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OAS challenges Haiti vote results
Monitors recommend that ruling party-backed candidate Jude Celestin pull out from the runoff vote for the presidency.
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2011 04:33 GMT
The prolonged dispute over the outcome of Haiti's presidential election has caused a political deadlock [Reuters]

International election monitors have asked Haiti's ruling party candidate to withdraw from the runoff round in the race for the bitterly-contested presidency.

A diplomatic source told The Associated Press (AP) news agency that recommendations in a yet-unpublished report by the Organisation of American States (OAS) must be implemented in order to resolve the country's political impasse.

The OAS' tough stance, documented in a draft obtained by the AP, threatens to spike tensions on the eve of the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 last year.

"[We] should give the authorities some time. But that doesn't mean infinite. We should keep in mind we have an urgency here, to bring clarity to the situation"

Albert Ramdin, assistant secretary-general, OAS

Government-backed candidate Jude Celestin is being pressured to quit the runoff vote in the election to replace Rene Preval as president.

The unnamed diplomatic source said "it will be very difficult" for Preval to ignore the recommendation for Celestin to pull out from the race.

The first round of voting in Haiti on November 28 produced no clear winner.

Celestin was awarded second place, narrowly ahead of the third-placed candidate, a popular singer called Michel Martelly.

But with Martelly claiming fraud, a planned runoff vote January 16 against first-place candidate Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, has had to be delayed at least until February.

According to the diplomatic source, the OAS will recommend that Martelly, and not Celestin, meet Manigat in the decisive round of voting.

Haiti has been in political turmoil for years, but the latest bout comes just as many ordinary Haitians are saying they are in desperate need of a strong government to help the country deal with the quake aftermath.

Fraud allegations

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Port-au-Prince, Nicole Phillips of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a human rights organisation, said the OAS findings do not really address the legal issues at stake.

"They [OAS monitors] were basically looking into the fraudulent voting that nullified part of the vote. There was so much evidence of fraudulent voting that it is difficult to tell who the font-runners were."

Phillips said the real issue was the credibility of the electoral council that was hand-picked by Preval, and which had excluded 15 political parties from the legislative elections.

"There were also a lot of other irregularities throughout the elections, so I don't think these recommendations from the OAS will be able to solve anything."

Albert Ramdin, the OAS assistant secretary-general, declined to confirm the contents of the report, but said: "I don't think anybody is going to be extremely happy".

He told the AFP news agency that he expected Preval to respond to the report after a couple of days, likely after the earthquake anniversary memorial on Wednesday.

"I think we should give the Haitian authorities some time. But that doesn't mean infinite. We should keep in mind we have an urgency here, to bring clarity to the situation," Ramdin said.

"I believe the Haitian authorities will come to the right decision."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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