December 7, 2017 / 5:51 PM / 10 days ago

Liberian court clears way for presidential run-off vote

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberia’s supreme court cleared the way for a presidential run-off election, ruling on Thursday that it had not found enough evidence of fraud to halt the whole process.

Ex-soccer star George Weah will now face off against Vice-President Joseph Boakai in a vote that could mark Liberia’s first peaceful transition of power in seven decades.

The court dismissed a complaint from the third-place finisher Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party, which had said fraud had undermined the first round of voting in October.

“In the absence of sufficient evidence, the court cannot order a re-run of the election,” Justice Philip Banks said, reading out the court’s decision.

“There were over 5,000 polling places, (so) to present evidence of just a few is problematic,” the judge said. “The evidence should have (shown) ... that they were committed in such magnitude that they could have altered the results.”

The winner of round two will replace Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as leader of the small West African country, one of the world’s poorest despite abundant diamonds and iron ore.

The delays caused by all the legal wrangling have ratcheted up tensions in a country still recovering from decades of civil war that killed tens of thousands.

However, a spokesman for the Liberty Party said it would accept the result.

“If we did not respect the judiciary, we would not have come,” Darius Dillion said. “Liberia has won, our democracy has won.”

Liberians are eager for change after Johnson Sirleaf’s 12-year rule, which sealed a lasting peace that many doubted was possible, but which has failed to tackle corruption or significantly lift living standards of the country’s poorest.

Authorities still have to name a date for the run-off. NEC spokesman Henry Flomo told reporters outside the court he believed one could be held in two weeks, but said the date would be announced shortly.

The judges made the ruling with a 4-1 majority.

Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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