Gloria Wleh & Abraham Mulbah
Monrovia- Two former National Election Commissioners Cllr. Frances Johnson Allison and James Fromayan have differed with the Commission on the holding of the referendum on today, December 8, 2020.
Late 2019, Liberia’s legislature adopted a joint resolution for a national referendum proposing seemingly benign amendments to eight articles of the 1986 constitution: authorizing dual citizenship (article 28); reducing the tenure of senators from nine to seven years (article 45); reducing the tenure of the president pro-tempore of the Senate from six to five years (article 47); reducing the tenure of members of the House of Representatives from six to five years (article 48); reducing the tenure of the speaker, deputy speaker, and other officers of the House of Representatives from six to five years (article 49); reducing the tenure of the president from six to five years (article 50); changing the date of general elections from October to November (article 83a); reducing the timeframe from 30 to 15 days for the National Elections Commission to act on complaints following a general election (article 83c).
Contrary to the legislature’s resolution, however, the executive branch of government in October 2019 printed an Official Gazette which suspiciously collapsed the eight propositions into three broad ballot measures prioritizing enacting dual citizenship, revising the tenure of the president, representatives and senators, and changing the date of the general elections. For the past year, Weah’s ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) has focused intently on the simplified propositions in its campaigning, with images of the president plastered on billboards across the capital, Monrovia, and its environs urging the electorate to vote “Yes” on all measures.
But the former NEC Chairpersons said not much information has been provided to citizens who will make reforms in the constitution.
According to Cllr. Allison, a referendum with 8 prepositions should not be done if the people don’t understand the implications because the changes in the constitution would impose on the country, adding that the change in the constitution is far beyond the people selecting a yes or no to the prepositions.
“This upcoming referendum should not be conducted because the people have not been schooled properly to adequately comprehend the kind of changes saying yes or no to any of those 8 prepositions would cause the country”, she stressed.
In an interview, Mr. Fromayan said he believes not enough have been done when it comes to educating the people and the laws that talks about referendum have not put into place
“I think enough education has not been provided and the law that let people have referendum has not been in to place and I think other civil society groups also supported the same position and even the Supreme Court.”
Both of them have justifiably demanded a postponement of the referendum to allow for nation-wide deliberations since most voters remain ill-informed about the implications of the eight propositions and why they should endorse or reject them.