The Liberian Senate has at long last inducted journalist Wellington Geevon Smith (Rivercess County), Botoe Kanneh (Gbarpolu County) and and Jeremiah Koung (Nimba County) as Senators.
They were inducted into the Liberian Senate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 since the holding of the December 8, 2020 Midterm Senatorial Elections following delay caused by the refusal by their closest challengers to concede defeats.
They were previously scheduled to be inducted as per the Senate agenda of March 31, 2021, but a motion by Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph halted the process as he cited the Senate rule that stipulates that notice for plenary action must be circulated a day before session.
For his part, Geevon Smith, the journalist-turned politician, previously served as Superintendent of Rivercess County before contesting the 2014 Senate race that was won by Francis Paye, another former Superintendent and journalist.
Geevon Smith was finally declared winner and subsequently certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC) after a second recount of the results by the Rivercess County Election Magistrate, thus disproving claims of fraud in the race.
The recount gave Independent Candidate Geevon Smith a total of 3,332 votes (representing 23.35%) as compared Steve Tequah’s 3289 votes (representing 23.05%). Geevon Smith therefore secured a margin of 43 votes ahead of his main challenger.
It can be recalled that the Supreme Court mandated the NEC to conduct a recount of the 104 of the 111 polling places, as initially authorized by the Board of Commissions of the NEC. The Supreme Court said its decision was to ensure fairness and transparency in the voting process after Tequah requested recount of the ballots cast in 104 polling places in the county.
By then, the NEC declared that Smith accumulated 3,284 votes, while Tequah collected 3,168 votes.
Not satisfied with the result, Tequah requested the NEC to conduct a recount in seven of the 111 polling places in the county. According to him, he obtained 80 votes (35.7%) of 228 votes from the seven polling places that the electoral magistrate in Rivercess had earlier declared to be invalid after recounting those areas.
Although the recount kept Geevon Smith in the lead, the initial recount increased Tequah’s tally in the seven polling places, narrowing the margin between the two candidates.
This compelled Tequah to demand a recount of votes from the remaining 104 polling places but Geevon Smith still emerged as winner.
Meanwhile, Senator Koung was certificated by the NEC after winning a legal electoral battle against his female opponent, Madam Edith Gongloe-Weh, at the Supreme Court.
In a related development, Madam Kanneh now becomes the first female Senator of Gbarpolu County and the second female Senator apart from Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County within the current Liberian Senate.
She was projected as the winner of the Gbarpolu County Senate seat as an Independent Candidate ahead of her closest challenger Representative Alfred Koiwood of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) after the rerun election in Nomodatanau.
But her closest rival Representative Koiwood later filed an election violence case against her at the NEC but the case was referred to the Magistrate in Gbarpolu County on grounds that NEC’s Board of Commissioners had no jurisdiction to investigate matters of such nature. Therefore, the women groups took to the streets in their “Let her take her seat” campaign in an effort to raise money for her case to be taken to the Supreme Court at a cost of US$5,000.00.
Before the rerun election in the Gbarpolu County Electoral District Number Three, Madam Kanneh, whose two brothers are lawyers, Boakai and Moifee, had been in the lead with 4,767 electoral votes, while her closest rival, Representative Koiwood had 4,281 votes from the 139 polling places out of 144, as far as data from NEC is concerned.
Though Madam Kanneh’s lead against Representative Koiwood was slightly reduced, she still beat her rival whose votes in the January 7, 2021 re-run were not sufficient to surpass the only female candidate in the race. Preliminary results from Nomodatanau show that Madam Kanneh obtained a total of 188 votes while Representative Koiwood got 217.
Representative Koiwood secured more votes than Madam Kanneh in Nomodatanu, yet she managed to keep her overall lead as the county’s Senator-elect due to her early lead in the race.
Nomodatanau, where the election was previously postponed due to electoral violence, had a population of 2,000 registered voters but due to the intimidation tactics by the paramount chief McGill Wleh and the country devil within the town, many of the voters did not turn out to vote.
During the violence on December 8, 2020, the paramount chief of Nomodatanau, McGill Wleh, with support from his fellow residents seized ballot boxes and prevented the election from taking place due to what he called ‘illegal attempts by aliens to vote’ in that part of the country.
The seizure and confiscation of the four ballot boxes resulted to the closure of the polling precinct until the end of the day.
After some days of electoral violence, paramount chief McGill summoned the town’s country devil, thus increasing the violence and the reported kidnapping of Madam Kanneh to an unknown location on December 14, 2020, a day ahead of the first rerun.
The action of the town chief and his collaborators was said to have been prompted by allegations of foreign nationals with Liberian voter registration cards, especially Sierra Leoneans, attempting to vote ahead of the elections.