Former Haitian first lady Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly will contest a presidential election second round run-off on March 20, members of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council told Reuters yesterday.
Speaking ahead of an official announcement, they gave definitive results from Nov. 28 elections that were in line with a recommendation by Organization of American States (OAS) electoral experts, strongly backed by the US and Western donors, to place Martelly in the run-off instead of government-backed candidate Jude Celestin.
The disputed first round descended into chaos when the ruling INITE (Unity) party’s Celestin was awarded second place ahead of Martelly. Violent protests followed in December and several people died before Haitian President Rene Preval summoned an international vote verification team to check the results amid widespread allegations of fraud.
OAS monitors found enough rigging in Celestin’s favor to recommend the results be switched to put Martelly in the run-off against the 70-year-old Manigat.
Preval and the Haitian electoral commission were under strong international pressure, led by the US, to honor the OAS report and make the switch.
INITE has said it was withdrawing its support for Celestin, but Preval’s handpicked protege had been refusing to sign the necessary documentation to annul his candidacy.
The electoral council said last week that final results from the first round of the elections would be announced on Wednesday. However, on Wednesday, election official Jacques Belzin said the committee still wasn’t ready.
Belzin said the commission had reviewed 106 contested tally sheets, as lawyers for both Martelly and Celestin argued their client had the right to stand in the run-off.
Meanwhile, international security forces were gearing up for renewed unrest. UN police forces deployed in the city on Wednesday afternoon and were patrolling certain crosspoints, while UN vehicles could be seen on some streets.