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US joins calls for Liberia to hold presidential run-off

Monrovia, Liberia | AFP | The US embassy in Liberia on Thursday expressed “confidence in the integrity” of first-round voting in the country’s presidential election, urging political leaders to allow a “timely conclusion” of the vote.

A second round of voting to choose a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was suspended indefinitely by the Supreme Court on October 31 pending the resolution of a fraud complaint lodged with the electoral commission.

Ex-footballer George Weah was supposed to face Vice President Joseph Boakai in a run-off on November 7.

“The US Embassy has confidence in the integrity of the October elections,” the Monrovia-based mission said in a statement.

“No accredited Liberian, regional, or international observation group suggested that the cumulative anomalies observed reflect systemic issues sufficient to undermine the fundamental integrity of the electoral process.”

Weah won 38.4 percent to Boakai’s 28.8 percent in the first round of voting on October 10.

The run-off was triggered after no single candidate obtained more than 50 percent in the election, which was described as free and fair by international and domestic observers, despite some reported delays.

The Liberty Party candidate Charles Brumskine, who came in third, claimed that ballot stuffing and false voter registration cards marred the election — allegations backed up by Boakai.

“Where issues were identified in the first round of voting, we urge the National Elections Commission (NEC) to undertake corrective actions before, during, and after the run-off election,” the US embassy said.

The statement came a day after the European Union delegation to Liberia urged Liberian political parties and the country’s electoral commission to end “unnecessary delays” and elect a new president.

The African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and Liberia’s United Nations peacekeeping mission have also called for a quick end to the electoral disputes.

The Liberian Senate meanwhile announced the creation of a commission headed by Senate president Armah Jallah for the speedy resolution of electoral complaints.

A spokesman for Weah’s party, Ansu Suny, suggested the delays would negatively impact the electoral chances of the former international football star, whose voice “is so meaningful to the young people”.

“We are hoping that we will not ever get to the point where they begin not to listen,” Suny said. “This is why it is our expectation that this matter will not be prolonged.”

International donors have poured billions of dollars into Liberia since Sirleaf was elected in 2005, and are nervously monitoring what should be the country’s first democratic transition in seven decades.

Battered by back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and an Ebola crisis that killed thousands from 2014 to 2016, the election is considered a crucial test of the west African nation’s stability.

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