The Liberian republic is modeled after the United States. Its constitution approved on 3 July 1984 and effective January 1986, provides for a president and vice president elected jointly by universal suffrage (at age 18) for a six-year term with a limit of two consecutive terms. Candidacy is again allowed after the lapse of at least one term. The president nominates judges from a list submitted by a commission, serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has the right to veto legislation. Vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses. The legislature is divided into a Senate, its 26 members elected by counties for nine years, and a House of Representatives, its 64 members elected by equally apportioned constituencies for six years.
The constitution proscribes the one-party state and guarantees fundamental rights, such as free speech, press, and assembly. The president has the right to suspend certain rights by declaring a state of emergency in cases of war or serious civil unrest. A state of emergency, which must be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses, does not empower the president to suspend or abrogate the constitution, dissolve the legislature, suspend or dismiss the judiciary, or suspend the right of habeas corpus. The constitution guarantees fundamental freedoms to all persons irrespective of ethnic background, but stipulates that "only persons who are Negro or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia." Only citizens may own land.