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Haiti runoff vote set for March
Electoral body says presidential second round to be held on March 20 and results to be declared on March 31.
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2011 05:26 GMT
International monitors found vote tampering and fraud in Celestin's favour and recommended he withdraw [Reuters]

Haiti's provisional electoral council has set March 20 as the new date for a second-round presidential vote and promised to announce the final results of the disputed first round next week.

The new schedule, which follows weeks of delays and rescheduling, was published on Friday.

Runoffs for president and parliament, supposed to be held earlier this month, were postponed by internal fights and public rioting over preliminary results from first-round presidential vote in November.

Those results showed ruling-party candidate Jude Celestin was set to take on former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

But the Organisation of American States says a re-evaluation based on fraud estimates shows Celestin should be out and populist singer Michel Martelly in.

Leaders Celestin's Unity party said this week that they agree that he should drop out of the race, though they believe Celestin won the election.

But Celestin has not commented on whether he will do so.

US pressure

The United States is pressuring the Haitian government and outgoing president, Rene Preval, whose party backed Celestin, to accept the OAS recommendation, saying that continued support is dependent on doing so.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is scheduled to visit Haiti on Sunday and meet Preval to discuss the election and reconstruction in the wake of last year's deadly earthquake.

Under the new schedule, campaigning will resume on February 17 and continue until March 18. Results are promised on March 31, followed by an appeals process.

If all that goes as planned, Haiti will have its new president named on April 16.

Preval's term ends February 7 under the constitution, but an expiring parliament passed an emergency law last year allowing him to remain in office until mid-May.

According to preliminary results from the November 28 poll, Celestin won 7,000 more votes than Martelly, securing a place in the run-off.

Within hours of the announcement, protests swept Haitian towns, leaving five dead and the country in crisis as opposition candidates accused Preval and the electoral commission of rigging the poll

A team of international monitors found widespread vote tampering and fraud in Celestin's favour and recommended that he withdraw.

Source:
Agencies
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