Liberia opposition leader calls for new election commission

Liberia Elections
A member of Liberia's National Electoral Commission checks the results at the tally centre in the capital Monrovia following the country's presidential and legislatives elections on October 12, 2017. PHOTO | ISSOUF SANOGO | AFP 

The Liberian opposition politician who has lodged a legal complaint against the country's election commission on Thursday called for its commissioners to be replaced, citing their actions during a disputed presidential election.

Charles Brumskine came third in an October 10 presidential election and immediately alleged fraud and irregularities tainted the vote.

He filed a Supreme Court legal case this week that threatens to derail a November 7 runoff vote between former international footballer George Weah and incumbent Vice-President Joseph Boakai, called after neither man gained more than 50 per cent of votes.

In an interview with AFP, Brumskine said the current commissioners serving the National Elections Commission (Nec) should be fired and replaced in the event the Supreme Court decides in his Liberty Party's favour and calls for a full re-run of the October 10 vote.

"There is no way NEC can conduct a free and fair election," he told AFP at his mansion in Paynesville, a suburb of the capital.

"The next thing we are going to be asking for is the reconstitution of the NEC," he added. "There is no way that (NEC Chairman) Jerome Korkoya and the team of people who are there would be allowed to hold elections in this country."

Weah topped the October 10 poll with 38.4 per cent of ballots cast to Boakai's 28.8 per cent, while Brumskine scored 9.6 per cent.

However Brumskine said he would respect the Supreme Court's decision, due on Friday at 2pm local time, on whether to allow the runoff to go ahead.

The court put a temporary stay on election preparations on Tuesday to gather evidence from the electoral commission and the Liberty Party. "We cannot say the runoff cannot be held," NEC spokesman Henry Flomo said.

Boakai's Unity Party has said it backs Brumskine's complaint and joined him in alleging that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had "interfered" in the election by meeting polling officials at her home before the vote.

Brumskine told AFP that "the circumstances are all pointing to the fact that the president cannot escape blame," but admitted the president herself does not figure in his legal complaint, instead pointing the finger at her staff.

Sirleaf is also a Unity Party member and served with Boakai for 12 years after being elected as Africa's first female leader.

The allegations have split the Unity Party as her feud with the vice-president burst into the open.

Brumskine's team has compiled a litany of complaints including ballot stuffing, illegal printing of extra voter cards, and has seized on the absence of ballot card serial numbers as encouraging fraud.

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

"The process was so flawed that if he continued in the second round it (is) not likely he would succeed, even if all of us got together and said we would support him," he said.

The election was due to be Liberia's first democratic transition in seven decades, and west African leaders met with all sides of the conflict on Wednesday in an attempt to ease the crisis.

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