independent pro-democracy organizations to conduct comprehensive debates that will reflect issues such as education, health, food security, youth employment, infrastructure, the local economy, corruption, and sexual and gender-based violence.

“This time around, we must shift from doing business as usual. We must raise our democratic bar to meet international standards. It should not be all about a candidate paying WAEC fees or killing as many cows for soup,” Clarke said.

Clarke, however, recalled that debates between candidates were organized in past elections in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh, but said not much was done on the part of the organizers to underscore the importance of such debates to potential voters, mainly the undecided ones.

Clarke hints at incumbent’s weaknesses

District #1, since 2006, has been occupied by Representative Zoe Pennue, which means he was re-elected in 2011. Now, he is fiercely challenged by Justice Clarke and a list of other politicians who oppose his third term bid. As an independent candidate, Rep. Pennue became senator in the special 2014 polls, but lost to Marshall Dennis of the Congress for Democratic Change, who garnered 6,148 votes out of a total of 17,126 votes among 11 candidates. Rep. Pennue received 3,271 votes in that election.

Candidate Clarke believes the incumbent’s strategy of winning votes through “the exploitation of the ordinary citizens by inducing them with money, perishable materials, killing of cattle, and presenting himself as a humanitarian, has been exposed and become obsolete.”

“Pennue has no history of shedding light on policy issues that are important for the development of Tchien District; neither does he speak to real national issues.”

He continued, “The guy usually escape debates or public fora probably because he does not know what to say there, or has no clue on critical matters. Therefore, our people’s eyes are now clear to the political realities and they are resolved to retire him this season.”

In further comments, the Liberian journalist turned politician intimated that Rep. Pennue is apparently paranoid over being socially and financially relegated if he loses the October 10 vote.

“It’s a pity that the outgoing lawmaker does not depend on a profession or business investment. He has no record of making legislative reports to constituents since 2006, which has displayed his incompetence,” Clarke lamented.

Clarke expressed confidence in winning the upcoming election, claiming to be the closest to the electorates and the only person in the race that intends to “redeem the image of the district and that of Grand Gedeh.”

“I am no stranger to my people. I was a student leader in Zwedru, a former county youth executive and I voluntarily served my people through community radio Smile FM for many years, while at the same time advocating for societal equity,” he said.

Moreover , Clarke sees himself as an example of hope for mainly the youth, reminding them that “the future of our county and country rests with the decisions we make…so they know that I am standing up for a popular cause now.”

According to Clarke, he is preparing to build on his gains by engaging in a robust political campaign process, now that the NEC has given him the green light to contest the October polls.

Efforts by the Daily Observer to speak with Representative Pennue were unsuccessful as his phone rang for the past two days without being answered, even up to the publication of this story.

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