Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 7 News List

US-led pressure on Haiti grows over tainted vote

‘CREDIBLE PROCESS’:The international community has pledged billions in aid to Haiti and fears a long legal dispute could interfere with quake recovery efforts

AFP and AP, PORT-AU-PRINCE

US-led pressure mounted on Haitian President Rene Preval on Thursday to withdraw his handpicked protege from elections after international monitors slammed the vote as tainted by fraud.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Haiti must carry out the recommendations of an investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS) and establish a legitimate government or risk losing goodwill.

“Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, will require a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people,” Rice told a UN Security Council debate on Haiti.

“We urge the Haitian authorities to outline a very clear way forward that will lead promptly to the inauguration of a -democratically elected government.”

The OAS mission on Wednesday called for Preval’s protege Jude Celestin to be eliminated from the delayed second round of the presidential elections.

Initial results in the middle of last month showed that opposition candidate Michel Martelly lost out to ruling party contender Celestin by less than 7,000 votes, sparking riots between rival factions that left at least five people dead.

Opposition candidates accused Preval of being in cahoots with the electoral commission to orchestrate massive fraud in favor of 48-year-old Celestin.

After analyzing tally sheets, the OAS mission advised that the second and third finishers should be switched so Martelly would face Mirlande Manigat — the 70-year-old former first lady who clearly topped the poll — in the run-off.

However, Preval has yet to comment on the report and the election commission insists it can only change the order if legal complaints from the candidates are upheld.

“We urge the Provisional Electoral Council to implement the OAS recommendations,” Rice said, calling for a “timely” timetable to hold the decisive second round.

A year after a major earthquake claimed more than 220,000 lives, much of the capital remains in ruins and a desperate populace is crying out for responsible leadership as the toll from an ensuing cholera epidemic nears 4,000.

The international community, which has pledged about US$10 billion to help Haiti rebuild after the devastating quake, does not want to just sit by and watch a protracted legal process ensue.

UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told the Security Council he believed the electoral commission would announce definitive first round results on Jan. 31 and aim to hold the second round in the middle of next month.

The US move, backed by the UK and France, came as the shock return of former dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier threatened to further muddy the political waters in the quake-hit Caribbean nation.

Memories of Duvalier’s brutal regime remain strong and Rice highlighted US concern over Duvalier’s return.

“Given the continuing turmoil surrounding the Nov. 28 election, the United States is concerned about the unpredictable impact that Duvalier’s return may have on Haiti’s political situation,” Rice told the UN Security Council. “My government is clear about Duvalier’s notorious record of human rights abuses and corruption.”

Duvalier, who returned late on Sunday after 25 years in exile, has yet to explain why he came back to his homeland.

Duvalier slipped out the back of his hotel on Thursday and was driven to a private home on a mountain above Haiti’s capital, in the latest unexpected twist in his surprise return.

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