The Supreme Court of Liberia has suspended arrangements for next week’s presidential run-off vote between the candidate of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), former footballer George Weah, and the candidate of the current ruling Unity Party, Vice President Joseph Boakai, until it considers a challenge to the results of the first round of the election, held on October 10, by the losing candidate of the Liberty Party, who alleged fraud. Boakai and Weah received the highest votes in the first round of the election. 28.8 per cent of the votes cast (446,716 votes) were for Boakai, whereas 38.4percent (596,037 votes) were cast for Weah. Less than 10 per cent of the votes were cast for the other 18 candidates. The Supreme Court has instructed the National Elections Commission with an order to cease from ‘any and all activities’ towards the second round votes while it deliberates on the Liberty Party’s complaint and until a final decision is reached.
These disputes could significantly disrupt the second-round vote scheduled for November 7 to find a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the country’s first democratically elected leader after the civil war.
The Supreme Court’s decision is an example of the improving involvement that courts in Africa are having with elections; Kenya’s supreme court in August, for example, nullified the results of the general election. In a writ issued late on Tuesday, Liberia’s supreme court instructed the Liberty Party of third-placed Charles Brumskine, who made the complaint, and the National Elections Commission, to file briefs by Thursday.
The Unity Party are backing the legal challenge against the initial vote. Boakai is accusing the president of interfering in the October election by holding private meetings with election magistrates.
The president responded by denying that the meetings were inappropriate. However, observers from the Carter centre and the E.U say they saw no major problems with the first-round vote.