Senators of the 3rd Legislature go to the poll today to elect a new President Pro Tempore, replacing former Grand Bassa County Senator Gbehzohngar Findley who was defeated in the Special Senatorial Election last December.
It is, however, not clear whether Senators Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mt.) and Morris Saytumah (Bomi) whose injunction orders were last Tuesday cleared by the Supreme Court, will be eligible to vote in today’s poll.
According to sources within the Senate secretariat, the two cleared Senators will first have to be seated through procedures as did their newly inducted colleagues.
According to Section 3, Rule 19 of the Senate Rule, in case of removal of the President Pro Tempore, the Senate shall elect a successor in keeping with several procedures, such as announcing the vacancy of the position.
Following that, an election shall be held in plenary within the period of 30 calendar days, allowing interested Senators to declare their intentions in writing to the plenary through the Secretary of the Senate not later than 20 calendar days from the date of the announcement of the vacancy…, and said letters circulated to all members of the Senate not later than five calendar days prior to the date of the election.
The winner of today’s poll will serve as Pro Tempore until the 2017 General and Presidential Elections.
According to the first of five guidelines prepared by an Ad Hoc Committee set up recently for today’s election, all duly seated Senators who apply to participate in the elections for Pro Tempore and Statutory (Leadership) Committees are eligible to contest any vacant leadership position in the Liberian Senate; provided however, that each intending Senator shall have the required three years for said post.
The five-member committee headed by the acting chair on Rules, Order & Administration Senator George T. Tengbeh, also stated in the guidelines that “any Senator serving on the Leadership of the Liberian Senate who makes an application for a vacant elective position shall be deemed to have resigned his/her chairmanship position.”
Generally, according to the guidelines, elections for all vacancies that may be created for chairpersons in the Leadership Committee shall be held within a week following the induction of the President Pro Tempore.
On the prescribed date for elections to leadership positions, aspirants for available positions shall be required to make a ten-minute presentation in the case of the President Pro Tempore and a five minute presentation in the case of a chairperson of a Leadership committee to the plenary of the Liberian Senate, guidelines rule four stated.
The President Pro Tempore of the Senate is elected for a period of six years, while chairs of Leadership Committees are elected for three years; which also affects those appointed on non-Leadership committees as chairs.
Of the three contenders for the position of Pro Tempore, only Senator Oscar Cooper is chairing a Standing committee which is Public Works; Senator Armah Zolu Jallah chairs the Leadership committee on Internal Affairs, Governance & Reconciliation, while Senator Joseph Nagbe chairs the Leadership Committee on Judiciary.
In the event that one of the two leadership committee chairs wins, his post will be out for grabs together with those of the Committee on Executive, vacated by former Senator Clarice Jah; the committee on Rules, Order & Administration formerly chaired by ousted Bomi Senator Lahai G. Lansanah, and the prestigious Leadership committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget, once occupied by former Lofa County Senator Sumo Kupee.
Members of the Ad Hoc Guidelines Committee include Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Jewel Howard-Taylor, J. Gbleh-bo Brown, Matthew N. Jaye, and George T. Tengbeh.
The President of the Senate, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai who since the 4th session of the Senate has always presided, will again preside over today’s proceedings which will have only one agenda item: election of the President Pro Tempore. However, the Secretary will conduct the poll in the event the President of the Senate is not available.