Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has nominated Counselor Jerome Kokoya as the next chairman of the country’s Elections Commission.
But, the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) said Kokoya’ s nomination should be withdrawn because he is a member of the ruling Unity Party.
CDC national chairman George Solo said his party will not participate in this year’s bi-election in Grand Bassa County if Sirleaf does not rescind the nomination of Kokoya.
However, Kokoya said, while he once contested for a legislative seat on the ruling party’s ticket, it would not affect his role as election commission chairman. He said he’s legally qualified to be chairman.
“As far as I know, I do not see any legal prohibition against appointing a qualified Liberian, such as myself, to head the elections commission simply because I have had political affiliation with another political party,” he said.
Kokoya admits that he did have affiliation with the ruling party for one year, but resigned in January 2012. He also said he was a legislative candidate for the Unity Party in Bong County.
He said he does not disagree with the fear of opposition parties that, when the ruling party appoints members of the elections commission, those members may have the tendency to decide elections in favor of the ruling party.
But Kokoya said Sirleaf, who is serving her last and final term, has no incentive to appoint him just to decide the next election in the ruling party’s favor.
"That concern, I would not want to dismiss it. It may true in certain places. But, the first thing I would like to say is that the president is now serving, by law, her last term. So, even if I were called upon to cheat for the president, she would not need me to do so," Kokoya said.
He also said Sirleaf won the last two presidential elections in a convincing manner. However, the opposition CDC said both the 2005 and 2011 presidential elections were fraudulent.
Kokoya said he is a person who, by nature, believes in fair play and would never cheat, if he were confirmed as chairman.
But, the main the opposition CDC said Sirleaf’s nomination of Kokoya was insulting to the democratic process. CDC national chairman George Solo said the party will do everything in its power to disrupt the upcoming bi-election in Grand Bassa County.
"The nomination of Mr. Kokoya should be withdrawn. There should be very clear consensus from political parties and civil society because those are the commitments that we made to make 2017 [presidential election] an inclusive and transparent process. And, until that trend is respected, the Congress for Democratic Process will not participate, will not engage in the pre-electoral processes, and we will do everything in our power, including using the legislative branch of government and judicial branch of government, to put a stay order on the process," Solo said.
Solo said, if necessary, the CDC will resort to public pressure.