Who becomes the next Senator to replace the late Senator, John Francis Whitfield in the Grand Bassa County Senatorial By-election is the baffling question on the minds of political pundits as thousands of Bassonians go to the poll today in Grand Bassa County.
So far, two of the major contenders in the by-election have already launched their campaign in the port City of Buchanan pulling huge crowd. Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence the only female candidate in the race for the Senatorial seat launched her campaign recently with a huge turnout while Mr. Daniel Chea launched his on Saturday also with huge turnout.
From the launch of the two campaigns it has now become clear that Madam Lawrence and Mr. Chea are the two major contenders in the race. During their launch, Jonathan Kaipay of the ruling Unity Party and T. Wah Bedell of the former ruling National Patriotic Party who complained that his party was not given the necessary support pulled little crowd in the port city.
Campaign activities of the four candidates have been relatively calm and peaceful as there has been no report of violence among their respective supporters. On the other hand, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has announced that all is now set for the conduct of the Senatorial By-election with the arrival of 86,000 ballot papers from Ghana and the subsequent deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive election materials in the various precincts across Grand Bassa County.
The Grand Bassa County By-election is the result of the untimely demise of Sen. Whitfield in Monrovia on January 17, 2013 just two days following the opening of the second session of the 53rd National Legislature. He was believed to be the lone voice among his colleagues in the Liberian Senate speaking on critical national issues.
Following his certification at the headquarters of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Sen. Whitfield refused to exchange hand shake with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Giving her state of the nation address in January, President Sirleaf though she paid tributes to all fallen lawmakers and other members and former governments; she failed to acknowledge the death of the Grand Bassa County lawmaker.
Opinion poll conducted thus far by this paper revealed that Daniel Chea, former Defense Minister in the Charles Taylor Government is slightly leading with just 51.5 votes, while his closest rival, Nyonblee Karngar- Lawrence followed closely with 49.5 votes. The opinion does not in any way represent the results to be released by the NEC.
Meanwhile, former Defense Minister, Chea over the weekend pulled huge crowd when he launched his campaign in Buchanan City. Thousands of Bassonians wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan, “Our Man” referring to Mr. Chea paraded the major streets of Buchanan with others lining the streets in support of the former Army Chief in the Charles Taylor-led administration.
Mr. Chea is believed to be the longest-serving Minister of National Defense. He came onboard during the Liberia National Transition Government commonly referred to as LNTG-2, an interim administration then headed by the late Prof. Wilton Sarkanwolo.
Chea tested the Senatorial race in 2005 but was narrowly defeated by John Francis Whitfield who served for only one year as Senator and met his untimely demise.
Mr. Chea’s message to the Bassa people was that of reconciliation calling on Bassonians to put aside their differences and serve the common interest of their only patrimony, Grand Bassa County.
He called on Bassonians to turn out in mass and cast their votes to vote someone who will ably represent them at the National Legislature.