Candidate 'to quit' Haiti polls

Ruling party candidate to pull out of race for presidency after dispute over second round, colleagues say.

    An OAS report recommended Celestin be pushed into third place after the first round of voting [Reuters]

    The ruling party candidate has decided to abandon Haiti's presidential election race after a dispute over who had qualified for the second round run-off had delayed the vote, party colleagues said.

    The withdrawal of Jude Celestin, the candidate for the INITE coalition of outgoing Haitian President Rene Preval, would allow popular musician Michel Martelly to move into a second-round run-off vote and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

    Senators from the ruling party told news agencies that Celestin had decided to pull out of the poll in order to break the deadlock that has paralysed government since the contested preliminary results of the November 28 presidential poll. 

    Preval, INITE and Haiti's electoral authorities had come under intense international pressure in recent weeks to accept an Organisation of American States (OAS) report, which had given Martelly a tiny lead over Celestin.

    'Electoral crisis'

    "The candidate for our party INITE, Jude Celestin, will withdraw from the presidential race to facilitate a solution to the electoral crisis," Senator Franky Exius, a member of the ruling INITE coalition, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

    "Given the circumstances, we think this is the best decision to take."

    Senator Moise Jean-Charles, another INITE politician, told AFP news agency that Celestin would "write to the CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] to indicate his withdrawal".

    The OAS report recommended that Martelly should advance after a review of about 17 per cent of the vote. Monitors found widespread vote tampering in Celestin's favour.

    The preliminary results, which had favoured Celestin, sparked angry protests that left at least five people dead.

    The United States, a major aid donor to Haiti, has pushed for the OAS report to be fully implemented.

    "We simply want the will of the Haitian people to be respected and we are certainly in favor of the continuation of the elections," Kenneth Merten, the US ambassador to Haiti, said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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