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The final results of the first round of Haiti’s disputed November 28 presidential elections could be known by early next week, a senior Caribbean Community (CARICOM) official here has said.
Ambassador Colin Granderson, the Assistant CARICOM Secretary General and head of the Organization of American States(OAS)/ CARICOM Joint Observer Mission in Haiti, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the disputes and challenge phase, which allows candidates to challenge or submit complaints about their placing or results, of the controversial polls was now taking place.
“Haiti is not yet out of the first round of the elections,” Granderson said, noting that the process resumed last Friday.
“That phase of the process was delayed since mid-December following the request of President (Rene) Preval to the OAS to deploy an OAS Expert Mission on the verification of the tabulation of the preliminary results of the presidential elections which had been disputed.
“This dispute and challenge phase, the final phase of the first round of the electoral process, will continue until early next week. The final results should be proclaimed by 2 February at the latest,” Granderson said, adding “that will be followed by the release of a modified electoral calendar giving the official dates of the second round which will most probably take place on Sunday 20 March”.
The preliminary results released by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) last month had been met with widespread protest following allegations of voter fraud, intimidation and other voter irregularities during the presidential and legislative council elections.
The results showed that former first lady, Mirlande Manigat, and the candidate of the ruling INITE party Jude Celestin had won the right to compete in a second round, but the OAS expert report recommended that Celestin should be placed third and therefore not be included in the second round run-off.
It has recommended that popular musician Michel Martelly, whose supporters had taken to the streets to protest his initial omission, be allowed to contest the second run off.
“The international community has been exerting enormous pressure on the Haitian authorities, the President and the CEP to implement that recommendation. The pressure has included warning statements that aid to Haiti will be cut off, visits of the Ambassadors of the major countries in Haiti to the President and CEP, as well as the revoking of visas of officials close to the President and advisors of the Celestin and his political platform, “Granderson told CMC.
He said that the coordinators of INITE party “have now informed publicly in a press release that they agree that Celestin should withdraw from the race.
“This can however only become official if Celestin formally informs the CEP of his decision to withdraw,” Granderson said, noting that on Wednesday Celestin “resubmitted a complaint with regard to the preliminary results for adjudication during the final stage of the CEP electoral tribunal which is presently taking place”.
Granderson said that the CEP, which has benefitted from the recommendations made by the different international election observation groups, and has also done its own internal inquiry into the “shortcomings” of the election day, has “started to take steps to rectify what went wrong.
Asked about the possible impact the return of exiled former ruler Jean Claude Duvalier would have on the political environment in the country, Granderson said that the former dictator had been absent from the country for the past 25 years “and his party no longer exists as a structured organization.
“He could decide to give his support to one of the candidates in the run-off. However, the young people have already indicated in their first round that their candidate is Mr. Martelly,” he added.
Duvalier has been slapped with a number of charges, including theft and mismanagement of funds during his 15-year rule that ended in 1986 when he feld the country following a popular uprising against his rule.
He has said that his return from exile in France was to assist in the reconstruction of the French-speaking CARICOM member country that is dealing with a powerful earthquake last year that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless as well as a cholera outbreak that has so far killed nearly 4,000 people.