>Liberia: Political Opposition Rally Against Referendum


>Source: All africa

Opposition political parties in Liberia are currently rallying support to defeat the forth coming referendum that is expected to pave the way to smooth elections this year, said a press release issued by the Office of the Standard-Bearer of the New Deal Movement.

Briefing the press, the Standard Bearer of the New Deal Party, Amb Prof. Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson said the referendum does not only go against the letter and spirit of the Liberian constitution, but that it is also tailored to qualify President Sirleaf to run for a second term and to assist her party in winning seats in the National Legislature.

“In the supreme interest of strengthening our democracy against the unveiled attempts by the president and her party to sabotage this democracy and possibly plunge our country into another round of chaos, we the leaders of the opposition political parties do hereby pledge to work together to ensure the defeat of these referendum when it is presented to the electorates in august,” the release quoted an opposition parties’ resolution as saying.

It did not say when the resolution was signed or released, but it said the New Deal Movement Party’s boss, who is poised to being the political leader of the proposed national democratic coalition (NDC), has branded the pending national referendum as “immoral and unconstitutional”.

It said realizing that the national referendum is intended to benefit President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her allies and not in the interest of the Liberian people, the opposition parties have resolved to take further steps to ensure that the referendum does achieve the intended result.

The parties which it said were recurrently engaged in the negotiation were NPP, NDPL, LPP, CDC, UPP, MPC, LERP, MADMIC, MAPOL, and New Deal Party, amongst others.

The release quoted Amb Mayson as noting further that the proposed amendments to the constitution regarding the residency clause of article 52 (c) required that presidential and vice presidential candidates reside in Liberia 10-years prior to their election.

He reportedly said that any amendment would shorten the residency requirement by five years, a reduction which he described as “selfish attempt to keep Madam Sirleaf in power”.

National Elections Commission Chairman James Fromoyan named the provisions to be tested in the ensuing referendum recently as article 83 (b), article 83 (a) and article 52 (c). Also to be tested in the referendum is a request for change in the time for retirement of the chief justice and associate justices of the Supreme Court from 70 years to 75 years.

Article 83 (b) states that “all elections of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the vote cast. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second ballot shall be conducted on the second Tuesday following. The two candidates who received the greatest numbers of the votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the run-off election”.

But Dr. Mayson argued that if amended through the referendum, the absolute majority clause would only apply to the presidency while all other elected posts would be based on ‘first pass the post’ or simple majority.

The other provision to be tested in the referendum, article 83 (a), will lead to a change in the time for the conduct of national elections from the second Tuesday in October to the second Tuesday in November. Liberia currently enjoys six-year tenure of office for the presidency.

Also to be tested and perhaps the most controversial is article 52 (c) which requires that a candidate for the presidency should be a resident in the republic of Liberia ten years prior to his election. Now it will be tested in a referendum whether the ten years should be cut down to five years.

Any changes as the result of the referendum, the opposition parties insists, will favor only the Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

As such, they say, they will issue a lawsuit against any attempt to go ahead with the referendum.

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