The President of the Republic of Liberia is the head of state and government of Liberia, as well as serves as the leader of the executive branch and as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Prior to the independence of Liberia in 1847, executive power in the Commonwealth of Liberia was held by the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed by the American Colonization Society. The 1847 Constitution transferred the executive powers of the governorship to the presidency, which was largely modeled on the presidency of the United States.
Following the establishment of the Commonwealth of Liberia in 1838, executive power was vested in the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed and served at the pleasure of the American Colonization Society. The first governor, Thomas Buchanan, served from 1838 until his death in 1841. He was succeeded by Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first black governor of Liberia. Under the 1986 Constitution, the president is directly elected by eligible voters to a six-year term, which may be renewed once. Overall, 22 individuals have served as president. On January 16, 2006, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as the twenty-fourth and current president, making her the first elected female president in Africa.
The presidency of Liberia is largely modeled on the presidency of the United States. The 1986 Constitution gives the president the power to appoint all cabinet ministers, judges, ambassadors, sheriffs, county officials and military officers with the advice and consent of the Senate. Additionally, the president has the power to dismiss all appointees from office at his or her discretion. The president may also grant pardons or revoke sentences and fines. The president conducts all matters of foreign policy, though any treaties or international agreements must be ratified by both houses of the Legislature. Furthermore, the president serves as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
The Constitution also grants the president the power to declare a state of emergency during times of war or civil unrest and suspend civil liberties during the emergency as necessary, with the exception of habeas corpus. Within seven days of the declaration, the president must state to the Legislature the reasons for the declaration, which both houses must then approve by a two-thirds majority. Otherwise, the president must repeal the state of emergency.