The Supreme Court of Liberia on Monday suspended the election of the new president, ordering the National Electoral Commission ( NEC ) to consider an appeal by an opposition party.
The more than two million voters, who were called to the polls on Tuesday to decide between Senator and former football star George Weah and outgoing Vice President Joseph Boakai, who came in the lead of the first round on October 10, will have to still wait to appoint the successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize 2011.
Complex, the judicial proceedings could take several weeks, even if the Supreme Court ordered the electoral commission to act as quickly as possible.
This legal imbroglio raises uncertainty about the first democratic transition in three generations in this small English-speaking country in West Africa, one of the poorest in the world, ravaged from 1989 to 2003 by one of the most atrocious wars. of the continent, which killed some 250,000 people.
Speaking to the NEC for “setting a date and preparing for the second round without having first considered the complaints of irregularities and massive fraud”, the Supreme Court has forbidden him to hold the second round before to have considered the electoral appeals, and that the Court itself eventually ruled, if seized.
Mr. Boakai, who came from the same party as Ms. Sirleaf, who could not run again after two six-year terms, supported the appeal of the third-ranked candidate, with 9.6% of the votes, the lawyer and veteran of politics Charles Brumskine.
In a statement to AFP on Monday, the vice president said “never had so much confidence in the NEC ” to ensure free and transparent elections.
“The participation in the second round was suspended on the condition that the irregularities we observed are resolved, and if this happens, and that we have the assurance that the NEC is clean, then we can go to the second round,” he said. he asserted.
George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change ( CDC ), ahead of Joseph Boakai, with 38.4% of the votes against 28.8%, took note of the Supreme Court’s decision, said his lawyer, Phil Tarpeh Dixon.
“We do not think these elections were perfect,” he said, but said that the will expressed by the “Liberian people was clear and they were in favor of the CDC .” – Request for recusation –
International observers had judged the first round largely credible despite organizational problems and long delays in many polling stations.
A source in Mr Weah’s entourage said he was waiting for the NEC’s decision “tomorrow or the day after tomorrow (Tuesday or Wednesday)” and to be hopeful that the electoral process will resume and that the second round will take place on 14 or 21st November.
“In a few days, we hope to reach conclusions in the investigation,” NEC lawyer Musa Dean assured after the Court’s decision.
The Electoral Commission has until 22 November to consider the appeal.
“My lawyers will ask the commissioners (of the NEC , Ed ) to recuse themselves, since they have already prejudged evidence and the file” by not examining the appeal, warned Monday Mr. Brumskine.
In the event of disagreement with the NEC decision , the candidate’s party may appeal to the Supreme Court within seven days and the latter will have one week to decide. All these procedures can be extended until December 6th.
If it invalidates the results of the first round, the Supreme Court will even have to call for a new election within 60 days, according to the Constitution.
Messrs. Boakai and Brumskine also accused Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of “interference in the elections” because of her meeting with Election Commission officials at her home before the first round.
Sign of tensions, strangers threw stones on Sunday at the home of one of the judges of the Supreme Court, told AFP a spokesman for the high court, ensuring however that it would be left “neither to coerce or intimidate. ”