Liberians Head to the Polls in Crucial Mid-Term Elections

Liberians are set to go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on a series of issues, including a referendum to reduce the number of years per term for the president.

The vote is part of the midterm election in the West African country, which will see Liberians renew the mandate or vote for new members of the 15-member upper chamber of the legislature – Senate – representing each of the country’s 15 counties.

Voters in two counties – Montserrado in the northwestern region and Sinoe in the southeastern region – will also vote for new representatives in by-elections triggered by the deaths of the previous leaders.

Some 2.4 million people are registered to vote in the elections that will also decide on a total of eight propositions for constitutional amendment.

The Liberian constitution currently provides that the president serves six years per term, with a maximum of two terms.

The governing Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of President George Weah, is seeking to reduce the years to five, which will bring it in line with the terms of other countries in the West Africa region. It appears to be the only party supporting this amendment. Critics, including civil society, are suspicious about the move.

The other seven proposed constitutional amendments in the referendum include allowing Liberians to have dual citizenship; reducing the tenure of members of the Liberian legislature – Senate and House of Representatives – and their top officials, including the President Pro Tempore, Speaker and deputy Speaker.

Also up for review in the referendum is the month for general elections in Liberia; it is currently held in October, which usually falls in the rainy season. Proponents want to move it to November, in the drier season.

Voters are also expected to vote to reduce the time frame for resolution of complaints emanating from general elections from 30 days to 15 days.

The opposition and some organisations, including the Liberian Bar Association, have criticised the conduct of the referendum, calling for it to be postponed.

Critics say while the referendum appears to suggest a progressive reform by the president, the way his administration has handled the process suggest he intends to use the outcome to pave the way for him to run for a third term.

Weah, a celebrated Liberian football legend, came to power after elections in 2017, amidst promises of reforms and fighting corruption, which was said to be rife under his predecessor Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

But he has been accused of failing to fulfil his promises. He has also come under constant criticism over poor handling of the economy.

Political observers say the vote could also be a referendum on the performance of the president who is just three years into his first term.


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