Haiti leader cries for help over poll deadlock

President Rene Preval is seeking international help in resolving a tense election stalemate.

Port-au-Prince: Haitian President Rene Preval turned to the international community on Tuesday for help in resolving a tense election stalemate that has imperiled earthquake and cholera relief efforts.

Preval asked the Washington-based Organization of American States to send experts to assist in a planned vote recount and unravel the complex legal challenges arising from the disputed November 28 presidential elections.

"Faced with difficulties resulting from the first round of the elections and in the hope of reassuring all the actors, the president of the Republic asked the OAS to send two technical missions," Preval`s office said in a statement.

The missions -- one to assist the vote recount and the other to help with legal challenges -- were to arrive in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

The results from polls sparked days of deadly street protests when official results showed popular singer Michel Martelly, 49, losing out in a place in the January 16 run-off to Preval`s handpicked protege by less than 7,000 votes.

There were widespread allegations of fraud on a chaotic election day in which hundreds of thousands of survivors of January`s devastating earthquake either couldn`t get the necessary papers to vote or weren`t on the register.

Martelly, who accuses Preval of orchestrating the rigging of the elections in favor of his chosen candidate -- 48-year-old Jude Celestin from the ruling Unity party -- called Tuesday for a new one-off poll with all 18 candidates.

"The simplest solution in my opinion would be a single round, supervised by international and national organizations," Martelly told a press conference, suggesting the person with the most votes wins, pure and simple.

Mirlande Manigat, a 70-year-old academic and former first lady, came out clearly on top of the first round and both she and Celestin are unlikely to suddenly accept the whole field back in the race again.

Despite the deadlock and the threat of renewed violence, life has quickly returned to normal on the streets of Port-au-Prince, a city whose recent past has been plagued by dictatorship and political upheaval.
"Since three days the political and social atmosphere has dramatically improved," Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive told a quake meeting co-chaired by former US president Bill Clinton in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

"The meeting today sends a strong signal to the people of Haiti from the international community that we are all dedicated to the recovery and development of Haiti," Bellerive said.
"It is important work that rises above the politics of the day and we go forward no matter who is the next president," he told the Santo Domingo meeting of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission via videolink from Port-au-Prince.

Bureau Report