Liberia's National Election Commission (NEC) has just announced that all eight proposed constitutional changes have been rejected. A defeat for George Weah, but qualified by the results.
Liberians rejected eight constitutional amendments introduced by President George Weah in a referendum last December. The proposals failed to meet the constitutional two-thirds threshold, but they all obtained a 50% majority.
The referendum asked Liberians if they agreed with reducing the number of years for all elected officials, including the president, vice-president and parliamentarians, with the change of election date from October to November and with the authorization of dual nationality for all Liberians.
Had any of the proposals been passed, there would have been an amendment to the 1986 Constitution, in which election day is set for the second Tuesday in October, while dual citizenship, even for Liberians by birth, is prohibited.
“On December 8, 2020, Liberians across the country voted on the 8 proposals to amend certain articles of the Liberian constitution. Based on the results of the 2020 referendum, none of the eight proposals reached the constitutional two-thirds threshold, ”Commission President Davidetta Lansanah told reporters at a press conference at the Commission headquarters in Sinkor.
The fear of a lifelong presidency
President George Weah has campaigned for his constitutional reform, wanting eligible voters to support all of the referendum proposals. The former footballer could be seen on billboards and placards in major cities, which sparked another debate within the opposition: the president has appropriated the national referendum, and the opposition is considering this campaign. undemocratic, even illegal.
The opposition also suspected Weah of wanting to reset the term counters to zero in order to run for another term when the time came. This was done for example by Alassane Ouattara in Ivory Coast or Faure Gnassingbé in Togo after constitutional reforms.
For Weah, reducing the term of office of the president, vice-president and parliamentarians would have had the effect of reducing corruption and putting work back at the center of the debate.
The results of this referendum are, in absolute terms, a failure for the ex-player. But the results are more nuanced than they appear. Despite the rejection of all eight proposals, all obtained at least 50% of the vote, showing that Weah still has the support of a majority of his people, despite his relative economic failure.