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Shelly Continues as Navajo President until Election

December 23
12:04 2014
President Shelly

President Ben Shelly

In a recent conversation with Lake Powell Communications, the Navajo Elections Administration said Navajo President Ben Shelly’s term will be over on Tuesday January 13th. We were told further that if no new President was selected by that date, that the Navajo Nation Council Speaker Pro Tem, Lorenzo Bates, would assume the duties of President until a new President is elected.

But now it appears none of that is so.

Attorney Deswood Tome is the Special Advisor to President Shelly. He told Lake Powell Communications on Monday that in reality, Mr. Shelly will remain in office as President until a newly elected President is sworn-in. Mr. Tome said even if it takes until February, March or April, Ben Shelly will remain as President.

The Navajo Presidential election has been postponed two times; November 4th and December 23rd. In both instances the postponements came because of legal issues dogging the candidates who were to face Joe Shirley Junior.

russell_begaye1

Russell Begaye

First it was Page High School graduate, Chris Deschene. He came in second place in the August primary, placing him on the ballot with Shirley. However, two failed presidential candidates claimed that Deschene could not speak Navajo fluently, as required of the President. It’s an allegation that was never proven, and one that Mr. Deschene continues to deny. After his case went through the Navajo court system over a period of several weeks, he was eventually taken off the ballot on a technicality.

But during that battle with the courts over the fluency issue, the Navajo Nation Council passed legislation that would have made the fluency issue no longer relevant. It seemed to put Chris Deschene back on the ballot until President Shelly vetoed the legislation.

Dr. Joe Shirley

Dr. Joe Shirley, Jr.

Then Russell Begaye was put on the ballot to face Shirley. Begaye had come in third place in the primary. But he also had obstacles to overcome placed by another failed candidate who claimed Begaye had been disloyal to the Nation. Like Mr. Deschene before him, Russell Begaye also had to go through hoops in the courts in order to stay on the ballot.

Today we know it will be Russell Begaye and Joe Shirley Junior facing one another for President of the Navajo nation. We just don’t know when the election will be held. But according to Deswood Tome, it doesn’t matter when the election is eventually held; Ben Shelly will remain in office until a new President is sworn-in.

Meanwhile, there is at least one group in Window Rock planning a rally to try to garner support for a write-in campaign for Chris Deschene.

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