NEC’s judgements of aspirants’ adherence to the Code of Conduct lack consistency, causing some to feel cheated
With just three days to the end of the political aspirants nomination process conducted by the National Elections Commission, it is becoming certainly clear that the political ambitions of many Liberians will not be realized as a result of the controversial Code of Conduct, which the Supreme Court has upheld as law, and is currently being enforced by authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Many aspirants have already begun to fall prey to the cruelty of the code, but the manner in which the NEC is carrying out the exercise appears shrouded in a great deal of ambiguity, thereby raising more questions than answers.
While the fates of aspirants such as former Liberian Ambassador to the United States, Jeremiah Sulunteh, and former Forestry Development Authority managing director, Harrison Karnwea, hang anxiously between NEC rejection on account of the Code of Conduct and a pending Supreme Court ruling on the matter, other presidential appointees have either been beckoned or booted by NEC.
NEC has not been able to sufficiently clarify its criteria as to which present and recently-resigned government officials should be cleared to run for elective office in the October 10 polls. For example, Assistant Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Abu Kamara, was outrightly rejected by NEC, citing violation of the CoC. When Kamara appealed the NEC decision to the Supreme Court, the NEC told the Court that the man was a sitting minister, and therefore in clear violation of the CoC. The Supreme Court upheld the NEC decision.
However, another political aspirant with a seemingly identical background as Kamara, has been cleared by NEC. He is none other than Assistant Minister for Youth Development at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Lance Gba-Gonyon, who has been given a candidate status to run for Nimba County Electoral District #7.
By coincidence, Minister Gba-Gonyon and Mr. Karnwea are both sons of the same district in Nimba, but the former, along with other officials were appointed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.
Gba-Gonyon came to the Ministry of Youth and Sports as the direct replacement for former Assistant Minister Teeko Yorlay, who was released to go for further studies less than three years ago. Yorlay is also a son of Nimba County and has been cleared by the NEC as a candidate on the ticket of the opposition Liberty Party for the county Electoral District #3.
Minister Gba-Gonyon, who reportedly uses government assigned vehicles for his political activities, is not the only current presidential appointee the NEC has favored. Authorities at the NEC have accepted the nomination of Roland G. Duo, an aspirant who holds an appointed position in the office of President Sirleaf as National Security Advisor to contest the upcoming October polls.
Mr. Duo is contesting for a legislative seat on the ticket of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), which forms part of the Coalition for Democratic Change, of which Senator George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change and former House Speaker Alex Tyler’s Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP) are members.
Another presidential appointee is the deputy director at the National Archives and Documentation, Martin Kulah, who is reportedly the favorite to succeed the outgoing Representative of Montserrado County District #6, Edwin Melvin Snowe. Snowe has left District #6 and declared domicile in Bomi County District #1, which he desires to represent, should he make it to the 54th Legislature in 2018.
The situation of Ministers Kamara and Gbo-Gonyon serves as the crux of the ambiguity of the NEC’s decision that is now beclouding the electoral process. While Gba-Gonyon, who is at the same ministerial level as the rejected aspirant, has been given a go-ahead, Kamara believes he has been treated “unfairly.”
Yet and still, even those who have been cleared are not completely cleared.
In an earlier interview with the Daily Observer, NEC public affairs officer Henry Flomo said, “by the NEC accepting your nomination and giving you your package does not necessarily mean you are qualified and will be contesting the elections. It only allows us to know who all are coming in and so we began our investigations, which is tedious and time consuming, as we have to ensure no one violates any of our set rules,” he explained.
“So if your name is to even appear in the preliminary listing does not mean you will contest in October. We will still be investigating candidates and anyone who falls short will be disqualified. You can only be relaxed when your name appears on the final listing because that is what we will use to print the ballots. So this is a long process and no one is qualified yet and those who have been rejected could still get a chance but through the legal means.”