Liberia votes in referendum to shorten Presidential terms

ALPHONSO TOWEH

LIBERIANS lined up at polling stations across the country on Tuesday to decide on a variety of constitutional changes including the shortening of presidential terms to five years and allowing dual citizenship.

Half of the Senate’s 30 seats were being contested alongside the referendum, which was promised by President George Weah’s predecessor Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Former soccer star Weah’s election victory in 2017 was greeted with wild celebrations, but he has since faced protests from those who say he has failed to tackle corruption or revive a stagnant economy.

In October Weah’s team was forced to publicly denounce fears the vote was a ploy to allow him to seek a third term, even though he is only three years into his first mandate.

Opposition figures said not enough had been done to educate voters about the questions posed by the referendum, such as reducing terms for presidents to five from six years, and for senators to nine from seven years.

“I am not afraid about the third term of the president because he is a man of peace and honesty. He himself said he will only run for two terms,” said Richard Dixon, a voter in the capital Monrovia.

“Do they think we are stupid? The president is fooling us,” said Samuel Pune, another voter. “I will vote no. He should run for one term. It is enough for him.”

The referendum was almost cancelled by the Supreme Court last month because of concerns over the having more than one question on the ballot.

In response, the election commission has said would print the questions on separate sheets of paper.

Daniel Sherman, a first-time voter living in Sweden, said he supported allowing dual citizenship, which was banned in 1973.

“I have two kids in Europe and I would like for them to be citizen here.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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