Haiti delays publication of disputed vote results

Haiti’s electoral authorities have delayed publication of final results from the Caribbean country’s disputed November elections while Organisation of American States experts help to verify the contested ballot count, Reuters reports.

The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said in a statement sent to local media late on Sunday final results from the U.N.-backed November 28 vote would not be released on Monday as originally scheduled. It gave no new time frame for the results’ verification or publication.

Violent protests followed the December 7 release of preliminary results from the chaotic presidential and legislative polls, which took place amid a cholera epidemic, widespread voter confusion and multiple fraud allegations.

The Western Hemisphere’s poorest state is still struggling to recover from a devastating January earthquake and there are fears the unrest will delay the handover of billions of dollars of urgently needed reconstruction funds from foreign donors.

Outgoing President René Préval, who is accused by opposition presidential candidates of rigging the vote tally in favour of his protege Jude Celestin, last week asked the OAS to provide technical assistance to verify the disputed results.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza agreed, but requested a delay in the announcement of final vote results.

“While waiting for the end of the disputes phase of the electoral process, and for the arrival of an OAS experts mission requested by President René Préval and the completion of its work, the CEP has decided to delay the publication of the definitive results from the first round,” the Provisional Electoral Council said in its statement.

The December 7 preliminary results put Celestin, a little-known government technocrat, in a second round run-off with former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

But popular musician Michel Martelly, whom the council placed narrowly third, less than a percentage point behind Celestin, has rejected these results and called for a second round vote to include all 18 original presidential candidates.

Of these, around a dozen had demanded a complete cancellation of the elections, alleging “massive fraud” by Préval, Celestin and their ruling Inite (Unity) coalition.

INTERNATIONAL APPEALS

Supporters of Martelly, a charismatic star of Haiti’s Kompa dance music, staged several days of violent protests against the preliminary results, paralyzing the quake-ravaged capital Port-au-Prince and several other cities.

At least four people were killed in the riots, which the United Nations and aid groups warned would hinder an international medical response to the cholera epidemic, which has killed well over 2,500 people since it started in mid-October.

The United Nations, the United States and the European Union have appealed to Haiti’s government and presidential candidates to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the electoral dispute through legal and constitutional channels.

Democratic U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy has urged Washington to suspend direct aid to Haiti’s government until it ensures a fair, democratic vote outcome.

But former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is a U.N. special envoy to Haiti, said it would be a mistake to halt earthquake reconstruction aid

For the original report go to http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE6BJ3AE20101220

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