Liberia Electoral Commission Chairman James Fromayan
Liberia Electoral Commission Chairman James Fromayan

Campaigning to amend parts of Liberia?s constitution through a referendum gets underway Sunday. The referendum is to take place August 23rd, a little more than a month before Liberia holds its presidential election in October.

James Fromayan, chairman of Liberia?s National Elections Commission (NEC), says among the four referendum issues is the residency requirement for anyone seeking the presidency.

?Those propositions consist of Article 52 (c) which has to do with the 10-year residency clause enshrined in our constitution with respect to the election of president and vice president. That is to be reduced from 10 years to five years,? he says.

Fromayan says the second proposed amendment focuses on Article 70 (b) of the constitution which has to do with the retirement age for judges, including justices of the Supreme Court.

Currently, the retirement age for judges is 70.  If approved, the amendment would raise the age limit of judges to 75.

A number of opposition political parties have reportedly organized themselves to defeat the referendum.

The leader of the New Deal Movement, Dew Mayson, a possible presidential candidate, reportedly said recently that the referendum was an attempt by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to run for a second term.

But, Fromayan says Mayson and a number of potential candidates could also stand to benefit from the residency amendment, should it pass.

?Did you ask him (Mayson) if he ever said that? Let?s just, for the sake of argument, say we apply it (the current 10-year residency requirement); it will disqualify Dew Mayson himself because Dew, obviously, has not been here for the length of time that the law is calling for. And it?s not only one person in that category. If you were to apply it, it would hold true for Mr. Weah (George), Counselor (Charles) Brumskine, Winston Tubman, Nathaniel Barns, you name it. Those who are aspiring to be president, how many of them will be able to say that they have been in here [in the country] for 10 years,? Fromayan says.

Fromayan says the commission should be able to hold both events because there is enough time between them.

?There is a time gap between the two events. We are working simultaneously so that ballot boxes will come in at the time of the printing of ballots so that, once the things are here on time, as we envisage, obviously, we will be able to conduct those elections,? Fromayan says.

Fromayan says it would require two-thirds of the voters to approve the four amendments.