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Haiti nears end of lengthy vote tabulation in election redo

Electoral workers organize materials at a polling station lit with lamps at the start of elections in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. Haiti's repeatedly derailed presidential election got underway more than a year after an initial vote was annulled. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
November 25, 2016 - 1:31 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haiti is nearing the end of a marathon vote count and tabulation process, and initials results from its presidential election redo should be released early next week, allowing the troubled country to finally move on, authorities said.

Leopold Berlanger, president of a revamped Provisional Electoral Council that organized unusually smooth balloting last weekend, told reporters that preliminary results of the Nov. 20 presidential and partial legislative elections will be issued at some point Monday. Election results are typically released in the wee hours in an attempt to head off unrest stoked by political activists.

It's a crucial step in proving the vote tabulation process is above board at a warehouse computer centre guarded by armed U.N. peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince. Political candidates and partisans routinely insist that official results don't reflect the will of voters and citizens have grown accustomed to allegations of electoral fraud and manipulation.

While at least two of the 27 candidates vying for the presidency have conceded they don't have a shot at winning, some political factions are already publicly complaining about what they insist are irregularities that could taint the results.

Results of an October 2015 presidential vote were annulled earlier this year after a special commission reported finding what appeared to be significant fraud and misconduct.

Presidential candidate Jude Celestin, who boycotted campaigning for last year's runoff after qualifying for it, issued a Thursday statement complaining about unsigned voter lists in polling centres that could "irreparably damage the integrity and reliability of the entire process."

Roughly 80 per cent of voter tally sheets have been processed and so far 22 per cent of them have been set aside for a closer look due to missing signatures and other issues, according to Berlanger.

Meanwhile, partisans with the Lavalas Family party founded by ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have claimed vote-rigging even though no official results or even a voter participation rate has been issued. A spokesman with the Tet Kale party of ex-President Michel Martelly recently insisted that the faction's presidential candidate, Jovenel Moise, won the first round and no runoff was needed.

It's against the law for results to be released by anyone other than the Provisional Electoral Council, whose members are replaced every election cycle.

Berlanger reminded candidates that they would have an opportunity to contest results with an electoral tribunal after the preliminary results were announced. He voiced a measure of frustration with factions who were not following the council's rules.

"We are still learning what democracy is in our country," Berlanger said.

The first genuinely democratic elections in Haitian history took place in 1990 and the transition to democracy has been rough in the impoverished country where civilian and military dictators have been the norm.


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

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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