—Says CPP and Rainbow Coalition
Liberians have been warned against amending Article 50 of the country’s constitution as it will pave the way for President George Weah to run for a third term.
The warning, which is coming from the opposition community led by the Collaborating Political Parties and Rainbow Coalition, urges Liberians to boycott the referendum or vote ‘NO’, as they fear that the government is supporting the YES” vote campaign as a way of manipulating the Constitution to allow President Weah run for a third term, as has happened with Liberia’s neighbors, Ivory Coast and Guinea.
The group argued that amending Article 50, without amending Article 93 of the Constitution, will render it contradictory since the forthcoming referendum “makes no mention to change the language of Article 93 from two terms, each of six years to two terms, each of five years so as to correspond with any potential change in the language of Article 50.”
Article 50 of Constitution states that, “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The president shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years, commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year, immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.
While Article 93 explained that: “The limitation of the Presidential term of office to two terms, each of six years duration, may be subject to amendment; provided that the amendment shall not become effective during the term of office of the incumbent President.
Such “contradiction,” the CPP and the Rainbow Coalition claim, will pave the way for a third-term presidency, hence the need to halt the December 8, 2020 referendum, or Liberians should vote against amending Article 50 because doing so is dangerous to the country democracy.
“We cannot and must not amend Article 50 of our Constitution, without a corresponding amendment in the language of Article 93 of the Constitution. Hence, a new resolution is required,” the group said in a statement.
“We cannot and must not have a constitution that says one thing in Article 50 and says a completely different thing in Article 93. The logical thing to do, therefore, is to postpone the Referendum, go back to the legislature for a new Resolution and issue an official gazette thereto, and after one year, hold a national referendum,” the statement continued.
But President Weah has so far denied such claims and insists that he has no intention of going beyond the constitutional two-term limit since he wants Liberia’s democracy to become better in terms of political participation.
“The Referendum… I want to say it’s not for the third term, fourth term, or fifth term. The referendum is to give you the opportunity for you to serve, too, because, in our society, we’ve got so many people that served long terms and have nothing to show,” President Weah said recently in Ganta while on the campaign trail. “So, we are challenging those people to cut down the terms of office for president, representatives, and senators so that they can work expediently… so they can work faster when they are in those positions.”
However, the CPP and the Rainbow Coalition noted that if “the government insists on proceeding with the referendum,” Liberians should boycott the process and only go to the polls to vote for Senatorial Candidates and Representative Candidates for the by-elections.
“We do not rule out possible legal actions if the National Elections Commission insists on holding the planned illegal referendum. We cannot and will not participate in an unconstitutional process,” the opposition community said. “We reserve the right to peacefully assemble and will be doing so over the coming days to call attention to our legitimate demands.”
Their argument comes less than a week to the referendum—and in support of public outcry that the referendum should be postponed due to limited voter education, carries out by the country’s electoral body—but the government has so far resisted such an idea.
The row comes as a result of a joint resolution adopted by the Legislature in 2019 to amend articles 28, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, and 83 (a) and (c) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia to give green-light to dual citizenship; reduction of the presidential tenure from 6-5 years as well as the reduction in the tenure of lawmakers—Representative from 6-5 years and Senators from 9-7 years.
Others include changing the date of general elections from October to November to avoid the rainy season and decrease in the time-frame its take the electoral body to act on complaint following an election from 30-15 days.
However, for these amendments to become law, two-third votes or more of all valid votes should be in favor or in support of the adoption of the propositions, according to the Constitution. If the voting threshold is not achieved, the electoral body will have to declare that the proposal was not ratified by voters.
Meanwhile, the CPP and Rainbow Coalition have chided the Supreme Court of Liberia for refusing to hear their concerns through a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus to clean the voters roll; and for issuing a ruling on the national referendum that was “so vague as to be lacking in enforcement.”
“We reject and rebuke the Supreme Court’s abuse of discretionary power to hear our mandamus and its spineless and ambivalent ruling, giving no direction to the political survival of this country,” they said.
The CPP’s and Rainbow Coalition’s rebuke of the Supreme Court comes after the Court ruled that conducting the referendum under the Executive condensed propositions, under the existing gazette, was a violation of the letters and intent of the Constitution and the citizens’ rights of choice.
“To the mind of this Court, this is a violation of the letters and intent of the Constitution and the citizens’ rights of choice. The court agrees with the petitioners that, should the 1st Respondent (NEC) be permitted to print the ballot papers based upon the published Official Gazette, then and in that case, that will constitute proceeding by the wrong rule,” said the Supreme Court ruled.