The National Elections Commission (NEC) has received notifications from the House of Representatives about vacancies in Bomi, Bong Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties following the election of four Representatives to the Senate. The Commission, therefore, on receiving the notifications is expected to conduct by-elections in these counties soon to fill the vacancies.
In a Press statement, Prince Dunbar, NEC’s Acting Director of Communications, said in February 2021, the Lower House served the NEC a notification about vacancies in Bomi, Bong and Grand Gedeh earlier, the time when election disputes were still ongoing in Nimba County.
“Following the February notification to the Commission from the House of Representatives about vacancies in the three counties, today (yesterday, April 21, 2021) we received the last notification for Nimba County to conduct by-elections,” Dunbar said.
Representatives Edwin Melvin Snowe of Bomi District #1, Prince Kermue Moye of Bong District #2, and Zoe Emanuel Pennue of Grand Gedeh District #1 were all elected to the Upper House (Senate) on December 8, 2020.
Nimba’s post election’s dispute resolution was unprecedented as it took over four months of quasi legal and legal proceedings, including the one at the Supreme Court of Liberia to settle.
Jeremiah Koung, Representative then for Nimba District #1, was declared the winner following the counting and tallying processes of votes, but his closest rival, Madam Edith Gongloe-Weh took an exception to the results and challenged the process before the NEC Magisterial level to the NEC Board of Commissioners and then the Supreme Court.
Gongloe-Weh argued through her lawyers that her supporters were intimidated, terrorized and denied access to some polling places by supporters of the Representative Koung who was heavily supported by former warlord, Prince Johnson and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
Koung contested on the ticket of Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), a party owned and managed by Prince Johnson, Senator for Nimba County.
“The House’s communication to the NEC dated Wednesday, 21 April 2021, says the letter is in consonance with Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution which calls on the August body to notify the Commission of vacancy of the position of a Representative (s),” Dunbar added.
Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution says, “In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, and expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall, within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof. The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter, cause a by-election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections.”
Dunbar concluded that “The notification from the House of Representatives signed by its Chief Clerk, Mildred N. Sayon, requests the NEC to work out the necessary modalities and mechanisms for the holding of the By-Elections to fill the vacancies created by the elections of the then Representatives to the Senate.”
NEC debt to Vendors
Meanwhile, the National Elections Commission (NEC) is yet to settle its arrears with vendors who rendered services on December 8, 2020.
It can be recalled that the Commission’s offices in Tappita, Nimba County, were recently besieged and normal activities disrupted by angry vendors who are yet to receive their money for the work they did during December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Elections, Represetative By-electyions in Montserrado District #9 and Sinoe District #2 as well as the National Referendum.
Some of the vendors offered their vehicles to transport election materials and staffs of the Commission while others offered different services. The NEC is yet to pay those vendors their wages.
Davidetta Browne Lansanah, chairperson of NEC, has said several times that the Ministry of Finance has promised to make the funds available to settle the debts, but it is yet to live up to its promise.
Madam Lansanah has, all through, been appealing to the vendors to continue to be patient until the Finance Ministry makes available the money but her plea appears not to be holding water as the vendors are angry and unwilling to exercise patience further. With the serving of notification for by-election, it appears that the NEC and the government will be over burdened again with heavy financial obligations.