Liberia: President Wants to Shorten Terms for Legislature, Executive

Liberian President George Weah has proposed reducing term lengths for members of the executive and legislative branches of government.

Under his plan, the president and representatives would serve five years instead of six, while senators would sit for seven years rather than nine.

The idea, says Presidential Press Secretary Smith Toby, is to push officials to begin serving the people from the day they assume office, rather than putting off work until the close of their terms.

As he put it, “if you start [work] immediately on election day “[knowing] that you’ve got five years, you will not play around. They will start work immediately upon their election.”

Some legislators welcomed the idea at a meeting Weah called last weekend to introduce laws he’d like to see passed. He unveiled 25 proposed bills, one of which would allow Liberians to hold dual citizenship.

Representative Richard Nagbe Kunn said, “We embrace the idea [of this retreat which] was the first of its kind since the President took over.’’ He said it is meant to foster reconciliation between the branches of government rather than having “one group of the government strangulating the other.”

Representative Francis Doepoh from Rivergee County thinks the best way to solve some of Liberia’s major issues is to rewrite the constitution.

But his colleague Vincent Willie of Grand Bassa County said reforming the document will take time and resources.

“Rewriting the constitution,” he said, “is very much important but given the time interval, you cannot rewrite the constitution in just six months, you’re talking about a whole year. It’s a process not an event.”

This is not the first time the idea of shortening terms has come up.

A Constitutional Review Committee under former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made similar recommendations several years ago. But after a nationwide consultation, the recommendations went nowhere.

Among the ideas floated then was limiting the president to two four-year terms instead of the two six-year terms currently allowed.

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