As the nation awaits the much trumpeted referendum results, authorities at the National Elections Commission (NEC) on Wednesday unveiled a formula which it says will be used to determine the outcome of last Tuesday’s referendum.
Liberians voted on Tuesday December 8, in a referendum at the same time they elected 15 new senators in an election that have seen the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), independent candidates and two smaller opposition parties winning 12 of the 15 seats.
About little over 30% of the 2,476,356 registered voters turned on Election Day. A ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ votes by two-third of the number of registered voters in the referendum would see a change in the Liberian Constitution or retain it just as is.
Voters decided on 8 prepositions, each of the prepositions is intended to amend different articles within the country’s 1986 Constitution.
The prepositions seek amendments to Article 28 to allow dual citizenship, Article 45 and 48 reduction in Senatorial tenure from the current 9 years to 7 years and reduction in the tenure of Representatives from 6years to 5years respectively. Both Senate Pro-tempt and House Speakers will also see a reduction in their respective tenures from 6years to 5years.
The changes in the Constitution also seek an amendment to Article 50, to have a reduction in the Presidential and Vice Presidential tenures from 6years to 5years. It further seeks to amend Article 83 (a) to change the date of the General Elections from the 2nd Tuesday in October to November.
According to NEC, Section 4A.4 of the Elections Law, under referendum Result, states:
“The fraction of two thirds (2/3) required for approval of a question in a referendum is calculated by dividing the number of valid votes cast in approval of the question by the total number of the valid votes cast on the question.”
The electorial body relies on a September 20, 2011, Supreme Court ruling which held that invalid votes shall not be included in the sum of the total votes to determine the actual number upon which its final calculation will be based.
There it said in keeping with the Supreme Court ruling, NEC says “you get to the total valid votes cast by adding all of the “Yes votes to all of the “No votes”. Of this sum, you have to ascertain whether the yes votes on each proposition reach the two-thirds requirement for approval. If they do, the proposition is approved. If not, the proposition is rejected.
The commission notes that because the referendum is a national election — the “Yes and No votes from the fifteen Counties (on each proposition) must be added together to determine whether the yes votes reach the two-thirds requirement for approval. This process, it added will be done for each of the proposition.
The ruling CDC has campaigned for a “Yes” vote to all of the prepositions, while the opposition parties led by the CPP, which comprises four parties including the former ruling Unity Party, Liberty Party, All Liberian Party and Alternative National Congress has not been cleared on its message. Rather, the opposition CPP has called for a boycott though it has not officially dismissed the prepositions but insist the time is too short to hold it at this time.Another sticky issued surrounding this impending referendum is the fear that a change in the Constitution particularly the presidential tenure could reset President George Weah’s time limit, a fear the president has dismissed.
Weah’s dismissal of that fear is backed by Article 93 of the Constitution which makes it very clear that if the constitution is amended, under the term of a President that president does not benefit.
Article 93 states: The limitation of the Presidential term of office to two terms, each of six years duration, may be subject to amendment; provided that the amendment shall not become effective during the term of office of the incumbent President.
By Othello B. Garblah