Sen. Chie, Zargo in Pro Tempore Race
VP Boakai, Speaker Nuquay to Attend Transitioning Program of Legislature
Deputy Speaker Hans M. Barchue, one of the two major contenders in the election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature, has withdrawn from the race.
This will be the first time for Representatives to elect a Speaker on a “white ballot” or “unopposed” after general elections, and the second ‘white ballot’ speaker election in 14 months. It may be recalled that Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay was elected unopposed in October 2016.
In a disappointed tone on Saturday, January 13, Rep. Barchue (Grand Bassa County District # 1) told journalists that he withdrew from the race for the Speaker as a result of the deception of the outgoing ruling Unity Party, which he said has abandoned its role as the leading opposition and collaborated with the incoming Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Administration to elect the Speaker.
Article 49 states: “The House of Representatives shall elect once every six years a Speaker who shall be the presiding officer of that body, a Deputy Speaker, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the House. The Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House.”
Cautioning against UP deception
Rep. Barchue said: “Since 2005, Liberian citizens and the country entered a new political dispensation; a new government was ushered in, under the leadership of Unity Party and led by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. That election clearly showed that there were two leading political parties in Liberia — the Unity Party and the Congress for Democratic Change.
“After six years, another election was held, and clearly again, it was shown that there were two leading parties, the CDC and UP. In the just-ended election runoff, it has been proven for the third time that there are two leading parties in Liberia, the CDC and the UP.”
The Grand Bassa lawmaker stated that in 2005, when the UP won the election, the CDC remained as an opposition to the government to check any excesses that may have happened; and in 2011, when the UP won the election, the CDC remained an opposition party to make sure that the voices of those who didn’t win were heard.
“Surprisingly in 2017, when the CDC won this time, where they were patient for 12 years, they didn’t join the UP government, they remained an opposition, and spoke for the masses on issues that they didn’t agree with.
“But to our surprise in this election, the CDC, having won under the leadership of Ambassador George M. Weah, has not even taken office yet, but the Unity Party has decided to join the CDC, thereby denying all those who voted for her the privilege to be heard through their representation,” Barchue said.
“The Unity Party, in my opinion, should have waited for the CDC-led government to begin operation, to see how they will lead the country, to see the policies that they will put in place; and if the UP sees the policies are good, then they would support the policies. But to merge with the CDC at this time, while they should be the leading opposition party, in my mind, shows some level of deception and should be guarded with caution.
“We are surprised to see the UP merging with the CDC as if I, Hans Barchue, is the opposition. I will support the CDC government of George M. Weah, and won’t contest the Speaker election, because if the leading opposition party can support the CDC, who am I? I will also support the CDC.”
However, even though Rep. Barchue didn’t declare his intention run for re-election as Deputy Speaker, there are unconfirmed reports that the Grand Bassa County lawmaker is seeking an allowance for the Deputy Speaker job.
The election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker will be held on Monday, January 15, after a brief transitioning program of the 53rd to the 54th Legislature; and on Tuesday, January 16 the elections of the Chief Clerk, Deputy Chief Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms and the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms will also be held.
It may also be recalled that on Tuesday, the 9th of January, 42 elected officials — new and returning — from the Unity Party (UP) and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), signed a communiqué committing to produce the next Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 54th Legislature.
In their communiqué, the lawmakers agreed that the next Speaker will be produced by the CDC, which has become the ruling party; and the Unity Party, that has become the new opposition party, will produce the Deputy Speaker.
The deal, according to the conference, will see Bong County Representative Prince Moye of the UP, who currently presides over the Ways, Means, Finance, and Budget Committee, elected on white ballot as Deputy Speaker, replacing Representative Hans Barchue, while Dr. Bhofal Chambers (CDC, Maryland County District #2) will replace outgoing Speaker Atty. J. Emmanuel Nuquay.
The two parties’ decision, according to the communiqué, is because they hold the highest number of elected lawmakers from the October 10, 2017 polls.
Albert Chie vs. Steve Zargo
For the President Pro Tempore election, the Daily Observer has gathered that Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif has joined Cllr. Varney Sherman to withdraw her interest.
Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo is still in the race to challenge favorite Grand Kru County Senator Albert Chie to fill the President Pro Tempore position.
It has been gathered that over 20 Senators have built a consensus to elect Sen. Chie to replace Sen. Armah Z. Jallah, who will not be seeking re-election. Also, on Tuesday, the elections of the Secretary of the Senate, Assistant Secretary of the Senate, and Sergeant-at-Arms will be conducted.
At 11:00 a.m., members of the Liberian Senate and the outgoing, re-elected and newly elected Representatives of the 53rd and 54th Legislature are expected to assemble at the front of the Capitol Building to hoist the Liberian flag and parade to the rotunda for the transitioning program.
The two outgoing legislative leaders: Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, the President of the Senate; and House Speaker Atty, J. Emmanuel Nuquay, as well as President-elect George M. Weah and Vice President-elect Jewel Howard Taylor – who are still seated Senators – would also be in attendance.
Vice President Boakai and the Speaker will be giving their respective farewell speeches in a brief program to be held at the William R. Tolbert Joint Chambers, which will be climaxed with prayers.
MOVEE Supports Dr. Chambers for Speaker
In a related development members of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) have pledged support to the bid of Maryland County Representative, Dr. Bhofal Chambers as Speaker.
MOVEE National Chairman Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, who spoke to reporters over the weekend, said his party’s National Executive Committee has instructed Representative-elect Francis Young to cast his vote for Dr. Bhofal Chambers.
According to Kemayah, the decision is in continuation of the collaboration between the CDC and his party (MOVEE). He noted that their support is based on the desire for the lives of the Liberian people to be transformed and not for personal benefit.
It may be recalled that Rep. Chambers advocated for the reduction of lawmakers’ salaries, especially the speaker due to the wide disparity in the salary structure of lawmakers.
Rep. Chambers said he is prepared for the post, but stated that in 2005, he was overwhelmingly elected by his colleagues as Speaker on the Unity Party ticket, “only because of institutional reasons, I have to change my mind; for this, it is superlatively grounded in my preparedness.”
He said his quest for the speakership cannot be overemphasized, saying he wants to come the position “to service humanity, a sense of caring, promise-keeping, efficiency and loyalty, patriotism and passion to protect the architecture that will be in place under President-elect George Weah and Vice President-elect, Jewel Howard Taylor.”
Rep. Bhofal Chambers (Maryland County District #2) of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) noted that if elected, he will reduce the salaries of the speaker and members of that body.
The CDC tough-talking lawmaker said his past advocacy was not about himself, but the country, adding that his advocacy was to ensure that huge salaries of lawmakers are reduced to accommodate other sectors of government.