Liberia’s Supreme Court has delayed the country’s presidential run-off election, less than 24 hours before the polls were scheduled to open. No new date can be set until the electoral commission addresses a challenge to the first round results.
The court ruled Monday that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) cannot hold a run-off until it resolves a complaint alleging fraud and irregularities in the first round of polling on October 10.
“Everything is stopped until the investigation is concluded and whoever is dissatisfied and the Supreme Court will again hear the appeal,” said Counsellor Musa Dean, the lawyer for the NEC.
“And thereafter, we will set the date for the runoff,” he added.
The Liberty Party filed the complaint to the NEC last month after the first round results were announced and the party's candidate, Charles Brumskine, came in third with nine percent of the votes.
The Liberty Party argued there were compromised ballots and other issues at polling stations.
The NEC went ahead and scheduled the run-off election for November 7 between the two top finishers, soccer star-turned-senator George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai.
But the Liberty Party went to the Supreme Court to halt the second-round vote. On Monday, the justices ruled in the party’s favor.
“The rule of law has been preserved, thank God,” said the Liberty Party’s secretary, Jacob Smith, outside the court after Monday’s ruling. “The peace and stability of our country matters most.”
The court justices explained that the NEC should not have moved forward with the scheduled run-off while it had an outstanding complaint from a political party about the conditions in which votes were conducted.
The court specifically cited the Liberty Party’s concerns that about nearly 89,000 ballots had been declared invalid out of the total of 1.6 million ballots cast.
At least two other parties have been backing the Liberty Party’s complaint before NEC, including the Unity Party of Vice President Boakai.
Both parties insist the complaint is not about politics.
“It’s not about whether or not we were selected or designated to run in the runoff,” said Unity Party Chairman Wilmot Paye. It’s about the rule of law ... until we can respect the rule of law in our country. Of course, whether you hold a runoff or any election is irrelevant, what is important is the foundation of our democracy.”
It is seen as unlikely that the Liberty Party’s challenge will catapult its candidate into the run-off. Both Boakai and Weah had large leads on Brumskine in the first round results.
The NEC now has 30 days to resolve the case. Only when that is complete, will Liberia know when it will elect its next president.