Liberians go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on a series of issues, including a referendum to reduce the number of years for a presidential term.
Tuesday’s vote is part of the mid-term elections in the West African country and it will see Liberians renew the mandate or vote for new people for the 15-member senate, the upper chamber of the legislature.
Voters in two counties — Montserrado in the north-western region and Sinoe in the south-astern region — will also have the opportunity to vote for new representatives in by-elections triggered by the deaths of the previous holders of those seats.
Some 2,476,356 people are registered to vote in the elections which will also decide on a total of eight propositions for constitutional amendments.
The Liberian constitution currently provides that the president serves for a maximum of two terms, each six years. President George Weah’s governing Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), which appears to be the only one supporting this amendment, is seeking to reduce the years to five, which will bring it in line with what obtains in the rest of the West African region. But critics, including civil society groups, are suspicious of the move.
The other seven proposed constitutional amendments in the referendum include allowing dual citizenship for Liberians, reducing the tenure of members of the Liberian legislature — Senate and House of Representatives — and their top officials, including Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
Also up for review in the referendum is the month for the General Election in Liberia — currently October — which usually falls in the rainy season. Proponents want to move it to November, when it is normally dry.
Electors are also expected to vote to reduce the time frame for resolution of complaints emanating from elections from 30 days to 15 days.
The opposition and some civil society groups, including the Liberian Bar Association, have criticised the conduct of the referendum, calling for it to be postponed.
Critics say that while the referendum appears to suggest a progressive reform by the president, the way his administration has handled the process suggests that he intends to use the outcome to pave the way for him to run for a third term.
Weah, once a celebrated Liberian thanks to his record as a football legend, came to power after elections in 2017, amidst promises of reforms and to fight corruption, which was said to be rife under his predecessor, Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
But the former footballer has been criticised for betraying Liberians by failing to fulfill his promises.
He has come under constant criticism for his poor handling of the economy, among other things.
Political observers say the vote could also be a referendum on the performance of the president who is just three years into his first term.