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Supreme Court considers fate of Liberia presidential runoff

Vice President Joseph Boakai, left, is due to face former footballer star George Weah in Liberia’s presidential runoff vote. But the scheduled date — next Tuesday — now looks in doubt © AFP/File / Zoom DOSSO, JOEL SAGET

MONROVIA, Liberia, Nov 4 – 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.

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor said the court would issue a decision on Monday at 10am (1000 GMT) over whether the runoff between former international footballer George Weah and incumbent Vice-President Joseph Boakai would proceed.

However, most observers agree the scheduled date of November 7 now looks near-impossible.

Charles Brumskine, who came third in an October 10 election behind Weah and Boakai, is alleging “massive fraud and irregularities” marred the poll and is seeking a re-run of the whole vote.

The Weah-Boakai runoff was triggered after no single candidate gained more than 50 percent of votes, though Weah topped the poll.

Boakai voiced support for Brumskine’s legal complaint, and both men have separately accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of “interfering” in the elections before she steps down in January.

Commentators describe the election — showcased as Liberia’s first democratic transition in seven decades — as a key test of stability after Sirleaf’s presidency, which followed back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003 in which an estimated quarter of a million people died.

On October 31, the five-judge Supreme Court ordered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to temporarily suspend election preparations — a decision NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya described as making November 7 a date it “does not look possible to meet”.

In court, Brumskine said allowing the election to go ahead before his allegations are resolved by an internal complaint lodged with the NEC, or in court, was “tantamount to denying… due process of the law”, representing his own party before the judges.

“This is not about winning or losing, this is about a system that has held the country hostage for years,” Brumskine added, following his assertion in an interview with AFP on Thursday that the NEC’s commissioners should all be sacked before any new poll.

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Lawyers for the NEC argued the date and timing of the runoff was enshrined in the constitution and could not be altered for any legal complaint.

– ‘Sore and selfish loser’ –

A lawyer by training, Brumskine has urged Boakai not to take part in the runoff after the vice-president said he would go ahead regardless of his backing for the legal case.

The joint complaint has also implicated Sirleaf, as Boakai and Brumskine accuse her of “interference” by meeting polling officials at her residence before the vote.

Her spokesman has said the meeting was in the course of the normal actions of a concerned president.

On Friday her information minister ramped up their feud with a caustic statement that accused Brumskine of lodging a legal complaint only because he had lost three successive presidential elections.

“Brumskine needs to be reminded or made aware that making baseless and reckless accusations about a fair and transparent process… and acclaimed to be credible is a demonstration of desperation and dishonesty which this country does not deserve,” Information Minister Eugene Nagbe said in a statement.

The accusations against Sirleaf were “the rants of a sore and selfish loser who is so blinded by ego and arrogance… even after 12 years of rejection by the voters,” Nagbe added.

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