Horse-trading begins for Liberia presidential runoff

*This combination of pictures created on October 16, 2017 shows (L) Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Boakai arriving at the White House for a group dinner during the US Africa Leaders Summit August 5, 2014 in Washington, DC and (R) former football player and candidate in Liberia’s presidential elections, George Weah posing during a photo session in Paris on September 25, 2017. Former international footballer George Weah and Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Boakai will face a runoff for the country’s presidency on November 7, the electoral commission announced on October 15, 2017./ AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET AND Brendan SMIALOWSKI

Liberian parties began internal talks on Monday on whether to back former international footballer George Weah or incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai in a runoff for the presidency.

Weah obtained 39.0 percent and Boakai 29.1 percent of votes cast on Tuesday with 95.6 percent of polling stations counted, triggering a second round to be held on November 7.

But three other candidates took a significant share of votes.

Veteran opposition leader Charles Brumskine picked up 9.8 percent, former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings 7.1 percent and former-warlord-turned-preacher Prince Johnson 7.0 percent.

The runners-up will now decide which contender they will direct their supporters to follow — a position that gives them significant sway over the outcome.

Cummings’ Alternative National Congress (ANC) party and Johnson’s Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) declined to say who they will back.

“The political decision will be made by my party as to which way we’ll go. Not now,” Prince Johnson told AFP outside his church on Sunday.

“I will be convening a meeting on Wednesday perhaps to invite all opposition parties to accept whatever results will come for the sake of our country,” he added.

The chairman of Brumskine’s Liberty Party said they would not back any candidate and were calling for a re-run of the vote, despite the election being hailed as free and fair by domestic and international observers.

“Due to the considerable irregularities and fraud that we have discovered, and in order for there to be valid results, the election must be conducted again — this time with transparency,” Benjamin Sanvee said in a statement sent to AFP.

Whoever wins the second round of voting will replace President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, who is stepping down after a maximum of two terms.

Sirleaf and Boakai’s Unity Party swept the vote in 2005 and 2011 results that Weah’s CDC party contested in court.

Meanwhile, the results of legislative elections held concurrently with the presidential vote are nearing completion.

Boakai’s and Weah’s parties are likely to dominate the 73-seat House of Representatives, although more than a dozen independent candidates are also set to win.



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