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Liberia Supreme Court Halts Preparation for Runoff Vote


FILE - A man cast his vote during the first round of presidential elections in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 10, 2017.

Preparations for Liberia's presidential run-off election have come to a screeching halt just days before the scheduled vote. The Supreme Court ordered a stay while it hears a complaint filed by the third place finisher in the first round of polling.

FILE - Charles Walker Brumskine, Liberia's 2017 presidential candidate and leader of Liberty Party (LP), speaks during an interview with Reuters in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 8, 2017.
FILE - Charles Walker Brumskine, Liberia's 2017 presidential candidate and leader of Liberty Party (LP), speaks during an interview with Reuters in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 8, 2017.

The Liberty Party, led by Charles Brumskine, requested the writ of prohibition from the Supreme Court, alleging a host of irregularities in the first round vote that took place on October 10.

The National Elections Commission, or NEC filed its response to the court Wednesday.

Attorney Darryl Ambrose Nmah, the director of the Supreme Court’s public information division, explains.

“There is no electoral dispute before the court as yet. All disputes are before NEC, and this petition is not looking at merits of elections," he said. "It’s only looking at what Liberty Party is saying. They have a matter before NEC, and they want to exhaust that matter before the second round.”

FILE - Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Liberia's vice president and presidential candidate of Unity Party (UP), votes at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia
FILE - Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Liberia's vice president and presidential candidate of Unity Party (UP), votes at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia

As of now, the runoff will be a contest between senator George Weah, who led the first round with 38 percent of votes, and Vice President Joseph Boakai, who took second with nearly 29 percent. Brumskine finished a distant third, winning nine percent.

His party's complaint cites alleged irregularities at polling stations, violations of electoral laws and fraud. It also accuses outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of meeting privately with election officials to influence the outcome — a charge her office promptly denied.

FILE - Former soccer star George Weah, presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change casts his vote during a presidential election in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 10, 2017.
FILE - Former soccer star George Weah, presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change casts his vote during a presidential election in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 10, 2017.

At least two other political parties have backed the complaint, including the ruling Unity Party.

Brumskine’s chances of catapulting himself to the run-off are seen as slim. The National Secretary-General of the Liberty Party, Jacob Smith, says they’re concerned with bringing credibility to the electoral process.

“These elections border on peace and stability of our country. It is not just a matter of somebody wanting to win the election… We have to be able to implement all of the policy reform that we have put on the books,” he said.

Political analyst Lawrence Yealue worries the process may reinforce perceptions of corruption.

“Legally, it’s a healthy process but are the people going to understand this so that they don’t go through some unrest? That’s our fear. Most of our people are not educated to understand what this means,” said Yealue.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments from the NEC and the Liberty Party on Friday. Only after those hearings will the Supreme Court announce whether it is postponing the Nov 7 runoff.

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