Liberian parties eye anti-Weah front: ruling party chairman
Four parties on Tuesday discussed a "merger" to bolster Vice President Joseph Boakai in his fight against former international football star George Weah for Liberia's presidency, a senior party official said.
The talks took place on the day that a runoff vote between the two men, a crossroads in Liberia's history, was supposed to take place.
The second round of Liberia's presidential election was halted by the Supreme Court on Monday, and commentators expect the vote to be delayed for days or even weeks.
The court ruled that it could not go ahead until a fraud complaint lodged by Liberty Party candidate Charles Brumskine is resolved.
Robert Kpadeh, chairman of the ruling Unity Party, said talks between the parties of four candidates including Brumskine -- who all finished behind Weah in the first round of voting on October 10 -- would discuss "a merger that is getting stronger and is poised to take many dimensions."
"What you see today is a strong signal to the world that they are coming together to fight for democracy," Kpadeh said.
"We strongly believe that Weah cannot run this country."
Asked whether the parties would campaign together for Boakai whenever the runoff is eventually held, Kpadeh replied: "it's possible", emphasising the four parties had resolved to fight the fraud case together.
Brumskine lodged a complaint of "gross fraud and irregularities" at the National Elections Commission (NEC) on October 23, alleging ballot stuffing and fraudulent voter cards marred the October 10 vote.
The Weah-Boakai runoff was triggered after no single candidate gained more than 50 percent of votes in a vote that was hailed as free and fair by international and domestic observers, despite some recorded delays.
Electoral commission spokesman Henry Flomo explained on Tuesday that the body had failed to allow a seven-day window for complaints to close before calling the runoff -- a key criticism of the Supreme Court on Monday -- because "that's how we understood the law".
No party had ever challenged the date of the runoff in previous elections, he added, though the overall results were disputed in the 2005 and 2011 presidential polls.
Tuesday's delayed vote was showcased as Liberia's only democratic transfer of power in seven decades.
It would secure the legacy of Africa's first elected female leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as she steps down after 12 years.
The Carter Center, an organisation founded by former US president Jimmy Carter to promote democracy which has sent observers to Liberia, cautioned that the risk of tensions would spike the longer the delay lasted.
"As the public becomes aware of the implications of (Monday's) ruling and the further delays in the electoral calendar that it will cause, the potential for unrest increases," it said in an emailed statement.