Liberia court orders temporary halt to runoff election prep

November 1, 2017
FILE - In this Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017 file photo, people wait to cast their votes during a Presidential election in Monrovia, Liberia. Liberia's Supreme Court on Wednesday Nov. 1, 2017 ordered a temporary halt to preparations for next week's runoff presidential election as it awaits a hearing on complaints alleging voting irregularities. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh, File)

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberia’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a temporary halt to preparations for next week’s runoff presidential election as it awaits a hearing on alleged voting irregularities.

Following the ruling, National Elections Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoya said the Nov. 7 runoff date “may not be possible to meet.”

Representatives for the commission and the people who filed the complaints over the election’s first round of voting are scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court on Thursday.

In issuing its order Wednesday, the court emphasized that it was not annulling the results of the Oct. 10 balloting. None of the 20 candidates received the required 50 percent plus one vote to win outright in the first round.

Vice President Joseph Boakai is set to face former international soccer star George Weah in the runoff to replace Africa’s first elected female president, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Third-place candidate Charles Brumskine and his Liberty Party led the legal petition filed Friday. It alleged irregularities in the conduct of the October election, saying many voters were denied the chance to participate.

The Liberty Party wants a re-run of the election.

First-place candidate Weah’s party, the Coalition for Democratic Change, is not part of the complaint and wants next week’s runoff to proceed. Party chairman Nathaniel McGill over the weekend warned that if the Supreme Court cancels the election and “there is war in this country,” the court will be to blame.

Liberia’s ruling Unity Party, which Boakai represents, has said it is in solidarity with the Liberty Party, though it is not listed in the Supreme Court statement.

The party has alleged that Sirleaf was interfering with the election process to influence the outcome. The president’s office has denied allegations that Sirleaf favors Weah as her successor.