Liberia - politics

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Liberia's modern government is a dual system, comprised of statutory laws based on American and English common law, and of unwritten tribal compacts from earlier inhabitants. These tribal laws, much like those of American Indian populations, are restricted to rural tribal communities.

The government of Liberia, as in the United States, is comprised of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Also mirroring American policy, the legislative branch of Liberia's government is bicameral, consisting of a Senate, and a lower House of Representatives. There are a total of thirty senators (two from each county), and the 64 seats within the House of Representatives are divided among the counties based upon population, with a minimum of two representatives from each county. Each senator serves a nine year term, and the representatives each serve six year terms. Liberia's leader is called the President, and can serve a total of two six-years terms in office. The remainder of the executive branch are the Vice-President and the Cabinet. Just as in the United States, the highest judicial body in Liberia is the Supreme Court. It is comprised of five justices, nominated by the President. Each justice must be confirmed by the Senate, and their tenure is lifelong.

Local government in Liberia as more complex. While principle cities are governed by mayors, rural areas are ruled by town chiefs, tribal chiefs, district commissioners, and, at the county level, by superintendents.

The electoral process of Liberia enjoyed great stability from its establishment in 1847, until the end of the First Republic in 1980. From 1980 to 2006, racial tension and a mistrust in the corrupt political process led to a series of militarily backed dictatorships. The military actions of this period led to the Liberian Civil War, which claimed the lives over 200,000 Liberians and displaced countless more. Charles Taylor, head of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, was the leader of the last of these takeovers. His coup attempt in 1989 was halted by the Economic Community of West African States, who formed an interim government under installed President Dr. Amos Sawyer in 1990. Taylor opposed this new government, and continued war with the ruling party until 2003, when the ruling government agreed to a special election. Taylor won, primarily due to fear of further unrest, and rebellion continued among resistance groups opposed to Taylor's government. Finally, Taylor stepped down in 2003 and fled the country. The international community intervened to avoid further civil war, and an interim government was again formed until the 2006 election of the country's current President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.


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