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Liberia’s ruling party petitions for election delay

Liberia's ruling Unity Party has asked the Supreme Court to further delay the presidential runoff, which its candidate Vice President Joseph Boakai will contest on December 26.

The party filed a request late Thursday in which it called for the country’s legislature to be given responsibility for determining the election date.

The move came just hours after Boakai was dealt a setback, when a major opposition party announced it would back his rival, former football star George Weah.

“We request that the recent ruling of the Supreme Court be reviewed and should include that the NEC chairman and the Executive Director be disqualified from participating in or having anything to do with the run-off elections,” the legal filing said.

On December 7, the Supreme Court ruled that the final round — already delayed since November 7 due to a fraud complaint by the Unity Party — could go ahead, so long as National Elections Commission (NEC) carried out a “clean up” of the national voter register.

A technical team from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) arrived in Liberia on December 12 with the aim of assisting with removing anomalies from the roll.

But the Unity Party now says it is unhappy with the wording of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue of the voter roll, which it considers ambiguous.

Boakai has repeatedly called for NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya to step aside after accusing the body of presiding over fraud and irregularities during the first round of voting on October 10.

But his party has gone a step further in asking for responsibility for the run-off date — which is constitutionally in the hands of the NEC — to be handed to parliament.

“Let the new date of runoff be set by the legislature through a joint resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives,” the filing said.

Boakai had formally announced his campaign had resumed on Thursday afternoon, and called on Liberians “to put our differences aside and think about the future of our country” — only to file the legal request hours later.

The runoff was triggered when the two men took first and second spots respectively on October 10 but failed to win more than 50 percent of ballots cast.

The vote is seen as a crucial test of Liberia’s stability after back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and an Ebola crisis that killed thousands from 2014 to 2016.

It would represent Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades.

Whoever wins will replace Liberia’s Nobel Peace prize-winning president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also Africa’s first female elected head of state. She is stepping down after a maximum two six-year terms.

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