Liberia’s electoral commission on Monday formally rejected fraud allegations lodged by two parties over the presidential election result, setting the country on a course for a showdown at the Supreme Court.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) has held hearings to review complaints lodged on October 23 by the ruling Unity party and the opposition Liberty Party, whose candidates came second and third respectively in the October 10 election.
Muana Ville, dispute hearing officer of the NEC, said he was “not convinced that the issue raised in the complaints amounts to fraud because the parties have failed to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that NEC committed fraud in the October 10, elections”.
The two parties are allowed an appeal to the NEC’s board of commissioners, though they have already publicly called on them to step down over the allegations.
A runoff for the presidency was due to be held between the Unity Party’s Joseph Boakai and former footballing superstar George Weah on November 7, but was postponed by the Supreme Court until the NEC matter was resolved.
The election was described as free and fair by international and domestic observers, despite some reported delays.
Weah finished well ahead of Boakai and far clear of third candidate Charles Brumskine, but failed to get more than 50 percent of votes to win in one round outright, triggering the runoff.
Boakai and Brumskine’s next recourse is back at the Supreme Court, which can decide to reject their complaint and allow the runoff to go ahead, or call new elections.
The United States, African Union, European Union, Economic Community of West African States and Liberia’s United Nations peacekeeping mission have also called for a quick end to the electoral disputes.
International donors have poured billions of dollars into Liberia since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected in 2005, and are nervously monitoring what should be the country’s first democratic transition in seven decades.