Haiti presidential candidates reject vote recheck

Two of the top three candidates in Haiti’s presidential election on Saturday rejected a plan to have vote tally sheets rechecked by a new commission amid allegations of irregularities and fraud, Reuters reports.

The development added more uncertainty to a poor and chaotic Caribbean nation wracked by political violence, a catastrophic earthquake and a rampant cholera outbreak.

Violent protests broke out after the Provisional Electoral Council announced on Tuesday that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and Jude Celestin, outgoing President Rene Preval’s protege, had won enough votes in the November 28 election to advance to a run-off election in January.

Supporters of popular musician Michel Martelly, who the council said placed third, accused Preval, government bureaucrat Celestin and their ruling Inite (Unity) coalition of rigging the vote.

But Manigat and Martelly said on Saturday they would not participate in the plan that had no precedent under Haitian law.

The streets of Port-au-Prince were calm on Saturday and stores were opened for business. But since Tuesday, thousands of Martelly supporters and other protesters have taken to the streets in violent unrest that killed four people and paralyzed the capital Port-au-Prince and several other cities.

The electoral council tried to address the concerns by announcing on Thursday that it was forming a new commission that would include foreign observers, to check vote tally sheets produced at polling stations during the election.

Manigat’s campaign released a statement saying, “The candidate regrets that she will not be able to participate in such an initiative, however concerned she is with the interest of the nation in this troubled situation.

“Mrs. Manigat remains open to all initiatives likely to favour a solution to the crisis provided that solution is transparent and legal,” the statement said.

Martelly also refused to participate in what he called a “surprising and illegal initiative” and “a public farce” aimed at reissuing the same results without investigating the allegations of vandalism and ballot fraud at the polls.

He said the Haitian people were victims of a political conspiracy and that “this patent and unacceptable fraud was immediately exposed and unmasked by a furious population.”

It was unclear whether the electoral council would go ahead with the plan. Manigat’s campaign said no specifics had been released about how the new commission would be chosen or how it would work.

Failure to install a new government would cripple efforts to restore stability in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest state and rebuild after a devastating January earthquake.

The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have publicly expressed concern over irregularities in the voting, and have called for disputes to be resolved peacefully and through legal channels.

Haiti’s presidential and legislative elections are being funded and backed by the international community as a step towards hoped-for stability.

Earlier in the week, stone-throwing demonstrators attacked public buildings, police and U.N. peacekeepers and disrupted humanitarian operations to fight a raging cholera epidemic.

For more from the original report go to http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE6BA2AH20101211?sp=true

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