Haiti to release election results

Haiti’s electoral authorities will release results next week from the country’s disputed presidential election and set a date for a runoff vote in signs a protracted electoral impasse may be easing, Reuters reports.

The results from the first-round vote will be made public on Wednesday with a runoff set to take place on March 20, Haiti’s electoral council said in a statement late Friday.

Political uncertainty has gripped Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, since a chaotic November 28 presidential vote that was marred by fraud allegations and street protests.

Official preliminary results showed a government-backed candidate, Jude Celestin, would advance to a second-round vote against former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

But President René Préval, who has faced accusations of rigging the first-round vote results, is under intense pressure from the U.S. government and other Western powers to accept a report by Organization of American States experts that recommends dropping Celestin from the runoff in favor of another candidate.

The recommendation followed a review by OAS electoral experts of the contested results in the earthquake-battered Caribbean country.

On Wednesday, Haiti’s ruling party said it had agreed to pull Célestin from the elections, but he has not yet formally withdrawn.

Michel Martelly, a popular musician who finished a close third in the November vote, has warned his supporters will take to the streets if he is not included in the runoff.

The new vote schedule came ahead of a planned visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton will meet with Préval and the Haitian candidates to discuss the election and reconstruction efforts a year after a devastating earthquake hit the country.

 For the original report go to http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/29/us-haiti-election-idUSTRE70S36V20110129

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