International monitors face Haiti stalemate heat

Intl monitors begin a verification process to break Haiti political impasse.

Port-au-Prince: International monitors have begun a verification process aimed at breaking the political impasse in Haiti following last month`s disputed Presidential Elections.

But the head of the joint observer mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) and CARICOM regional blocs, Colin Granderson, said there would be no actual vote recount.

"The mission is to evaluate the procedures used for the vote count that led to preliminary election results, but we are not going to recount the ballots," Granderson said.

A 10-strong OAS team made up of statisticians and electoral and legal experts from the United States, Chile, Canada, France and Jamaica began their verification work on Thursday.

No public statements are expected during a process expected to last several days that will culminate in a report being presented to President Rene Preval, probably next week.

Preliminary results of the November 28 polls had former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the lead with 31 percent of the vote, followed by ruling party candidate Jude Celestin with 22 percent.

If those results hold, the two should advance to a run-off scheduled for January 16, but the count was rejected by popular singer Michel Martelly, who trailed Celestin in third by less than 7,000 votes.

Martelly`s supporters and others took to the streets after the preliminary results, torching cars and government buildings and clashing with rival supporters and UN peacekeepers in violence that killed at least five people.

Preval, who stands accused of rigging the elections in favour of Celestin, has delayed the announcement of definitive results until after the OAS team has reported its findings.

Election day was a mess. Polling stations were trashed and thousands were unable to vote, either because they were not on the register or because they lacked identification papers lost in January`s devastating earthquake.

A Washington-based think-tank urged the OAS to declare the elections illegitimate as it published is own analysis on Thursday that concluded one in five votes cast were invalid due to widespread fraud.

Bureau Report