Haiti elections officials receive report on disputed vote

Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald on the OAS report that indicates that Martelly—not Célestin—should participate in the forthcoming run-off

A report on the disputed preliminary results of Haiti’s Nov. 28 presidential elections by an expert mission of the Organization of American States has been handed over to the country’s Provisional Electoral Council.

But in a meeting Saturday with foreign diplomats, both President René Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive raised concerns about the report, arguing against the methodology and the giving of results, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The Haitian government maintains that the way the information is presented in the report is misleading and gives the impression that the expert mission is giving results — when that is not what its agreement with the OAS requested. The government wants modifications made to the report to clarify that the expert mission’s conclusions are calculations based on a statistical sampling and not a countrywide recount.

Ultimately, the final decision on who among three top vote getters should advance into Haiti’s first presidential runoff elections since the country adopted a new constitution in 1987 will be up to Haitian elections officials. Runoff elections were to take place Sunday but had to be postponed because of the dispute.

Preliminary results have government-backed candidate Jude Célestin headed into a runoff with former first lady Mirlande Manigat. But according to the OAS verification work, Célestin should be third — and popular musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly second.

The team came to its conclusions after reviewing a sample of 919 tally sheets or 16.9 percent of the total vote processed at a voting tabulation center. The report also noted that 9.3 percent tally sheets — or somewhere around 100,000 Haitians — never had votes counted because polling stations were shut down on Election Day because of violence, fraud and other problems.

After “irregular” or fraudulent votes were set aside for both Martelly and Célestin, just 3,225 votes or 0.3 percentage-point difference separated the two. Despite concerns raised by the government, however, it has accepted the report’s recommendations aimed at ensuring a smoother runoff election. Also, a second OAS expert mission is expected to arrive to observe the dispute phase, which will have to look into the complaints filed by the presidential candidates over the preliminary results.

On Monday, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza is scheduled to travel to Port-au-Prince to meet with Préval, who has been incensed over the leaking of the report days before he officially received it.

Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin has called the leaking “unfortunate” and said the OAS is not to blame.

Préval called in the OAS’ international team of experts after efforts to get Haitian election officials to establish a commission to verify the results failed.

Following the announcement of preliminary results, Martelly supporters took to the streets in violent protests and shut down the capital and other major cities for three days.

Overall, Haiti has remained surprisingly calm despite the long waiting period for results and the leaking of the report showing a reported change in position of the second and third candidate. Still the crisis has paralyzed Haiti with some fearing the elections could be headed for cancellation.

On Saturday, the day after Célestin supporters set up flaming barricades to protest in his favor, the National Palace issued a communiqué condemning the act and called on the police and other institutions to do their job.

For the original report go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/15/2018387/haiti-elections-officials-receive.html#ixzz1BAel0OXP

Photo by Ramon Espinosa for the Associated Press

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