A member of the Liberian House of Representatives has introduced a bill for natural born Liberians living as permanent residents in other countries to be able to vote in next year’s presidential election.
Representative Eugene Fallah Kparkar said Diaspora Liberians have made a significant contribution to Liberia's development.
"Liberians in the Diaspora have contributed substantially to the growth and development of this country by virtue of the political and economic contributions that they continue to make to this nation. So I think that Liberians in the Diaspora should be allowed come 2011 to be registered and to vote in determining who their president will be and who their vice president will be,” he said.
Kparkar said his legislation is supported by the Liberian Constitution.
“If you look at Article 77-B of the Liberian Constitution, it says that all Liberians shall be entitled to register and vote in as much as you as a Liberian reached the age criteria of 18. And I believe that all Liberians are covered by this provision of our Liberian Constitution,” Kparkar said.
He said he was motivated to write his legislation after watching Guineans and Americans living in Liberia cast ballots in their countries’ elections.
There is a debate currently going on among Diaspora Liberians for a dual citizenship.
But Representative Kparkar said his proposed bill does not cover Liberians who have taken up the citizenship of other countries.
“Under our constitution, the law says that no bill shall embrace more than one subject. So any bill embracing more than one subject is considered none and void by virtue of our constitution. So my bill emphasizes legal Liberians who can be identified as Liberians who are living in the Diaspora to vote,” he said.
Kparkar said he welcomes the call for dual a citizenship, but he said it has to be decided in a referendum.
“The dual citizenship issue, I think, is a welcome phenomenon, but as you may know, the issue of dual citizenship has constitutional implications. The constitution has to be amendment through a referendum, meaning the entire population will have to be part and parcel of that decision through a 'yes' or 'no” vote,' he said.
Some Liberians have expressed concern that the country may not have the technical means to conduct an election in an outside the country.
Representative Kparkar said Liberians should not be afraid to embrace his idea to get Liberians in the Diaspora to vote.
He commended the United States for committing millions of dollars to support the Liberian electoral process.
Kparkar called on other international partners of Liberia, including the European Union to also support the Liberian electoral process so that Liberians living abroad would be able to vote in the 2011 election.