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How electoral impasse affects Liberia

Liberia really did not need that. After the ravages of the Ebola epidemic and the fall in commodity prices, the economy of this African country, one of the poorest in the world, is being affected by the juridico-electoral imbroglio.

Merchants in Monrovia, the capital, who are seeing their customers fleeing in anticipation of better days, hope that the decision expected this week from the Supreme Court will bring them some relief.The high court is to rule on the appeals of candidates who arrived behind the senator and former football star George Weah in the first round of the presidential election on October 10, calling for the cancellation of the results.

The second round, scheduled for November 7 between George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai, was postponed indefinitely by the Supreme Court, which had ordered the Electoral Commission to first consider the appeal of the third-ranked candidate, with 9, 6% of the vote, Charles Brumskine, joined by Mr. Boakai.

“Everything is stagnant now,” sighs Christopher Pewee, 32, a salesman of flip flops in Paynesville’s “Red Light” market, the largest in the country. “The election is suspended, business is suspended, we do not know what is happening in this country.”

“Nobody buys, people keep their money,” regrets another shopkeeper, Ruth Wollie, 45 years old. “Getting to sell for 1,000 Liberian dollars (about 6.7 euros) a day has become very difficult for us.”

Aggravating factor is the depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar, the currency legally used in all transactions alongside the national currency. In recent weeks, the rate has risen from 110 to 130 Liberian dollars to one US dollar.

– ‘They make us suffer’ – Beatrice Harris, a shopkeeper, is angry at politicians who have committed to this legal marathon. “They thought it was for our good, but it was only for theirs,” she says. “If they loved us as Liberians, they would understand what it means to come to the market to not even find something to feed your child, they make us suffer.”

International observers have found the vote largely credible, despite organizational problems and long delays in appointing the successor to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected to head an African state.

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If the Supreme Court grants the appeal, the NEC will have to hold a new election within 60 days. On the other hand, if it rejects it, a second round will have to be held, necessarily on a Tuesday, according to the Constitution.

If the impatience of the people is in favor of George Weah, who called on his supporters to be calm and not to yield to “provocations” during the “legal phase of the election”, in the longer term the uncertainty may weigh on the country’s economic prospects, regardless of who wins.

“The reputation of our country is under attack, our economy is under pressure,” Sirleaf warned on November 7, when the second round should have been held.
The juridico-electoral imbroglio raises uncertainties about the first democratic transition for three generations in this small English-speaking West African country of 4.7 million inhabitants, ravaged from 1989 to 2003 by one of the most atrocious civil wars of the continent, which has made some 250,000 dead.

“At election time, especially in African countries, potential investors want to know who they will be dealing with, if he (the new president) will implement a policy that will affect their investments,” said economist AnsuSunii, also a member of George Weah’s campaign.

In doubt “they play caution” and differ their investments, says the expert, evoking the risk of a relapse, while the country is struggling to get out of the recession. AFP

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