Haiti council says Dec. 27 runoff to take place as scheduled

AP News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2015 4:20 PM
Haiti council says Dec. 27 runoff to take place as scheduled

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A late December presidential runoff in Haiti is expected to be held as scheduled regardless of the deep suspicion of first-round results here and abroad, the executive director of the country's electoral body said Monday.

Mosler Georges of the much-criticized Provisional Electoral Council told reporters that "everything is ready" from a technical perspective for the scheduled Dec. 27 runoff between leading presidential candidate Jovenel Moise and No. 2 finisher Jude Celestin. He said the ballots have been prepared by a company in Dubai and all election workers will be paid the balance of their wages this week for staffing voting centers during the Oct. 25 first round.

"We have been making all the preparations to follow the election calendar," Georges said at the headquarters of the Provisional Electoral Council, known as the CEP.

Yet political analysts and opposition figures question whether runoff elections can feasibly take place on Dec. 27, especially when one of two presidential candidates in the runoff is alleging rampant fraud and the official results for legislative races remain overdue with less than two weeks until the scheduled vote. Independent observers, Haitian rights groups, the religious lobby and nearly every political faction except the one led by outgoing President Michel Martelly suspect fraud and manipulation in the Oct. 25 balloting and vote-counting.

"It is technically impossible to hold the runoff Dec. 27. Politically, it's unthinkable," said Sauveur Pierre Etienne, one of eight presidential candidates who formed an opposition alliance with Celestin after preliminary results were issued last month and immediately contested due to allegations of ballot-box tampering and multiple voting.

In their final results, the Provisional Electoral Council said Moise had nearly 33 percent of the vote compared to 25 percent for Celestin, a former state construction chief who was the government-backed candidate five years ago. Celestin has dismissed the final results as a "ridiculous farce" and alleged that the CEP was complicit in vote-rigging in favor of Moise, an agricultural entrepreneur who was plucked from political obscurity to be the government-backed candidate.

Martelly is blocked by the constitution from running for a consecutive term. Many question whether Martelly would be pulling strings in a Moise presidency.

On Monday, the CEP executive director described himself as merely a "technician" and said any possible changes to the electoral timetable would have to be announced directly by the body's nine counselors. None of them attended the Monday press conference, but Georges suggested they had the option of four Sundays in January to hold the runoff if they choose to postpone it.

Georges also said that overdue final results in legislative elections will finally be announced Thursday. Those runoffs are also scheduled for Dec. 27.

The council has brushed off the criticism and allegations of manipulating the count in favor of Moise. His Tet Kale campaign has also repeatedly denied accusations that it manipulated voting or the tally.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd