MONROVIA, Montserrado – As the 54th National Legislature officially takes seat on Monday, a week before the inauguration of President-elect George Weah and his running mate Jewel Howard-Taylor, several representatives have been angling for the positions of speaker and deputy speaker.
Weah and Howard-Taylor, of the Coalition for Democratic Change, were elected on December 26 in a runoff presidential election after defeating incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party.
They are expected to be inaugurated on Monday, January 22 in a joint meeting of both houses, one week after the legislature has officially taken seat.
Members of the House of Representatives will be electing a speaker, along with a deputy speaker and other officers.
In the House of Representatives, several names have emerged as having interest in contesting for the speaker position.
Among them are the current deputy speaker and independent Grand Bassa representative, Hans Barchue; Montserrado Representative Thomas Fallah of Weah’s CDC; Bomi representative and former speaker of the 52nd National Legislature, Edwin Snowe of Unity Party; Maryland representative, Bhofal Chambers, also from CDC; and Prince Moye of People Unification Party.
There are also newly elected lawmakers who are reportedly considering running for the speaker position: Grand Kru’s Fonati Koffa of Liberty Party, the independent Lawrence Morris of Montserrado, and Nimba’s Johnson Gwaikolo of the Victory for Change Party.
For the deputy speaker position, the newly elected Nagbe Sloh of Sinoe and the Liberia Transformation Party’s Rustolyn Dennis of Montserrado are in the race.
Already, the representatives are organizing themselves into blocks and building consensus ahead of next week’s elections.
The latest reports gathered by The Bush Chicken indicate that more than 40 representatives from Unity Party and CDC have formed a consensus to support Chambers as speaker and Moye as deputy speaker. According to ELBC Radio, the decision was made known through a resolution signed by lawmakers of the two collaborating parties and read by Rep. Acarous Gray of Montserrado.
ELBC’s revelation follows an earlier disclosure made to The Bush Chicken by Nimba’s Rep. Samuel Kogar that lawmakers from Unity Party and People’s Unification Party were planning to join forces to support Representative-elect Gwaikolo as speaker.
Kogar disclosed that lawmakers of the two collaborating parties were also intending to support Rep. Prince Moye for the post of deputy speaker.
Meanwhile, another block of lawmakers calling itself the ‘Reform Block’ has endorsed Barchue, the current deputy speaker. The group’s spokesman, Representative-elect Sloh, said their decision to endorse Barchue is to promote geographical balance and inclusion in government.
He said Weah ethnically hails from the south eastern county of Grand Kru, along with Chambers, a strong candidate for the speaker position, who represents Maryland. Sloh said that the combination, in addition to the likelihood that a likely president pro tempore of the senate, Sen. Albert Chea, also hail from Sinoe, would place a significant portion of the country’s leadership in the southeast of the country.
“Marginalization does not have to be imposed. Inadvertently, you can create marginalization,” he said. “Besides the chief justice who comes from Nimba, if you throw the entire government into the southeast, what are you telling the rest of Liberia?”
CDC’s support for Chambers as speaker was first made public when the party’s youth wing openly pronounced its endorsement. The youth wing also announced its endorsement for Gray to contest the vacant senatorial position created in Montserrado as a result of Weah’s election as president.
Gray had said that Fallah, another CDC representative who sought the speaker position but had been out of the country for medical reasons, would return to the country to reaffirm his endorsement of the party’s choice for the position.
However, Fallah’s office has denied the report that the lawmaker is abandoning his quest for the position in favor of Chambers. The representative’s communication officer, Ernest Sharpe, told ELBC on Monday that his boss was still a contender.
Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay, who contested as running mate to Boakai, will see his tenure end at the close of the 53rd National Legislature. Nuquay replaced Rep. Alex Tyler of Bomi, who was removed by his colleagues after he was forced to recuse himself from the position due to an indictment for corruption.
Featured photo by David Stanley