Haiti orders review of presidential vote results

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Haiti's three main opposition parties won a victory in their challenge to last month's presidential election after the country's electoral court ordered a review of the preliminary results Monday night.
The vote's first round gave the ruling party's Jovenel Moise an outright victory in the first round, according to the initial count.
But the three main opposition candidates — Jude Celestin, Moise Jean-Charles and Maryse Narcisse — challenged the tally giving more than 55 per cent of the November 20 vote to Moise, who was chosen by former president Michel Martelly to represent his party, Tet Kale (PHTK).
Judges for the National Bureau of Electoral Litigation (BCEN) said Tuesday morning that they considered it "necessary to shine a light to establish the truth" and therefore ordered the ballots to be "transported to the tabulation centre for the verification of 12 per cent of the results."
The decision followed lengthy arguments by lawyers for the opposition candidates and more than five hours of deliberation by the judges.
Celestin came second with 19.52 per cent of the vote last month, according to the preliminary results. They gave Jean-Charles 11.04 per cent and Narcisse 8.99 per cent.
If officially confirmed, the current results would mean there would be no run-off round in the impoverished Caribbean country.
Moise has already claimed victory.
However, his challengers cited errors in the vote count and officials' failure to comply with the requirement that voters sign their ballots or mark them with fingerprints at polling stations.
By ordering a review, the BCEN sided with the opposition against the wishes of the PHTK, which says the procedure is unjustified.
As the legal battle dragged on, supporters of Narcisse and her leftist Fanmi Lavalas Party — chiefly inhabitants of the capital's poorest neighbourhoods — have stepped up demonstrations against what they consider an "electoral coup d'etat."
Last month's vote, which took place without major incident, is seen as an essential step towards political order after the cancellation of the results from the first round of the presidential election held in October 2015.
The results from that election — which put Moise on top with 33 per cent — were scrapped after violence broke out and an independent commission found massive fraud.
BCEN magistrates will begin analyzing electoral results at noon on Tuesday in the presence of representatives from the political parties as well as national and international observers.
The court has set no deadline for completing the process.
The Provisional Electoral Council is tasked with announcing the final results of the election's first round.
Scheduled for December 29, the announcement may be postponed by the BCEN's verification process.
Only 21 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots in last month's vote.
Haiti has been headed by a temporary president, Jocelerme Privert — previously Senate president — since February. His mandate was supposed to end in June.

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