Clinton visits Haiti amid poll dispute

PORT-au-Prince — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Haiti on Sunday in a bid to smooth its course towards a final vote after disputed first-round elections shook the earthquake-ravaged country.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 31 Jan 2011, 12:42 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 9:46 PM

Clinton was to meet President Rene Preval and the three main candidates vying to succeed him in disputed November polls, including his handpicked protege, who has been urged to step down over fraud allegations.

Clinton told reporters shortly before takeoff that Washington backed the recommendations of international monitors, who have urged the ruling party presidential candidate, Jude Celestin, to exit the race.

She will ‘consult with members of civil society, political actors, Haiti’s president and international partners on the ongoing electoral situation as well as reconstruction efforts,’ her spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Clinton, who traveled to Haiti days after the catastrophic quake killed more than 220,000 people, also planned to visit a cholera clinic to highlight the outbreak that has killed 4,000 since mid-October.

‘The United States and Haiti share the mutual commitment to building Haiti anew after the devastating earthquake one year ago, and to ensure a strong future for Haiti’s people and its democracy,’ Crowley said in a statement.

Clinton arrived in Haiti shortly after 1800 GMT and began her day-long visit by meeting Edmond Mulet, the special representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Little has been rebuilt since the January 2010 earthquake flattened large swathes of the capital, including the presidential palace, and the elections that were supposed to bring renewed hope kicked off deadly riots in December.

Haiti’s election commission has said it will announce definitive results from the first round on Wednesday and has scheduled a long-delayed second round for March 20, with those results to be announced April 16.

The announcement of preliminary first round results last month set off days of unrest when Preval’s protege Celestin narrowly edged a popular singer out of the second round run-off.

According to preliminary results from the November 28 poll, Celestin garnered 7,000 more votes than Michel Martelly, securing a place in the run-off against the frontrunner, former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

Within hours of the announcement, protests swept Haitian towns, leaving five dead and the country in crisis as opposition candidates accused Preval and the electoral commission of rigging the poll.

A team of international monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS) called in by Preval found widespread vote tampering and fraud in Celestin’s favor and recommended that he withdraw.

The ruling party has since bowed to weeks of US-led pressure and widespread allegations of fraud, announcing that Celestin would not advance to the next round. But Celestin himself has not yet confirmed his exit.

His lawyer, Osner Fevry, said Saturday that the OAS report has ‘no legal value and is not binding on the electoral institution.’

Martelly’s lawyer Gregory Mayard-Paul countered that the electoral commission must ‘fully respect’ the report.

Haitians had hoped the presidential and parliamentary elections would bring a new leadership that could rebuild the country.

The international community pledged almost 10 billion dollars to reconstruct Haiti, but donors have held back on delivering most of the funds because of the tenuous political situation.

Clinton’s husband, former US president Bill Clinton, who has represented international donors in the recovery effort, said he was ‘frustrated’ with the slow pace of rebuilding during a visit to Haiti earlier this month.

The tense political standoff was thrown into further confusion two weeks ago by the surprise return of Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, a former strongman driven out by massive protests 25 years ago.

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