Haiti senators ask president to stop electoral council issuing final results

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - All the sitting members of Haiti's Senate urged President Michel Martelly on Wednesday to prevent electoral authorities from issuing final results for legislative races until a commission can be set up to verify the integrity of the troubled country's elections.

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The 10 senators signed a letter to the outgoing president, who has been ruling by decree since Parliament was dissolved last January. The letter was also sent to members of the Provisional Electoral Council, the body that oversees the election process.

The senators said Martelly should use a constitutional article to block the reporting of final legislative results so an independent commission can be formed to examine numerous allegations of ballot tampering, multiple voting and count manipulation.

Electoral authorities said earlier this week that they plan to release the results Thursday.

Martelly and election officials made no immediate public comments about the senators' letter.

The electoral council insists a Dec. 27 runoff for president and parliament seats be held as scheduled despite deep public suspicion about the results from early rounds of voting. If a verification commission was established, the runoffs would have to be postponed.

The government-backed candidate in the presidential runoff, agricultural entrepreneur Jovenel Moise, said Wednesday that the council needs to reinforce the election process and that the voices of voters who participated in the first round of the presidential election needed to be respected. Turnout in the first round was about 26 per cent of registered voters.

"In the interest of the democracy we're building it is really important for the electoral process to continue," he told reporters, without taking questions.

Political analysts and opposition figures have questioned whether the presidential and legislative runoff elections can feasibly take place Dec. 27 given that Moise's opponent, former state construction chief Jude Celestin, is alleging rampant fraud and the official results for legislative races are weeks overdue.

Earlier this week, Celestin refused a second invitation to meet with the electoral council's president. He said it would be a waste of time unless the council was ready to permit an independent review of the contested elections.

"The evaluation commission is a must to safeguard the electoral process, to ensure its integrity and prevent the country from sinking into an unprecedented crisis," Celestin wrote to council president Pierre-Louis Opont.

Practically every public office in Haiti is up for grabs in this year's balloting, which is electing a new president, two-thirds of the 30-seat Senate, the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies and numerous local offices. Most of the money to hold elections is being provided by the international community, including over $30 million from the U.S.



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