‘Not Kofa, Or Fallah….’ -Who Cdceans Support For Speaker At HoR?

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Though the dust has settled to a larger extent on the general conduct of the 2023 presidential and legislative elections in Liberia, leadership elections at the first branch of government- the 55th National Legislature still stand tough. With the incoming governing Unity Party securing ten seats and now major opposition party- Coalition for Democratic Change securing 25 seats, who becomes the next House Speaker for the 55th Legislature is currently on the spotlight. Two elected lawmakers of CDC- Cllr. Fonati Kofi (current Deputy House Speaker) who represents Grand Kru County, and Thomas Fallah (current Ways, Means and Finance Committee Chair) who now represents Foyah Electoral District One, Lofa County, are among names of expected candidates for the speaker race. Another aspirant- Nimba County Electoral District Seven Representative-elect, Musa Hassan Bility from the Collaborating Political Parties (newcomer) is said to be eyeing the speakership as well. From the incoming governing Unity Party; one of its members re-elected- Richard Koung, is said to also be paused to contest the speaker position. For Kofa and Fallah, critics-some from within CDC seem to suggest opposition to the preferment of either one, on grounds that both of them have something to baffle their chances to the top position at the House of Representatives. Deputy Speaker Kofi is being seen as one who does scores of legal representations for a number of clients ( companies and individuals) currently in Liberia, a situation critics have classified as ‘conflict of interest’ on the part of a sitting lawmaker. As of Representative-elect Fallah, he is considered to have orchestrated the election violence that erupted in Foyah during the campaign period which led to deaths and injuries when supporters of UP and CDC clashed at the time. Among many CDC partisans, there are some who think that someone neutral among the 25 elected representatives be supported to contest the speakership, while others prefer Cllr. Kofi on grounds that he is best suited. However, it remains a tough battle who will be elected as House Speaker, whether an opposition lawmaker or a Unity Party lawmaker; especially with the small number of representatives the incoming governing party has in the 55th Legislature. The public also seems to be observing the unfolding political development at the first branch of government to see whether opposition lawmakers would make a determination to elect one of their colleagues in order to ensure a robust representation during the six years’ period of the 55th National Legislature under a UP-led government. However, main opposition political Party, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), says it will support the candidacy of Deputy Speaker, Cllr. Johnathan Fonati Koffa, as speaker for the Honorable House of Representative, Republic of Liberia. CDC Chairman, Mulbah K. Morlu addressing a major press conference Friday, declared that the CDC will support the candidacy of Cllr. Koffa as a ‘well balanced Political and regional consensual candidate’. “The Party will support its outmost quest for the Speaker position and have endorsed the candidacy of Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, a well-balanced political and regional candidate for Speaker. Therefore, we are calling on all independent and likeminded Legislators to support Cllr. Koffa as the CDC’s consensual candidate for the ensuing election for the Speakership of the Honorable House of Representative.” CDC Chairman Mulbah K. Morlu declares. This week, at least 30 incumbent Lawmakers, in a surprised welcoming program on Monday at the James Springs Payne Airfield in Monrovia, endorsed the candidacy of Deputy Speaker Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa to run for the Speaker position of the 55th Legislature. At a meeting held at the Executive’s lounge at the airfield, Montserrado County District #15 Representative-elect Dixon Seboe is stated that to modernize the “house-keeping’s discussion” where 30 lawmakers vowed to lobby to make Deputy Speaker a consensus candidate. It is incumbent upon us to lobby and make Deputy Speaker Koffa a consensus candidate who can serve as the most trusted caretaker and good steward of the gavel. Margibi County District #3 Representative-elect Mrs. Ellen Attoh-Wreh and Bong County District #3 Representative-elect  J. Marvin Cole said separately in the interviews, that over the six years of knowing Deputy Speaker Koffa and  three of the years which he served as Deputy Speaker, he is capable of not only been trusted but also to advance comprehensive policy agenda despite of party’s affiliation, promote transparency and accountability including the promotion of individual members and more. The Representative of the newly elected Lawmakers, which make-up 60% of the Deputy Speaker’s bloc, said in anonymity, that a Southeast Speaker will balance power, with the President and Vice President elect from Lofa and Nimba Counties’ respectively, while the Senate Pro Tempore position has been promised to Grand Bassa County. For his part, Deputy Speaker Koffa told reporters on Monday: “I am humbled to have so many colleagues to reach out to me to encourage me to seek the nomination for Speaker. However, after much prayer and deliberation, we will be making a formal declaration hopefully next week.” The Deputy Speaker, in response to Lofa County District #1 Representative-elect Thomas Fallah ‘s interest of becoming Speaker, said “he is confident that CDC will produce one candidate for the Speakership race.” The Deputy Speaker also expressed his confident that he can be “trusted” to serve as Speaker under the UP-led government if picked by the CDC to contest the Speakership election. Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Koffa had congratulated President-elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai on his historic win in the country’s presidential election and wish him all the best in his service to the nation. At the same time, the Deputy Speaker congratulated President George Manneh Weah on being a “true democrat who has demonstrated mature leadership at a defining moment in our country’s history. “The grace with which he conceded defeat is legendary and it testifies to the fact that President Weah is a true real patriot and man of peace,” he said. Recently, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, the outgoing Deputy Speaker of the 54th legislature, has confirmed his intention to contest for the speakership when the 55th legislature takes its seat next year. “If you are in the opposition, I think we should talk, and if you are in the ruling party, I think we should talk also,” Koffa said as he confirmed his candidacy for the speakership in an interview on Monday. Koffa, who remains confident of winning the speakership, is reportedly being backed by at least 30 lawmakers-elect, but uncertainty looms over whether they will remain steadfast in their support as the speakership elections draw near. At least 25 of them, which includes some first-time lawmakers, met with him on Monday to formalize strategies that would enable his election. However, Koffa, who is the first sitting lawmaker to publicly announce his candidacy, faces an uphill battle to secure speakership, analysts say, due to his affiliation with the outgoing ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, which currently holds a significant majority in the House of Representatives. The incoming Unity Party government, set to take office next year, poses a formidable obstacle for Koffa, given the political dynamics at play as it may want to field its own candidate, which could significantly influence the outcome of the process. The Executive Branch of the country has for decades played a key role behind the scenes as to who becomes speaker and it remains unclear whether the outgoing ruling party, which is in substantial majority, can hold together and produce a speaker. “In this current election, there was a divided country,” the Deputy Speaker said. “I believe even the Unity Party will agree that national unity is what we need; now that they have the Executive, it is only fair that the opposition picks up the Speaker position.” “Based on our performance as Deputy Speaker, we have the gravitas and the confidence of our members that we can provide leadership for,” Koffa said in an upbeat tone.Asked whether he was concerned about a potential Fallah bid,  Koffa answered in the negative and said that he is confident that the outgoing ruling party will produce a candidate for the speakership. “For the CDC, we never say certain because it is a party; it is an institution, but the CDC will produce a candidate. Whoever that candidate will be, that is up to the party,” he said. Koffa, who ascended to the Deputy Speaker post in 2020, had vowed that under his speakership, he would hold the “Executive feet on fire” in terms of making sure that whatever is proffered is in the interest of the Liberian people. “We will be robust but, in the end, it is only to make sure something good happens,” he added. “I think what you can look for under the gavel of Fonati Koffa is accountability and transparency in the Legislature.” “The ruling government can trust me as a speaker because I work in the national interest. We are not going to turn it into a partisan Legislature because we are in the opposition,” Koffa added. Meanwhile, Koffa brushed aside the notion that the Executive Branch plays a key role in the selection of the speaker as he cited the Presidency of Ellen Johnson, whose choice for the speaker position was not preferred by the majority. “Former Speaker Edwin Snowe and former Pro Tempore Armah Jallah were not supported by the then president, yet they were elected,” he said. “The current ruling party was able to control both Houses owing to the massive win in 2017 — 14 of the 15 counties.” At the same time, the Deputy Speaker congratulated President George Weah on being a “true democrat who has demonstrated mature leadership at a defining moment in our country’s history.” “The grace with which he conceded defeat is legendary and it testifies to the fact that President Weah is a true real patriot and man of peace,” he said. Koffa has also congratulated President-elect Joseph Boakai on his historic win in the country’s presidential election and wishes him all the best in his service to the nation.     Cllr. Kofa,  Fallah,  Bility, Koung

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