MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberian President George Weah will seek to serve two terms only, his representative said on Tuesday, expressing concern about protests in neighbouring Ivory Coast and Guinea over their presidents' bids for a third term.
The assurance came as this month's Guinean presidential election and an upcoming Ivorian vote have observers worried about a backslide towards authoritarianism in a region that had made strides towards multi-party democracy since the 1990s.
Liberians are set to vote in a referendum in December on whether to reduce presidential terms to five years from six, but the opposition is crying foul, saying the constitutional change would allow Weah to seek to extend his presidency like other regional leaders.
"The president does not want to be president for long. That is why he said they should reduce the tenure," Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel McGill told a news conference.
Weah "will serve for two terms, that I can guarantee you." Weah faces re-election in 2023.
Former soccer star Weah's election victory in 2017 was greeted with wild celebrations, but he has since faced protests from those who say he has failed to tackle corruption or revive a stagnant economy.
The instability in Ivory Coast and Guinea and a military coup against Mali's president in August have also raised concerns that West Africans are losing their faith in the ballot box as a way of holding leaders accountable.
McGill said Liberia would respect the will of the Guinean and Ivorian peoples, but called on citizens and their respective governments to respect the rule of law.
"As we are concerned about peace in Liberia, we are also concerned about peace and stability in the region," he said.
"Everyone should exercise restraint."
(Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Peter Cooney)