News / Africa

Liberia Considers Presidential Candidate Eligibility 2 Weeks Before Election

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2010 file photo).
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2010 file photo).

Less than two weeks before election day, Liberia's Supreme Court says it is still considering the eligibility of the leading presidential candidates, including incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The challenge to candidates' eligibility comes from Liberia's Movement for Progressive Change party and is based on the constitutional requirement that candidates be a resident in the country for 10 years prior to a vote.

That requirement was waived in the last election because the vote so closely followed the end of Liberia's long civil war. But a constitutional referendum to reduce the requirement for this vote failed, so the party is asking the Supreme Court to declare ineligible six of the 16 candidates including President Johnson and her main challenger, Winston Tubman.

The Court was initially expected to rule on the challenge Tuesday, then pushed that back to Thursday, then issued a statement saying that justices are still deliberating.

Even though there are less two weeks to go before election day, voter Tamba Taylor says Liberia's constitution should not be taken for granted.

"We need to give the court a chance to come up with a decision on this. Liberians always love to overlook things. But I think the court must come up with a decision. If the election will be postponed, let it be. But we must give the court a chance to take a stance on it," he said.

Voter Wieh Bedell says there could be violence if so many of the leading opposition candidates are disqualified.

"The serious contenders that have the largest population of voting, they will not be taking part in the process," said Bedell. "The serious opposition party, which is the Congress of Democratic Change, to even tell them in a split second that you are not qualified, I believe it will cause a lot of chaos in this country."

Paye Martin is a member of Winston Tubman's Congress of Democratic Change. Even though the challenge affects his party's candidate, Martin says there is no reason to bypass the constitution.

"Let the constitution stand and let us move ahead instead of compromising what is in the constitution. Even though it affects some people who we support, we admire, but that shouldn't be the case. I think the national interest is paramount in this case. Whether it be against whosoever, letting the interest of the country be protected should be considered number one," said Martin.

Youth leader Moses Zang says the court should put the need for a peaceful vote above upholding the residency requirement.

"It will bring tensions in this country, so I prefer for them to put [the residency requirement] aside. So for that reason, for peace's sake, they should let them go," he said.

If all six of the candidates in question are disqualified, the strongest challengers among the remaining ten candidates are long-time politician and human rights activist Togba-Nah Tipoteh and the former rebel leader Prince Johnson.

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