Haiti rivals reject recount plan

Candidates and observer groups dismiss proposal to re-tally votes in wake of disputed election.

    Port-au-Prince has returned to relative calm in the wake of election violence [AFP]

    Two of the top three candidates from Haiti's presidential election have rejected a planned vote recount amid allegations of irregularities and fraud.

    Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and Michel Martelly, a popular musician, said on Saturday that they would not take part in the planned recount, to be under taken by a new electoral commission.

    "I don't want to be a part of this," Martelly was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

    "They organised the fraud and I am positive they are prepared to do everything to remain in power. It's a trap."

    Six Haitian monitoring groups, including the European Union-funded National Observation Council, also rejected the plan.

    They called instead for a proper dialogue, saying plans to recount the tally sheets "are not sufficient to lead to an eventual end to the crisis".

    'Right to choose'

    Tensions have intensified in Haiti since the November 28 election.

    Violent protests broke out in Haiti's major cities last week after the Provisional Electoral Council announced that Manigat and Jude Celestin, the outgoing president's protege, had won enough votes to go through to a run-off election.

    The council said Martelly had come third.

    His supporters accused Rene Preval, the president, and the ruling Inite (Unity) coalition of rigging the vote.

    The US embassy in Port-au-Prince expressed concern at the "inconsistent" results, and a top senator called for US aid to be frozen and travel visas to be denied to top Haitian officials to force a fair outcome.

    "As if Haiti did not have enough problems, now, once again, those in power there are trying to subvert the will of the people," said Patrick Leahy, who chairs the senate committee responsible for funding foreign aid.

    "The United States must come down squarely in support of the Haitian people's right to choose their leaders freely and fairly."

    Relative clam

    The UN Security Council on Friday expressed "deep concern" over the violence and the fraud allegations, but urged the rival political groups to use "legal mechanisms" to settle their disputes.

    Four people have been killed in election-related clashes since the commission announced the results.

    But the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince were calm on Saturday and stores were opened for business.

    Separately, Sarah Palin, the conservative US politician, began a weekend tour to Haiti with a visit to an earthquake refugee camp.

    Haiti is still reeling following an earthquake in January that killed 250,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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