Liberia's election delay divides already tense nation

Trevor Jackson
November 7, 2017

The Supreme Court of Liberia has granted the opposition Liberty Party's petition for a Writ of Prohibition on the November 7 Runoff Election.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) has already made clear the original date "does not look possible to meet", in the words of its chairman Jerome Korkoya, after ballot paper shipments to the provinces were recalled and training of polling agents halted at the Supreme Court's request.

Liberia's Supreme Court on Friday said it would decide next week whether a runoff vote for the presidency will go ahead, after hearing arguments from an opposition party and the electoral commission.

It did not order a new date for the vote, which was originally to be contested on Tuesday by former global footballer George Weah and incumbent vice-president Joseph Boakai. To win outright, a candidate needed more than 50 percent.

The vote is meant to mark Liberia's first democratic transition of power since 1944, but the Supreme Court this week halted preparations while it examined charges by third-place finisher Charles Brumskine's Liberty Party that the October 10 first round was marred by fraud.

National Elections Commission lawyer Musa Dean told The Associated Press "the highest court of the land has spoken and we have to abide by the ruling".

Known as Sleepy Joe for his propensity to fall asleep at public events, the second-in-command to Africa's first elected female leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is suddenly wide awake and unafraid to speak out.

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The vote was meant to mark the first time since 1944 that a democratically elected leader would hand over power to another elected leader in the country.

The Unity Party are backing the legal challenge against the initial vote.

The delay has increased tension in Liberia, an iron ore and rubber producer, where many are eager for change after 12 years of Johnson Sirleaf rule.

Over the past week, armed guards were deployed to the Supreme Court and NEC but some Liberians have expressed relief that the court was taking the fraud allegations seriously.

"Until the rule of law is respected in Liberia, holding a runoff or any election is irrelevant".

The court case comes at a tense moment in Liberian politics, as Brumskine and Boakai have both accused Sirleaf of "interference" in the elections and of secretly supporting Weah over her own vice-president, claims she has strongly denied.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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