CESTOS, River Cess – The National Elections Commission’s River Cess office has announced a winner in the county’s Special Senatorial Election.
According to NEC, 15,162 registered voters turned out and voted at the 111 polling places across the county on December 8. It added that Wellington Geevon Smith, an independent candidate, accumulated 3,284 votes constituting 23.4 percent of the total votes cast while Steve Tequah, another independent candidate, obtained 3,168 or 22.6 percent. There were 1,156 invalid votes cast in the election, representing 7.6 percent of all votes. Smith’s slim win will stand, as Liberia’s constitution no longer requires legislative candidates to gain an absolute majority in order to be declared winners – any candidate with the highest number of votes wins an election.
Smith served as superintendent of River Cess for five years (2009-2014) during former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration. He resigned his position as superintendent in 2014 to contest the 2014 senatorial election but lost to current senator Francis Paye.
During his administration as superintendent, the River Cess Legislative Caucus, chaired by former Senator J. Jonathan Banney, asked the national government to place a moratorium on River Cess’ County Social Development Funds on grounds that Smith and his administration had refused to submit the previous years’ financial reports to the caucus. For almost five years, the county did not receive its share of the county social development funds.
Following the 2014 Special Senatorial Election, Smith was appointed by Sirleaf again as assistant minister for information services at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism. However, he was never confirmed by the Senate.
Smith, who is a member of the former ruling Unity Party, joined the Alternative National Congress when he expressed the desire to contest the 2020 senatorial election but later ran as an independent candidate because Gabriel B. Smith was contesting on the ticket of Liberty Party (one of the four political parties that make up the Collaborating Political Parties that ANC constitutes).
There were nine candidates running in River Cess, including incumbent Senator Dallas Gueh of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.
Before the final results were announced, supporters of both Smith and Teequah were alternatively proclaiming and celebrating victory. On December 9, they took to the streets of Cestos, raising concern of potential clashes. The final results were announced in River Cess on December 11, 2020.
Featured photo courtesy of the campaign of Wellington Geevon Smith