Women Make Less Than 17 Percent of Qualified Candidates for Special Senatorial Election

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The National Elections Commission released the final listing of qualified candidates for the December special senatorial election on Wednesday, more than one month after the process was halted by the Supreme Court.

The official release of the final list of candidates followed the lifting of a stay order issued on the process by the Supreme Court. The court has issued the stay order after a Margibi senatorial aspirant, Mulbah Jackollie, claimed that he had been illegally denied his rights to contest by NEC.

In a statement on Wednesday, the NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah said the stay order was lifted by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 17. With the lifting of the stay order, Lansanah said NEC has published the final list of candidates, with a total of 118 candidates qualified to contest for the 15 contestable senatorial seats on December 8.

Women number only 20 of the 118 candidates, which is 16.95 percent of the total number. Currently, there is only one woman serving in the Senate – Grand Bassa’s Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, who is seeking re-election.

Eight of the female candidates are contesting as independent candidates, five on the ticket of the Collaboration Political Parties, two are carrying the emblem of the Rainbow Alliance, two on the ticket of the Movement for Progressive Change, and one each on the tickets of the National Democratic Coalition, Liberia National Union, and the All Liberian Coalition Party. The Coalition for Democratic Change, which is the ruling establishment, has no female candidate in the election.

Montserrado alone has four women candidates, which is the most being featured in any of the counties. Lofa is next with three female candidates. The contests in Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, and Grand Gedeh each feature two female candidates. Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Kru, Margibi, Nimba, Sinoe, and River Cess all have a single female candidate each. However, no woman is contesting in Bomi, Maryland, and River Gee.

The election law requires political parties to “endeavor” to ensure that at least 30 percent of their candidates are of either gender. During the 2017 elections, only 15.9 percent of the total number of candidates in the elections were females and no party met the requirement. However, the National Elections Commission did not penalize the parties because it said all they needed to do was to show that they were trying to ensure that they met the threshold.

The NEC chairperson has, meanwhile, also officially declared the campaign period open for both the special senatorial election and the representative by-elections in Montserrado’s ninth district and Sinoe’s second district. All will take place on December 8, 2020.

“Now, therefore, for and on behalf of the National Elections Commission and in my own name as chairperson of this commission, do hereby officially declare that the 2020 political campaign period is officially open for the Tuesday, December 8, 2020 elections,” she said.

The campaign period will end 24 hours before polling day, on December 6, at midnight.

Lansanah said the final lists of candidates for the two representative by-elections in Sinoe and Montserrado have also been released. According to her, eight candidates were qualified to contest in each of the representative’s by-elections.

The by-elections are being held as the result of the deaths of the Rep. Munah Pelham Youngblood of Montserrado and Rep. J. Nagbe Sloh Sr. of Sinoe.

Rahaile Foday of the Movement for Progressive Change and independent candidate Cyvette Gibson are the only females contesting in the Montserrado’s ninth district’s representative by-election, while Sinoe features no female candidate.

NEC encourages candidates and their supporters to engage in peaceful campaign activities and avoid rancor and bitter exchanges.

“Show respect for each other as you go about your campaign activities in line with the code of conduct concerning campaign activities,” the NEC chairperson said while declaring the official campaign opened.

“Please note that the NEC takes seriously the submission of campaign schedules by all political parties and independent candidates as per the campaign requirements issued to all aspirants during the Candidates Nomination Period.”

She added that the commission would give full priority on a first-come, first-served basis to political parties and independent candidates who have already submitted their campaign schedules, adding that there would be absolutely no two parties or candidates allowed to launch or close their campaigns on the same day.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the election management body also called on candidates and their supporters to observe the public health regulations instituted by the Ministry of Health.

Featured photo by Eric Doue

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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