Liberia: Provisional Referendum Results Put ‘YES’ votes in the Lead


MONROVIA – Provisional results from five counties announced by the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the referendum has placed the ‘YES’ votes for the eight prepositions ahead of the ‘NO’ votes. However, the invalid votes accounts for huge percentage of votes counted so far.

According to the NEC, the ‘YES’ votes dominate in counties like Bong, Grand Cape Mount, Maryland, Rivergee and Rivercess.

Prepositions voted on in the referendum are: reduction in the tenure of representatives, shorten time for NEC to hear complaints, reduction of term of senators, dual citizenship, reduction in the term of Speaker and Deputy Speaker, reduction of the term of President and Vice President, reduction of the term of office of the office of President pro-tempore, change in the date of elections.

The NEC on Tuesday also announced Saah Teah Foko winner of the District 9 Montserrado County By-elections in Montserrado County beating CPP Fubbi Henries by 33.92% to 33.50% a slam percentage margin. Foko completes the remaining three years of the six-year tenure of fallen boss Munah Pelham-Youngblood who died as a result of a prolong illness.

Foko worked as a staff of the deceased District 9 Representative Munah Pelham-Youngblood.

“The NEC declares Sampson Weah of CDC winner of the Sinoe District #2 Sinoe County winner,” the Chairperson stated.

Other   winners announced by the NEC were, Senator Darius Dillon of Montserado County who has won with an unprecedented number of votes in Montserrado County surpassing President George Weah when he contested for the Senate in 2014.

The NEC also announced former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai winner of Lofa County beating incumbent senator George Tengebeh of CDC with a considerable margin. Also in Sinoe County, incumbent Senator Augustine Chea of the CDC was announced winner.

The government bundled the eight amendments into three questions, with one question on amending article 28 (citizenship), one on amending articles 45, 47, 48, 49 and 50 on the terms of office of the President, Senate and House of Representatives, and one on amending article 83 to change the date of general elections and decrease the time the Elections Commission has to investigate complaints.

 However, this was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, as article 92 requires amendments to be voted on separately. This was taken by many to mean the referendum was cancelled. However, Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus claimed the ruling meant that if the questions were unbundled, the referendum could go ahead. The National Elections Commission subsequently began printing new ballot papers with the amendments separated out.

The opposition Collaborating Political Parties attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court, but were unsuccessful. Despite reports the changes would lead to George Weah‘s third presidential term like in other Western African neighbors, Weah denied the move.

In the December 8, election ballot papers ask voters whether to lift a ban on holding dual nationality, a divisive issue in the poor West African nation founded as a haven for freed American slaves in the 19th century.

Weah, a former footballing icon, wants to cut the length of terms for presidents and lower-house lawmakers from six to five years; and from nine to seven for senators.

 Reducing term limits is a relative novelty for the region, where ageing presidents have followed a pattern of clinging to office using constitutional changes.

In Guinea, for example, 82-year-old President Alpha Conde won a controversial third term in October after pushing through a new constitution that allowed him to bypass a two-term limit.

The same month, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, 78, was elected for an equally contentious third term, after having revised the country’s constitution.

Weah’s critics fear the president is pursuing the same goal.