Begaye seeks referendum on term limits

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK , May 8, 2014

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Russell Begaye thinks that two terms means two terms.

The Shiprock Council delegate has submitted a resolution to the Navajo Nation Council which would allow members of the tribe to vote in a referendum about on whether they want their tribal leaders to be able to run for more than two terms for tribal President.

The reform laws put in place in 1990 restrict a tribal President from running for more than two terms but four years ago, the Navajo Supreme Court ruled that this meant two consecutive terms. That allows a tribal President, after serving eight years, to sit out a term and then be able to run again for another eight years in office.

That's why Joe Shirley Jr., who has served for eight years, is allowed to run again in the upcoming election.

In order to change the law back to its original intent, Begaye is required to get voter approval.

"The referendum submitted to voters of the Navajo Nation will, if approved, limit a person to serve as Navajo Nation president to two terms in a lifetime," the bill reads.

"The two terms can be served at any time, whether consecutively or not," the bill stated.

The bill also says that if voters approve the bill, it would be applied to people who are running in the 2014 election.

That last part may find itself going to the Navajo Supreme Court for approval.

The reason centers around when the referendum would be held. Ballots for the primary are going to be printed in June with the summer session not scheduled until July, so if no special session is held, the earliest it can be on the ballot is in the general election, according to tribal election officials.

If Shirley wins the election, he could argue that his selection supersedes the referendum vote which means that the supreme court would have to get involved.

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