By Kolleh Morris
MONROVIA – In a surprising turn of events during the recently-concluded 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections in Liberia; the defeat of Maryland County District Two Representative and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, in Maryland County has raised eyebrows and sparked allegations of connivance among supporters.
During the just-ended October 10th elections, the Speaker Chamber is said to have been defeated by 86 votes by the Collaborating Political Party (CPP) Representative Candidate and a former student leader, Anthony Williams.
The Speaker’s loss to his opponent has triggered speculation about possible underhand tactics and backroom deals, casting a shadow over the democratic process.
According to the NEC, Williams is said to have obtained 8,158 votes while Speaker Chambers who was seeking a fourth term consecutively since 2005 got 8,122, a slight margin of 36 votes in Sodoken-Pleebo District, Maryland County.
It was reported that Speaker Chambers early lead, followed the tallying of results from his wall room. However, results from a precinct in Old-Sodoken, comprising two polling places, were plagued with a series of reported controversies that involved the appearance of a ‘Country Devil,’ leaving CDC observers in those polling places and NEC workers to flee for their lives. It was further reported that the ‘Country Devil,’ took away the two ballot boxes.
Maryland County, located in the southeastern region of Liberia, has long been considered a stronghold for Speaker Chambers. As one of the most influential politicians in the county; his defeat in this traditionally supportive area has sent shockwaves throughout the political landscape.
Speculation suggests that the Speaker’s defeat may have been the result of a combination of factors, including alleged dissatisfaction with his performance, local dynamics, and the emergence of a strong opponent. However, prominent voices have questioned the authenticity of the outcome, hinting at potential collusion among rival political factions, especially, the alleged connivance of Deputy Speaker Jonathan Fonati Koffa, who is said to be harboring the ambition of wanting to be Speaker in the upcoming 55th Legislature.
Several political analysts argued that the Speaker’s loss could be a result of alleged internal party dynamics or strategic maneuvering by rival candidates in the party who are seeking the Speakership. They believe that influential figures within the party may have worked behind the scenes to tip the scales in favor of the opposing candidate. However, these claims remain speculative at this stage, and no concrete evidence has emerged to substantiate these allegations.
A WhatsApp message sent to Deputy Speaker Koffa was not replied to; however, a similar text was forwarded to his Media Consultant, Leroy Sonpon, who indicated that the Deputy Speaker has never met Mr. Anthony Williams before, and had no role in Maryland’s politics.
He further reacted that the allegations linking Deputy Speaker Koffa were trash and imaginary. According to him, the Deputy Speaker will address the issue later; but for now, he is focusing on the re-election bid of President Weah.
The uncertainty surrounding the Speaker’s defeat has cast a cloud of doubt on the transparency and fairness of the electoral process in Maryland County. Calls for an independent investigation into the matter have intensified, with demands for a thorough examination of the electoral procedures and possible irregularities by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
The NEC has assured the public that they will conduct a comprehensive review of the election results in Maryland County and all election disputes. The NEC’s commitment to transparency and accountability is crucial in upholding the integrity of Liberia’s democratic system. As it stands, the NEC is looking into the case of Speaker Chambers and Mr. Williams.
As the investigation unfolds, Speaker Chamber has however called on his supporters and citizens of Maryland County, to maintain calm and respect the rule of law. “Liberia has made significant strides in consolidating its democracy, and any perceived irregularities or manipulation must not undermine the progress.”
The 2023 elections in Liberia mark a critical juncture in the country’s democratic journey. The alleged connivance in Speaker Chambers’ defeat in Maryland County serves as a reminder of the challenges and complexities inherent in a vibrant political landscape. It is now up to the NEC to conduct a thorough investigation and restore confidence in the electoral process, ensuring that the will of the people of Maryland is upheld and respected.