Haiti to release election results on Wednesday

Haiti`s election commission has set a second round of elections for March 20.

Port-au-Prince: Haiti`s election commission said it would announce definitive results from the first round of a disputed November vote on February 02, and set a second round for March 20.

The final results of the second round will be announced on April 16, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said.

The announcement came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expected in Haiti on Sunday for talks with President Rene Preval on the disputed election, earthquake recovery and a deadly cholera outbreak.

The announcement of preliminary first round results last month kicked off days of unrest in the earthquake-ravaged country when Preval`s handpicked candidate narrowly edged a popular singer out of the second round run-off.

But earlier this week the ruling party bowed to weeks of US-led pressure and widespread allegations of fraud, announcing that its candidate Jude Celestin would not advance to the run-off.

However, Celestin has yet to confirm his exit and his spokesman said the CEP has not been officially notified.

Celestin`s exit would appear to leave the field open to Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and the clear winner of the first round, and Michel Martelly, the popular singer widely known as "Sweet Micky”.

Haitians had hoped the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections would bring a new leadership that could rebuild the country after a devastating earthquake a year ago killed more than 220,000 people.

Little has been rebuilt since the catastrophe, which left much of the capital, including the presidential palace, in rubble.

The country is also battling a raging cholera epidemic that has killed more than 4,000 people since mid-October.

According to preliminary results from the November 28 poll, Celestin garnered 7,000 more votes than Martelly, securing a place in the run-off.

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 called in by Preval found widespread vote tampering and fraud in Celestin`s favour and recommended that he withdraw.

The CEP said on Friday that the second round campaign would run from February 17 to March 18 and that the preliminary results would be announced March 31.

Bureau Report