Haiti interim president: Election body to decide if vote deadline viable

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2016 7:14 PM

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Provisional Haiti President Jocelerme Privert said on Tuesday a new election council would determine if a delayed runoff could be held by an April deadline, as concerns grow that a political standoff would again scupper efforts to hold the vote.

Privert took office last month for a 120-day term after a botched runoff vote meant former President Michel Martelly left office without a replacement. Martelly's party accuses Privert of bias in favor of the left-wing Fanmi Lavalas movement.

The election has already been delayed three times over allegations of fraud in the first round, and Privert called on opponents to support his efforts to quickly hand power to an elected successor.

Privert said he was doing everything he could to ensure the transfer of power happened within a time frame agreed in February, but details would be decided by the still-unformed election council.

"The electoral council will establish a calendar and a budget. It is only then that we will know whether they need additional time or not," he said in an interview at his office.

Haiti has struggled since the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship to build a stable democracy and transfer political power through regular elections. The last time the impoverished Caribbean nation had an interim government, it took two years to organize a vote.

Martelly's party members oppose Privert's choice of prime minister, an ex-central bank chief who had links to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas movement.

Without the support of Martelly's and other allied parties Prime Minister Fritz Jean may not be able to form a government, putting at risk the tight election timeline.

"I invite political actors to trust me, to believe that I am above all conflicting interests," Privert said, calling on his critics to help quickly organize the election. "I ask you (political actors) for your support to reach that goal."

Privert said the election council, with representatives fromnine sectors, would be established as soon as parliament ratified Jean's program and he was able to build his cabinet.

He said he had no intention of setting up an inquiry commission to look into alleged corruption during Martelly's administration, noting that such a move would be seen as political persecution ahead of the elections.

(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Richard Chang)