MONROVIA, Montserrado – The National Civil Society Council of Liberia is calling on the government to heed the calls of many Liberians to postpone the national referendum slated to take place alongside senatorial elections on December 8.
There has been an avalanche of requests from a number of civil society organizations, political parties, and prominent activists who have highlighted the need to postpone the referendum due to the lack of sufficient public awareness.
NCSCL, the grouping of civil society organizations in the country with over 2,000 member-groups, issued a statement on Saturday that called on the George Weah-led administration to listen to the people.
“If we must live up to the true meaning of democracy, which calls for leading according to the will, safety, and happiness of the people, then it is only appropriate enough to call off the referendum and reschedule it for a better time,” the group said, in a statement signed by Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai, head of the council.
“Unless the people are fully aware and intoned with the process, voters’ apathy would be high and participation low.”
The council further noted that citizens’ preparedness to participate in the referendum, which will have a lasting effect on the country, was too crucial to be overlooked.
“Anything short of this would simply be a superimposition meant to impose the thoughts and will of the ruling class on a helpless population,” the statement continued. “And so, please listen to your people.”
The council welcomed the Supreme Court’s recent annulment of the referendum. The court had ruled in favor of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties, which filed a writ of prohibition against the proceedings. The CPP had argued that the referendum was inconsistent with Article 92 of the Constitution, which required each item in the referendum to be voted upon individually. Instead, the government reduced eight separate amendments into three propositions.
If the referendum would have been allowed, all three prepositions—to reduce the tenures of the President and representatives from six to five years, and the senators from nine to six years—would have one “Yes” or “No” voting option. There would have been no way for a voter to cast their ballot individually on each preposition.
But four days after the high-court ruling, the National Elections Commission announced that it would amend the referendum and ensure that the ballot had eight separate propositions. However, the new questions have not been disseminated to the public over the course of one year, as required by the constitution.
Featured photo courtesy of De Montfort University