SPECIAL EDITION ON THE REFERENDUM: Proposition 6—Reduction In Tenure For The President And Vice President
The Joint Resolution of the Third Session of the 54th National Legislature also proposes the amendment of Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution, which squarely speaks about the tenures of the President of the Republic of Liberia, who is elected along with the Vice President. The lawmakers, who are the framers of the Official Gazette, have proposed that the tenure of a term of the presidency be reduced from six (6) years to five (5).
Article 50 currently reads, “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The President shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.”
However, the Official Gazette notes that the Article has been proposed for amendment in order to afford the Liberian voter the opportunity to decide whether or not the President should serve for five years instead of six.
This proposed amendment reduces the tenure of office of the President from six (6) years to five (5) years. It should be recalled that for many decades the term of office was as many four (4) as the people elected the person to be President. President Tolbert had the 1847 Constitution amended to provide for one eight-year term. The 1986 Constitution provides for two six-year terms, but in most parts of the world, especially Africa, it is two five-year terms. This amendment proposes to comply with this generally accepted term limit of five (5) years for president for a maximum of two (2) terms.
If amended, Article 50 will read, “The Executive Power of the Republic shall vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The President shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of five (5) years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the election. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.”
If one votes “yes” on Article 50 during the referendum, the person agrees for the tenure of the President, who is elected along with the Vice President, to be reduced from six (6) years to five (5) years; if one votes “no”, it means the person is against the reduction of the tenure of the Presidency and Vice Presidency.
Some members of the opposition see this proposition as a clever attempt for President George M. Weah to provide for himself the opportunity for a third term. They argued that, if the President’s tenure is reduced from six to five, the law will not take effect during his first term; therefore, he will complete the first six years and possibly contest for two five-year terms.
However, the Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, has been a front-liner in debunking what he terms a political myth and a lie created from nowhere. Minister McGill has repeatedly emphasized that President Weah has absolutely no intent to run for a third term, and that the President has expressed his satisfaction to serve the nation for only eleven years: six years during his first term and five years during his second term.
His argument was beefed up by opposition Senator, Abraham Darius Dillon, who argued that it is possible for the President to run for a third term even if Article 50 is amended. Senator Dillon based his legal argument on Article 93, which provides that the tenure of the President can be amended but cannot take effect during the tenure of the incumbent President.
Article 93 reads, “The limitation of the Presidential term of office to two terms, each of six years duration, may be subject to amendment; provided that the amendment shall not become effective during the term of office of the incumbent President.”
It is now an established fact that it is Constitutionally impossible for President Weah to contest for a third term even if Article 50 is amended, laying to rest the rumor that the President intends to contest for a third term and that is why he is pushing for a change in the tenure of the Presidency.