Haiti presidential vote 'impossible' until February

A second-round vote to choose Haiti’s president will not be possible until late February, after the constitutional end of current President Rene Preval’s term, the electoral council says.

A second-round vote to choose Haiti’s president will not be possible until late February, after the constitutional end of current President Rene Preval’s term, the electoral council says.

The two-candidate run-off is supposed to be held on January 16, but results have not been finalised from the November 28 first round that was criticised for low turnout, disorganisation, fraud, violence and voter intimidation.

A delay will only deepen a political crisis that has already resulted in rioting and further complicate Haiti’s response to a deadly cholera epidemic and the stillborn reconstruction from last year’s earthquake.

The provisional electoral council is waiting for recommendations from an Organisation of American States team called in to review the first-round vote. It would then need weeks more to deal with candidates’ objections and allow time for campaigning, the spokesman for the provisional electoral council, Pierre Thibault Junior, said.

“The second round is not possible until the end of February,” he said.

Haiti’s constitution says Mr Preval’s five-year term should end and a new president’s term begin on February 7.

But Mr Preval has lately been reminding Haitian media that delays surrounding his own complicated election meant that he was not actually inaugurated until May 14 2006. He has also opposed the creation of a transitional government to rule between the end of his term and the election of a new president.

After Mr Preval suggested during the summer that he could stay in power an extra three months, protesters clashed with police and United Nations peacekeepers in front of the destroyed national palace.

That unrest was tame compared to the flaming barricades and raging anger in nearly all of Haiti’s major cities that met the announcement of results from the November presidential ballot.

Supporters of popular singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly blocked streets and shut down the capital Port-au-Prince with rock-throwing and marches when they learned he had been eliminated in favour of ruling-party candidate Jude Celestin by less than 1%.

Mr Celestin, who is backed by Mr Preval’s Unity party, argued he should have been in first place and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, who was shown to have led the vote, said she should have won the election outright.

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