— Rep. Jeremiah Koung Wins but…
By David Menjor
The Collaborating Political Parties now faces increasing difficulty to make an impact on the results of the senatorial election in Nimba County, which Rep. Jeremiah Koung has won according to the National Elections Commission.
Nimba, which is Liberia’s second most populous county, has now gone to the Movement for Democracy and Reconciliation of Senator Prince Yormie Johnson — a party that leans in favor of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
Rep. Koung, who is the outgoing Representative of Nimba County District #1, contested on the ticket of MDR, a political party owned and run by former warlord, Senator Prince Y. Johnson who is the political godfather of that county.
Though the CPP has won six of the fifteen senate seats that were up for grabs, including four major counties (Bong, Montserrado, Lofa and Grand Bassa counties), the loss of Nimba delivered a jarring outcome for the country’s biggest opposition block which had devised an expanded political map for their win, and was eager to counter Sen. Johnson and the ruling party’s grip on that northeastern county.
CPP also suffered in Maryland County, the home county of current chairman of the CPP, Alexander Cummings. Other CPP losses occurred in Grand Kru, Bomi, Margibi, Grand Gedeh and Gbarpolu counties, to independent or CDC candidates, dramatically limiting the CPP’s hopes to make inroads in these counties. The loss of Nimba and other small counties will force the CPP to rethink the party strategy, messaging, and approach if they want to win these counties in 2023.
According to the National Elections Commission, Rep. Koung had won the County senatorial seat but the CPP disagrees and has filed a complaint with the Nimba magistrate, seeking a recount of the vote.
The CPP alleges they have been cheated and voters have been manipulated by NEC and the ruling CDC to show that they, too, have a stronghold on the country’s second-largest county after losing Montserrado County.
In announcing the results, NEC reported that Rep. Koung won Nimba County senate race with 37,899, which represents 36.12 percent of the votes, while his closest rival, Edith Gongloe-Weh, candidate of the ticket CPP obtained 34,153, which amounts to 32.55 percent of all valid votes counted.
But the CPP candidate, Edith Gongloe-Weh, has taken exception to the results announced and filed a complaint, hoping that a recount or a rerun is conducted at certain polling places she suspected alleged fraudulent electoral activities.
In her allegation, Gongloe-Weh explained that the vote tallying process has so far been conducted in a fraudulent manner to deprive her from winning the contest.
“It is sad that they are trying to overturn the election results. There is no way that the votes from Districts 4 and 5 can overturn my victory, when I have already won the Lower Nimba belt, which comprises districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 and also two districts in the Upper Nimba belt,” she added.
The Upper Nimba belt, which has 5 districts, is a vote-rich battle ground, which usually decides who becomes the next senator of Nimba County. It was the votes from the Upper Nimba belt that sealed the fate of Candidate Gongloe-Weh in 2011—an election that brought Senator Thomas Grupee to power.
She noted that with the tally from the lower Nimba belt and three of the upper Nimba districts, including 1, 2, and 3, it puts her in the lead with over 10, 000 votes. Therefore, “it was impossible for Koung to win me with votes from districts 4 and 5,” she argued.
“With all of these votes I got, I can assure you that there is no way that we can lose this election and I want to urge everyone to remain calm and avoid any form of violence as we pursue our case to gain over victory,” Gongloe-Weh said.
Madam Gongloe-Weh added that her legal team has been alerted and is working to legally challenge the result for proper recount, especially in areas where she alleged fraudulent acts occurred.
Meanwhile, the electoral body has continued to announce referendum results has more invalid votes for all eight propositions to continue to pull in.
The referendums comes as a result of a joint resolution adopted by the Legislature in 2019 to amend articles 28, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, and 83 (a) and (c) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia to give green-light to dual citizenship; reduction of the presidential tenure from 6-5 years as well as the reduction in the tenure of lawmakers—Representative from 6-5 years and Senators from 9-7 years.
Others include changing the date of general elections from October to November to avoid the rainy season and decrease in the time-frame it takes the electoral body to act on complaints following an election from 30-15 days.
However, for these amendments to become law, two-third votes or more of all valid votes should be in favor or in support of the adoption of the propositions, according to the Constitution. If the voting threshold is not achieved, the electoral body will have to declare that the proposal was not ratified by voters.
Earlier, NEC had disclosed that five counties voted YES to reduce the tenure of the President and Vice President to five years each.
Also there were YES votes in the five counties for inalienability of the citizenship of natural born Liberians or dual citizenship; reduction in the tenures of members of the Legislature, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, while the YES votes dominated the NO votes, requesting for change in the date of election.
The five counties are Bong, Grand Cape Mount, Maryland, River Gee and Rivercess—and that all polling places there have been counted.
For Margibi County, NEC reported that on dual citizenship, 35,649 invalid votes were cast while 13,567 YES votes and 12,184 NO votes were recorded. On change of election date, 23,668 invalid votes were recorded while 13,521 were YES votes and 10,147 NO votes.
About shortening the time for NEC to hear election cases, 23,195 votes were invalid while 11,933 were YES votes and 11,262 were NO votes. Furthermore, 28,314 invalid votes were cast for the reduction of terms for President and Vice President. While 15,492 YES votes and 12,822 NO votes were also recorded as reported by the NEC.
On the reduction of the term of Senators from nine years to seven years, 27,023 invalid votes were cast while 15,004 and 12,019 accounted for YES and votes respectively. For Senate Pro-tem reduction of term of office, 26,475 invalid votes were recorded and 14,652 and 11,823 accounted for YES and NO votes respectively.
It can be recalled that before the referendum on December 8,2020 the CPP warned against amending Article 50 of the country’s constitution as it will pave the way for President George Weah to run for a third term.
They urged Liberians to boycott the referendum or vote ‘NO’, as they fear that the government is supporting the YES” vote campaign as a way of manipulating the Constitution to allow President Weah run for a third term, as has happened with Liberia’s neighbors, Ivory Coast and Guinea.
The CPP then argued that amending Article 50, without amending Article 93 of the Constitution, will render it contradictory since the forthcoming referendum “makes no mention to change the language of Article 93 from two terms, each of six years to two terms, each of five years so as to correspond with any potential change in the language of Article 50.”
Article 50 of Constitution states that, “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The president shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years, commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year, immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.
Article 93 explained that: “The limitation of the Presidential term of office to two terms, each of six years duration, may be subject to amendment; provided that the amendment shall not become effective during the term of office of the incumbent President.
But President George Weah whose government campaigned for Yes vote denied the CPP claims then and insists that he has no intention of going beyond the constitutional two-term limit since he wants Liberia’s democracy to become better in terms of political participation.
“The Referendum… I want to say it’s not for the third term, fourth term, or fifth term. The referendum is to give you the opportunity for you to serve, too, because, in our society, we’ve got so many people that served long terms and have nothing to show,” President Weah said at a rally in Ganta while on the campaign trail. “So, we are challenging those people to cut down the terms of office for president, representatives, and senators so that they can work expediently… so they can work faster when they are in those positions.”