November 20, 2017 / 10:05 PM / a year ago

Liberia electoral commission says fraud claims lack evidence

People wait to vote during the presidential election at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia, October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberia’s electoral commission said on Monday that claims of fraud brought by a presidential candidate in last month’s election did not have sufficient evidence, delivering a preliminary conclusion of an investigation.

Former footballer George Weah was initially set to face Vice-President Joseph Boakai to determine who will replace Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

But third-place finisher Charles Brumskine and his Liberty Party contested the outcome of the first round, claiming gross irregularities, and the Supreme Court this month suspended the run-off until the electoral commission can investigate Brumskine’s claim.

“According to the hearing officer, the Liberty Party did not have sufficient evidence to prove their case. It was denied,” commission spokesman Prince Dunbar said by telephone.

It now goes to the NEC’s board of commissioners to ratify the conclusion, after which the plaintiffs can still take the case back to the Supreme Court for a final ruling.

A successful vote would be Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in over 70 years, but the poll delay has raised tensions.

Many are eager for change after 12 years of Johnson Sirleaf, whose tenure consolidated peace after decades of civil war, but whom many Liberians say did little to alleviate poverty.

“We are taking our complaints to the board of commissioners. We want to exhaust the legal means. If we are not satisfied, we will go to the Supreme Court,” Abraham Darius Dillon, senior political adviser to Brumskine’s party, told Reuters.

African courts have been increasingly flexing their muscles in political disputes. In October, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the results of an August election there, citing irregularities.

Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by John Stonestreet and Lisa Shumaker

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