Latin America & Caribbean

Haiti waits for election decision

Haitian president Rene Preval on 1 January 2011
Image caption Outgoing president Rene Preval is under pressure to accept recommendations in an OAS report

The Haitian government and international experts have been discussing what to do about the disputed presidential election.

The run-off vote should have taken place on 16 January, but it has been postponed because of a row over who should be on the ballot.

Former first lady Mirlande Manigat won the first round in November.

But both governing party candidate Jude Celestin and singer Michel Martelly say they should face her in the run-off.

The 28 November first-round vote was widely criticised, with reports of ballot box stuffing and violence and intimidation at polling stations.

Provisional results announced by Haiti's electoral council in December said Mr Celestin came second, narrowly beating Mr Martelly into third place.

But the results provoked violent protests by supporters of Mr Martelly, who said he had been fraudulently denied second place.

Amid fears that violence might escalate, the Organisation of American States (OAS) sent a team of experts to assess the result.

Fraud

Their report was presented to outgoing President Rene Preval on Thursday.

The findings have not been made public, but according to a leaked copy, the OAS is recommending that Mr Celestin be dropped from the second round in favour of pop star Mr Martelly.

After discounting fraudulent ballots, the leaked report found that Mr Martelly won more votes than Mr Celestin.

Mr Celestin is the preferred candidate of President Preval, who has been considering the OAS report before passing it to Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, which will have the final say on who should be on the ballot for the second round.

Correspondents say Mr Preval is under strong international pressure to accept the recommendations.

The head of the OAS mission, Colin Granderson, told the AFP news agency that talks between the OAS and the Haitian government would wrap up in the next few days and the report would then be made public.

Whoever wins the presidency will face the task of rebuilding Haiti after the devastating earthquake of a year ago which killed more than 250,000 people and left the capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruins.

More than a million people left homeless by the quake are still living in tents in poor conditions, and the country has also been ravaged by a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,700 people.

The impoverished Caribbean nation has suffered years of political turmoil, and almost 12,000 UN peacekeepers are in the country with a mandate to ensure security and support free and fair elections.

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