Philadelphia, PA USA: A potential Constitutional crisis is looming in the small West African nation of Liberia with a ruling overnight by the high court halting preparations for the run-elections scheduled for November 7th.The opposition Liberty Party (LP) in a petition filed with the Supreme Court alleged “fraud and irregularities” in the first round of Presidential and General Elections held on October 10th.
Unless the LP can obtain a favorable disposition of their petition and a scheduled re-run of the elections in time to allow for the inauguration of a new Administration, incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will remain in office past her constitutional term which ends in January.
The Supreme Court has requested the petitioners, the Liberty Party and counsels for the National Elections Commission (NEC) to appear on Thursday for a hearing. According to the Court, the temporary stay on the pending run-off does not invalidate the results of the October 10th Presidential contest.
The Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led by Senator George Weah came in with 38.4 percent of the votes compared to incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party at 28.8 percent. Both candidates are slated to contest the run-off elections.
Justices of the Supreme Court deliberated late into Tuesday on the LP’s petition and issued the ruling which in effect halts preparation for the run-off elections pending a full hearing into the merits of the petition.
The ruling Unity Party (UP) of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) say they back the position of the Liberty Party.
Three political parties including the All Liberian Party(ALP), the ruling Unity Party (UP) and the lead petitioner in the case Liberty Party (LP) , in a statement issued on Sunday in Monrovia, allege that fraud, interference and irregularities were widespread in the October 10th elections. The Alternative National Congress (ANC) says it supports the Liberty Party (LP) in its petition now pending before the Supreme Court.
President Johnson-Sirleaf’s own party has accused her of interfering with the elections process, surreptitiously meeting with the head of the electoral body and withholding a full throated endorsement of her Vice President Joseph Boakai who is one of many candidates seeking to replace her.
President Johnson-Sirleaf has rejected the accusations of personal “interference.” Social media is abuzz with various reactions from Liberians; from conspiracy theories of plans to install an interim government to sentiments that the ruling party is maneuvering to remain in office indefinitely.
Reports from Monrovia say police are patrolling areas in the capital Monrovia and there is heavy security presence around the Temple of Justice, the seat of the high court and the offices of the National Elections Commission (NEC).
There is an unusual quietude around Monrovia.
The National Elections Commission says it will abide by the stay order on preparations for the run-off elections.
Reporting by Emmanuel Abalo