Liberia opposition wins vote for parliamentary speaker

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An opposition party lawmaker has been elected speaker of Liberia’s lower parliamentary chamber, in a major blow to President-elect Joseph Boakai.

Jonathan Fonati Koffa defeated Richard Nagbe Koon by 36 votes to 31 in an election among lawmakers for speaker of the House of Representaives.

Mr Koffa is a member of outgoing President George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, while Mr Koon belongs to Mr Boakai’s United Party (UP).

Mr Koffa’s victory is not surprising as the CDC won a majority of parliamentary seats in December’s election, despite Mr Weah losing the presidential poll to Mr Boakai.

But it will give the incoming government some headaches, as the speaker is the head of parliament – and Mr Koffa’s victory is a reminder to the incoming government that it will need the backing of opposition lawmakers to pass legislation.

The CDC’s control of parliament was further demonstrated when its candidate, Thomas P. Fallah, defeated an ally of the UP, Liberty’s Musa Hassan Bility, in the race for deputy speaker by the bigger margin of 42 votes to 24.

Mr Boakai is due to be sworn in as president on next Monday after Mr Weah – a former international football star – failed in his bid to win a second term in the December poll.

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