A Liberian opposition party formally backed George Weah for president on Thursday despite mounting a prolonged legal fight with his opponent, Vice-President Joseph Boakai, against the country’s electoral commission.
Weah and Boakai are due to face each other in a December 26 run-off triggered when the two men took first and second spots respectively in an October 10 presidential election but failed to win more than 50 percent of ballots cast.
The Liberty Party, whose standard bearer Charles Brumskine complained of fraud and irregularities after he scraped third with 9.6 percent of ballots, had joined forces with Boakai’s ruling Unity Party in arguing the National Elections Commission (NEC) had rigged the vote.
“You are the choice of the people,” Liberty Party Chairman Benjamin Sanvee told a press conference. “Senator Weah, we endorse your presidency. We endorse your presidency because the people have spoken.”
All sides accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday that Boakai and Brumskine lacked the evidence to prove sustained fraud across the nation, paving the way for the run-off to go ahead seven weeks later than planned.
The Liberty Party endorsement will give Weah significant clout in the crucial central county of Grand Bassa, which Brumskine won by a 23-point margin.
The vote is seen as a crucial test of Liberia’s stability after back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and an Ebola crisis that killed thousands from 2014 to 2016.
It would represent Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades.
Whoever wins will replace Liberia’s Nobel Peace prize-winning president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also Africa’s first female elected head of state. She is stepping down after a maximum two six-year terms.
During her tenure, she steered the country away from the trauma of war, although poverty remains entrenched and has been one of the main election issues.