SPECIAL EDITION ON THE REFERENDUM: Proposition 3–Reduction In Tenure For The Senate Pro Tempore

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Proposition 3, which is the amendment of Article 47 of the 1986 Constitution, proposes the reduction in tenure for the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate. Currently, the Pro Temp is elected for a six-year term, but the proposal on the Official Gazette seeks to reduce the term to five years.

   Article 47 currently reads, “The Senate shall elect once every six years a President Pro Tempore who shall preside in the absence of the President of the Senate, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the Senate. The President Pro Tempore and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the Senate.”

   According to the Joint Resolution of the Third Session of the 54th National Legislature, Article 47 was proposed for amendment in order to afford the Liberian voter the opportunity to decide whether or not the President Pro Tempore should serve for five years instead of six.

   “The term of office for the President Pro Tempore and other officers of the Senate should be the same as the term of office of the President and members of the House of Representatives to be in harmony with the beginning of each Legislative Session,” the Joint Resolution read.

   If amended, Article 47 will read, “The Senate shall elect once every five years a President Pro Tempore who shall preside in the absence of the President of the Senate, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the Senate. The President Pro Tempore and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the Senate.”

   Observers have termed Proposition 3 as a troubling clause for the December 8, 2020 National Referendum because it is intertwined with Proposition 2. They say a Constitutional conflict may arise if anyone of the propositions is voted for and the other is voted against.

   Before the National Elections Commission (NEC) separated the articles into eight independent proposals, Proposition 2 and Proposition 3 were all part of a single proposal to be voted for or against during the December 8 referendum. Howbeit, to satisfy the verdict of the Supreme Court, the NEC decided to print out all the propositions clearly and independently on the ballot paper of the National Referendum, in order to give the voter the opportunity to decide which portion of the Constitution they want to be changed and which part should not be changed.

   However, there are pundits who still hold the belief that the referendum is not timely, and that the NEC should see reason to postpone it to another time when it shall have properly done everything required and put in place a mechanism to smoothly conduct it.

   On the other hand, there are others who are of the belief that the NEC is on the right trajectory of conducting the elections simultaneously. They are of the belief that the referendum should not be politicize by dragging it to a time when the government may claim that it is not in the financial capacity to hold it, as the Constitution is bigger than all the political sides combine, and is the framework on which the nation’s democracy is threading.

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