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Haiti postpones runoff elections amid spiraling vote-fraud crisis

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-16

Haiti's Provisional Council canceled runoff elections set for Sunday. Authorities say the second round will not take place until the results of the first round have been reviewed by the national electoral dispute office.

AFP- The second round of Haitian presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Sunday has been postponed, the Provisional Electoral Council said Saturday.

"January 16 was a date set on the electoral calendar. Since final results from the first round of voting have not yet been declared, the date is no longer valid," council chief Pierre-Louis Opont told AFP.

Violent protests flared in the Caribbean nation -- still struggling to recover from last year's devastating earthquake -- when December's first round results revealed popular singer Michel Martelly had failed to win a place in the run-off.

Instead he had been beaten by just 7,000 votes by Jude Celestin, the handpicked protege of President Rene Preval, who was set to run against first lady Mirlande Manigat for the second round, sparking allegations of fraud.

Opont said a second round would not take place until the first round results had been reviewed by the national electoral dispute office (BCEN).

According to the contested first round results, Manigat took first place with 31 percent,

Haiti's political unrest continues

while Celestin won 22 percent of the votes.

Martelly was only narrowly beaten into third place with 21 percent of the votes.

Twelve of the 18 first round candidates have alleged there was widespread fraud to secure Preval's preferred successor Celestin a place in the runoff. They have called for an interim caretaker government to be organized to replace Preval when his mandate expires on February 7.

But Preval has hinted he could stay in power until May 14, based on legislation setting out contingency plans if no president or parliament has been elected before the end of his term.

In a bid to restore calm to his torn nation, Preval has called on a mission of experts from the Organization of American States (OAS) to evaluate the contested results.

The OAS experts officially handed their report to Preval's office on Thursday, and a leaked draft suggested that Celestin step aside after fraud in the first round of voting.

OAS mission chief Colin Granderson told AFP that the group and Haitian authorities were currently debating the report and its findings.

Date created : 2011-01-16