-Says Rep. Gunpue L. Kargon, winner of controversial Nimba County’s District 4 election
Gunpue L. Kargon, the announced winner of the controversial Nimba County District 4 Representative seat during the October 10, 2017 polls, on Monday called for reconciliation, immediately after he was certificated by authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC). Rep. Kargon won on the ticket of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) of Nimba County Senator Prince Yealue Johnson.
The electoral body also certificated Robert Flomo Womba, Bong County District 4 Representative, whom the Court also declared as winner on the ticket of the erstwhile ruling Unity Party (UP).
The certification of the two winners now completes the 73-member House of Representatives.
Monday’s certification ceremony put to rest the many legal technicalities employed by defeated incumbent lawmaker Garrison Yealue of the People’s Unification Party (PUP), who claimed that he won the election but that the result was allegedly altered by election magistrate Princeton Monmia in Nimba County in favor of his rival Kargon, which led to Yealue’s filing a case at the Supreme Court. Delays at the Court held the two districts, in Nimba and Bong respectively, without representation at the legislature since the October 2017 elections.
Before the certification, the Supreme Court, in its final ruling against Yealue, mandated that NEC proceed with the ceremony, declaring Kargon as the legitimate winner of the district’s representative seat.
In that judgment, Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks declared the certification shall be retroactive to the date Rep. Kargon should have been sworn in office as member of the House of Representatives, “Entitling him to receive and enjoy all rights and privileges inclusive of salary, allowances, emoluments, and other benefits as of the date he should have been seated and assumed said office.”
NEC announced that Kargon obtained 6,320 of the total votes representing 24.3 percent over the then incumbent Yealue, who got 6,153 also of the total vote cast representing 23.8 percent. However, Yealue termed the result as “fraudulent” and challenged it before the electoral body.
Immediately after his certification at NEC’s Headquarters, Kargon told journalists, “I will reflect various opinions of the people, whether they have supported or opposed my ambition to lead them at the Legislature.”
The District 4 lawmaker also promised “to consult with the defeated candidates to address the County’s underdevelopment and “disagreement,” which were some of the biggest issues in the two opposing campaigns.
“This is a victory for the people, which they can use to overcome the County’s backwardness in terms of development,” Kargon told his cheering supporters shortly after the certification. His supporters, including the elderly and women from all over the country, gathered at NEC’s Headquarters dancing and singing traditional songs.
But the question that remains to be answered is whether yesterday’s certification will put the County’s division and disunity to rest, since there are reports that supporters of Mr. Yealue have reportedly attacked residents they suspected of being sympathizers to Rep. Kargon.
It can be recalled that recently the Supreme Court ruled that, “the Board of Commissioners’ ruling of NEC affirming the hearing officer’s decision that no error was made by the magistrate of the elections and that the appellant’s (Yealue’s) right of due process of law was not violated is hereby reversed.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling further indicated that Yealue’s primary complaint relates only to one polling center in Kpaglay polling place 1, Precinct 33105, in Beo-Bongaplay Town.
The Court then directed that a new examination be made of the original raw data sheet from the Kpaglay polling place 1, which was duly executed and signed by the parties or their representatives; that a comparison be made with the computer printout to determine if indeed error was made in the transfer process; that this re-examination exercise be carried out in the presence of and with the participation of the contesting parties, with the NEC ensuring that the contesting parties are duly notified and present during the exercise, which was done by the electoral body, proving that NEC did not commit any election violations.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, NEC’s hearing officer Cllr. John Wonsehleay ruled against Yealue because he failed to provide proof sufficiently against his rival Kargon and the Board of NEC also affirmed to this ruling for which Mr. Yealue took an appeal to the Supreme Court for redress.
Monday’s ceremony began with the reading of the Supreme Court’s mandate, and lawyers representing the newly-certificated lawmakers responded with a round of cheers.