Haiti’s President Urges His Candidate to Drop Out, Officials Say

President René Préval and his party, bowing to pressure from regional leaders, including the United States, have begun to encourage their candidate for the coming presidential runoff to drop out, according to party officials, London’s Guardian reports.

But the candidate, Jude Célestin, gave no indication that he would follow the request, and on Wednesday, his lawyers filed another petition to election officials elaborating on the reasons he believed he had won a spot in the runoff.

Haiti has been riveted in recent days by the mounting pressure on Mr. Célestin to withdraw as a way to end the stalemate that threatens to ignite more political unrest and block billions of dollars in international assistance.

Mr. Célestin’s position became especially precarious after the Organization of American States issued findings that he had come in third in the first round of voting, which would disqualify him from the runoff.

Mr. Préval had picked Mr. Célestin, an engineer with little political experience, to succeed him and has resisted the O.A.S. findings for weeks.

But after senior Obama administration officials made it clear that Washington would withhold more than $1 billion in aid from Haiti unless there was an election the United States deems credible, Mr. Préval reversed course, according to party officials and an analyst close to him.

The funds are crucial as Haiti struggles to rebuild from last year’s earthquake.

The governing party issued a statement on Thursday pressing Mr. Célestin to leave the race, but it did not specifically refer to the position taken by Mr. Préval, the party’s leader. The party officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Préval had begun encouraging Mr. Célestin this week to step down.

The stalemate arose after the first round of voting in November. Haitian and international monitors acknowledged that the election was rife with fraud. The Haitian government’s results — which found that a former first lady, Mirlande Manigat, and Mr. Célestin had won the right to compete in a second round — were widely considered suspect.

The O.A.S., which was called in to conduct a review of the results, found that a popular musician, Michel Martelly, narrowly beat Mr. Célestin.

Some here question those results, saying that the conclusion was part of an effort by the United States, France and Canada to guarantee that Mr. Préval would no longer be able to wield any influence over Haiti’s highest office.

The governing party’s support for Mr. Célestin began to crumble not only over American threats to withhold aid, but also after the United States revoked the visas of several electoral officials close to the candidate.

Mr. Célestin is the only person who can end his candidacy before a ruling by Haiti’s electoral council. It is expected to announce by Feb. 7 which of the candidates will compete in the runoff.

“I think he’s trying to teach the country a lesson,” said one senior international election monitor, referring to Mr. Célestin. “There is a process in place to determine which candidates have won enough votes to go to the runoff.

“If anyone is going to appear to cave to the will of the United States,” the official said, “Célestin doesn’t want it to be him.”

For the original report go to http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/americas/28haiti.html

Caricature of Preéval and Célestin from http://www.haitixchange.com/index.php/forums/viewthread/5496/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s