Haiti grants OAS experts full access on vote controversy

Haiti grants OAS experts full access on vote controversy

By Dialogo
January 03, 2011

Haiti has granted Organization of American States experts full access to verify the results of the country’s disputed presidential election, a top OAS official told AFP.

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) promised a recount of the November 28 election results after official results set off charges of fraud and rioting by angry supporters of a losing candidate.

President Rene Preval, accused of rigging the election in favor of his hand-picked candidate, has delayed the recount until after an OAS mission was in place to verify the results.

The Haitian government agreed on the terms of the mission’s review late on 27 December, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin told AFP.

“Technical experts will have unlimited access to information and facilities, (and) will be able to look into results sheets and the procedures followed in determining the outcome,” Ramdin said.

A first OAS team of six experts is scheduled to fly to Haiti on 29 December, Ramdin said.

“I’m not sure how long it will take,” he said. “We want to be thorough, we want to make sure a good verification is done and at the same time we are also very aware of time limits.”

The experts will write up a report that will be sent to the Haitian government and then to the OAS permanent council, he said.

The disputed results published earlier this month had former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the lead with 31 percent of the vote, followed by ruling party candidate Jude Celestin with 22 percent.

The two frontrunners were supposed to advance to a run-off scheduled for January 16, but the count was rejected by popular singer Michel Martelly, who trailed Celestin by less than 7,000 votes.

Martelly’s supporters and others took to the streets after the results were announced, torching cars and government buildings and clashing with rival supporters and UN peacekeepers in violence that left at least five people dead.

Thousands of people were unable to vote in the chaotic first round, either because they were not on the register or they lacked identification papers lost in the January earthquake.

A cholera epidemic that broke out in October has added another layer of misery and uncertainty over the country’s future.