Sunday, January 29, 2023

Liberia votes on George Weah’s offer to end presidential terms | Liberia

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Liberians are also choosing whether or not to repeal a dual citizenship ban in 1973, a move some hope will be an economic boon.

Liberians vote on President George Weah’s plan to shorten presidential terms on Tuesday, with critics fearing he could use the change to cling to power.

Former football star Weah told supporters that keeping the same ruler for years “is not the way to go” and wants lower house presidents and politicians to serve five years instead of six; and senators seven years instead of nine.

But the reduction of terms is a relative novelty for the region, where aging presidents have used constitutional changes to retain power.

In Guinea, President Alpha Condé, 82, won a controversial third term in October after passing a new constitution that allowed him to bypass a two-term limit.

Opposition politicians in Liberia fear that Weah, 54, may attempt a similar move, although his office has denied the claim. He was elected in 2018 and is still serving his first term.

Supporters of Liberian President George Weah hold a flyer as they gather at a campaign rally in Monrovia [Zoom Dosso/AFP]

Along with the term reduction vote, Liberians are also choosing to repeal the dual citizenship ban in 1973, a move some say could be an economic boon to the poor country of 4.8 million people. .

The country is still recovering from consecutive civil wars from 1989 to 2003 and the Ebola crisis in West Africa of 2014-16.

Hundreds of thousands of Liberians are believed to be living abroad, having fled war and poverty.

If they adopt another nationality, however, they are prohibited from owning property in their home, among other restrictions.

“I arrived here at 5:30 am to vote, yes for dual citizenship,” said Manuela Jackson, a 23-year-old college student whose brother is American, who was voting in the capital, Monrovia.

If voters choose to lift the ban on dual citizenship, Liberians with two passports will still be barred from holding elected office.

The referendum is being held in conjunction with a mid-term senatorial election. About 2.5 million voters are registered, according to the national electoral commission.

The polls are expected to close at 6:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT), with the first results expected this week.


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