Liberia: River Gee County Lawmaker Condemns National Elections Commission's Recalcitrance Over December 8 Referendum, Rallies Constituents to Boycott

Liberians go to the polls on December 8 for midterm elections and a controversial constitutional referendum backed by President George Weah.

Monrovia — Representative Francis Saidy Dopoh (District #3, River Gee County) has warned that Liberia is degenerating into a 'cowardice democracy' over government's determination to conduct the national referendum despite widespread calls to halt the process.

Announcing his abstention from the referendum, Rep. Dopoh rallied his constituents to join him in boycotting the process as it "violates their constitutional rights".

"I see a less informed democratic state. It appears to be that we are in a cowardice democracy because a democracy that lacks information is a cowardice democracy. It means people are controlled by their belly, people are sycophant, people are ignorant to the reality," Rep. Dopoh lambasted, while speaking to reporters recently in Monrovia.

"People must be able to understand why they are taking certain decision. Having gone from war for a period of time, we should be going now to civic education so people can understand."

The national referendum, which is slated for December 8, 2020 contains propositions seeking to change portion of the Constitution affecting the tenures of the President and members of the House of Representatives and Senate.

It is also calling for the country to change the portion prohibiting dual citizenship to make room for Liberians to have the right to dual citizenship.

Rep. Dopoh said, while 'a yes vote' to all of the propositions might be in the interest of Liberia, it was incumbent on the NEC to inform and educate the electorates across the country through a well-organized civic education exercise.

He said the NEC insistence to conduct the referendum amid a lack of proper civic education exercise and a plethora of calls calling for the postponement of the referendum was a recipe for chaos.

"I think to abstain from this referendum process is important so as not to be a part of anything that could generate into chaos in this country. The manner and form in which the referendum process is going to be handled by the National Elections Commission and the Government, I think it is going to be unfair to the Liberian people" he said.

He continues: "It does not speak to the intent of the constitution, when the constitution says that the referendum should be held not later than a year. That indicates that there should be room for civic education, there is a need for serious publicity."

The tough talking River Gee County lawmaker has been vocal in pointing out some of the "missteps" that have been marred by the process ever since the joint resolution authorizing the conduct of the referendum was passed by the Legislature.

Immediately after the propositions were condensed into three and printed in a national gazette by the Government, Rep. Dopoh backed a motion proffered by Rep. Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County, calling for the recall of the joint resolution by the Legislature for proper scrutiny and re-passage, but it was rejected.

He condemned the Executive branch for violating the electoral law by launching a 'vote yes to all campaign' in favor of the propositions after the NEC had not officially declared campaign open.

And just before the Legislature could adjoin session for its constituent break, he co-authored a communication along with Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County), calling for the postponement of the referendum to buy more time to educate the citizens.

Speaking further, he said, giving the history of how the Constitution came into being- through the barrel of the gun, any process which might lead to its amendment should be done with the full participation of all Liberians, especially those that have reached the voting age.

As a member of the House committee on Elections, he said, he has not seen samples of the ballot papers of the eight propositions and the attached symbols that further explain them. He warned that the NEC and the Executive's hasty decision to hold the referendum will lead to more speculations and mistrust in the process.

He said: "We are not scoring points here, we are amending constitution. We are not voting for individuals, we are voting for issues. You can make correction on the individual tomorrow but when it comes to the issue, that is going to be fixed by law. So, we cannot do it like we don't know what we are doing".

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