MONROVIA (Reuters) – Liberia's supreme court cleared the way for a presidential runoff, ruled on Thursday that it had not found enough evidence of fraud to stop the entire process.
Former soccer star George Weah will now face Vice President Joseph Boakai in a vote that could mark the first peaceful transition of power in seven decades.
The court dismissed a lawsuit by the Freedom Party of Charles Brumskine, winner of third place, who had said the fraud had undermined the first round of voting in October.
"In the absence of sufficient evidence, the court can not order a repeat election," said Judge Philip Banks, reading the court's decision.
"There were more than 5,000 polling stations, (so) presenting evidence of a few is problematic," the judge said. "The evidence should have (proved) … that they were committed of such magnitude that they could have altered the results."
The winner of the second round will replace Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as leader of the small west African country, one of the poorest in the world despite the abundant diamonds and iron ore.
The delays caused by all legal disputes have increased tensions in a country that is still recovering from decades of civil war that killed tens of thousands.
However, a Freedom Party spokesman said he would accept the result.
"If we did not respect the judiciary, we would not have come," said Darius Dillion. "Liberia has won, our democracy has won."
Liberians are eager for change after Johnson Sirleaf's 12-year term, which sealed a lasting peace that many doubted was possible, but failed to fight corruption or significantly raise the living standards of the poorest from the country.
Authorities still have to name a date for the second round. NEC spokesman Henry Flomo told reporters outside the courtroom that he believed one could be detained in two weeks, but said the date would be announced shortly.
The judges took the decision with a majority of 4-1.
Written by Tim Cocks; Edition by Andrew Heavens