2 May 2011

Liberia: National Referendum Campaign Declared Open

In the midst of numerous controversial debates and discussions throughout the country as to whether the much talk about referendum on the amendment of certain articles of the 1986 Liberian constitution should be held or not, the National Elections Commission (NEC) through its Board has announced the commencement for the campaign beginning May 1, 2011 to midnight August 21 2011.

The National Legislature sitting in assembly adopted joint Resolution 001/2010 on August 17, 2011 proposing a Constitutional Referendum to amend Articles 52(c), 72(b), and 83 (a) and (b) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution. The decision sparked out public concern nation wide.

The proposal is calling for changes to be made in the constitution requiring that registered voters vote for or against the issues proposed by the house.

According to an official statement read on Friday in Monrovia, by the Chairman of the National Elections Commission, Mr. James Fromayan, the accreditation of campaign committees for the impending referendum ended on April 20, 2011. About six civil society organizations and two political parties have so far been accredited to campaign for or against the four ballot questions. Civic/ Voters Education for the referendum were officially launched on April 5, 2011. Owing to the make-up of the voting populace, the NEC is designing the ballot questions using symbols and illustrations depicting the issues to enable voters to vote without any difficulty and a total of about $1million USD is expected to be utilized for the referendum process, according to Chairman Fromayan.

The exercise if endorsed is seeking amendment to Article 52(c) which reads, "Resident in the Republic five consecutive years immediately prior to the elections in which he/she seeks to contest provided that the President and Vice shall not come from the same county.

In 72(b): "the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of subordinate courts of record shall be retired at the age of 75, provided however that a Justice or Judge who has attained that age may continue in office for as long as may be necessary to enable him/her render judgment or perform any other judicial duty in regard to proceedings by him or her before he/she attained that age.

Another sticky proposed issue is on Article 83(a) that is calling for the change of time for the voting of President, the Vice, members of the Senate, and members of the House of Representative throughout Liberia to the second Tuesday in November of each elections year, and elections for city Mayor and their respective Councils, as well as for Chiefs, shall be conducted three years following each general and presidential elections."

The last which is Article 83(b) reads,. "Except for President and the Vice, all elections of public officials shall be determined by simple majority of the valid votes cast in any election. Election for the President and his or her Vice shall be by absolute majority of the valid votes cast.

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