US warns Haiti over election changes

The United States warned Haiti on Thursday that it would lose international support if it rejects calls for President René Préval’s favored candidate to be taken out of an election runoff, AFP reports.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, also expressed concern over the “unpredictable impact” of the return of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier on the political turmoil in the Caribbean nation.

Rice told a Security Council debate that Haiti must have a “legitimate” government and that authorities must carry out the recommendations made by the Organization of American States (OAS).

OAS monitors said the November 28 presidential vote was riddled with irregularities and fraud and that Préval’s handpicked candidate, Jude Celestin, should be eliminated from the runoff vote.

“Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, will require a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people,” Rice told a UN Security Council debate on Haiti.

“We urge the Haitian authorities to outline a very clear way forward that will lead promptly to the inauguration of a legitimate and democratically elected government,” she said.

France and Britain also backed the call. Speaking for the United Nations, Alain Le Roy, the peacekeeping chief, said Haiti’s electoral commission “must honor its commitment to fully take into account the report’s recommendations.”

Le Roy said he expected an official announcement on the first round results on January 31 and a second round vote around mid-February.

The OAS monitors said that former first lady Mirlande Manigat won the first round and popular singer Michel Martelly came second, ahead of Celestin.

Haiti’s election commission said on Wednesday that it will only change the two candidates in the runoff on the basis of valid legal complaints, which must be filed by Friday.

“We urge the Provisional Electoral Council to implement the OAS recommendations,” Rice said, also calling for a “timely” timetable for the second round and inauguration of a new government.

Rice also highlighted US concern over the presence of former strongman president Duvalier in Haiti.

“Given the continuing turmoil surrounding the November 28 election, the United States is concerned about the unpredictable impact that Duvalier’s return may have on Haiti’s political situation,” said Rice.

“My government is clear about Duvalier’s notorious record of human rights abuses and corruption,” she told the UN council.

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