Panel reports on Haiti election

Group says singer should face former first lady

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A popular Haitian musician, rather than the government’s candidate, should advance to a presidential runoff, an international panel of election experts recommended Monday.

The group, convened by the Organization of American States at the request of President Rene Preval, also said that while 50,935 votes were discarded because of fraud, the disputed Nov. 28 presidential elections could be salvaged if the rest of the electoral process is handled correctly and Haiti’s political forces allow that to happen.

The experts spent 10 days scrutinizing thousands of tally sheets and back-up voting documents.

“After a thorough statistical analysis … the Expert Mission has determined that it cannot support the preliminary results of the presidential elections,” according to the report, obtained by the Miami Herald.

The team said its verification showed that musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly had 22.2 percent of the vote while Jude Celestin, the government candidate, received 21.9 percent. The result, which reverses the preliminary tally, would put the singer in a runoff with former first lady Mirlande Manigat, who received 31.6 percent.

But with only 0.3 points separating Martelly from Celestin, the results are up for debate should Preval’s political platform or Celestin choose to challenge them. Officials said 9.3 percent of the votes from 11,181 polling stations never arrived because of violence and fraud on voting day.

Martelly and Celestin declined to comment on the report, saying they had not seen it.

Haitians had hoped that the highly anticipated report would provide clarity and a way for Haiti to pull itself out of a political crisis that has paralyzed the nation and overshadowed commemorations of the earthquake that devastated the nation a year ago Wednesday.

But with the results nonbinding – the mission can only make recommendations – any decisions must be made by Haiti’s electoral council – the next step will require compromise, observers said.

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