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Liberia Supreme Court suspends presidential run-off election

[JURIST] Liberia's Supreme Court on Monday suspended [opinion] the presidential run-off vote that had been scheduled for November 7 until the National Elections Commission (NEC) can investigate allegations of fraud from the initial October 10 vote.

Article 83 of the Liberia Constitution [text] states a run-off election is necessary, "if no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot ... [then] the two candidates who received the greatest numbers of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate."

George Weah, a former soccer player, and Vice President Joseph Boakai [websites] were scheduled to run for Liberia's first democratic transfer of power in over 70 years. However, on October 23, Presidential nominee of the Liberty Party, Charles Brumskine [GNN Liberia profile], filed a complaint alleging a "violation of the Constitution and the Elections Law [and] fraudulent acts and gross irregularities during the elections." Garnering 9.7 percent of the votes, the Liberty Party candidate ranked third after the initial vote, eliminating him from the subsequent run-off ballot.

In its decision, the Supreme Court relied heavily on judicial interpretation of the phrase "valid votes cast," as cited in Article 83(b) of the Constitution. Referencing the phrase at issue to the original 1986 Constitution, the phrase originally read "votes cast" and was later amended to include the term "valid" in 2011. The Court understood the amendment as signifying the framers understanding that validity of votes may be questionable and should be protected against.

The court held that the "NEC cannot designate two presidential tickets for a run-off elections when the issue of the votes they received is still shrouded in allegations of invalidity." Capitalizing their decision by citing the NEC's attempt to continue with the run-off election as "simply absurd."

There is currently no time frame for the investigation into the complaint, and no new date has been given for the vote.

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