Ambassadors urge Haiti to trust in vote review committee

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PORT-AU-PRINCE: Key ambassadors to Haiti called on the country’s leaders to resolve a post-election crisis, which has been aggravated by a controversial vote recount expected to begin on Monday.
Envoys from the United Nations, the United States, the Organization of American States and the European Union urged Haiti’s presidential candidates to avoid violence by pursuing legal means to challenge the election results. The joint statement, on the eve of a Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) meeting to discuss forming a commission to sort out the dispute, invited the candidates “to take part in the process of establishing the commission.”
Separately, the Club of Madrid, a forum of 79 former world leaders, called on the international community to beef up its presence in Haiti ahead of January’s runoff vote to prevent more violence and election irregularities.
Meanwhile, conservative US politician Sarah Palin, undeterred by a deteriorating security situation and riots that left five people dead, toured the quake-hit Caribbean nation with US evangelical group Samaritan’s Purse.
The potential 2012 presidential candidate comforted child cholera victims at a clinic on Saturday and visited a camp that shelters victims of the January quake, which killed 250,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting this community,” Palin said. “They are so full of joy.
We are so fortunate in America and we are responsible for helping those less fortunate. Samaritan’s Purse is still here doing the tough work.”
Palin’s arrival came as life finally began to return to normal in Haiti for the first time since since Jude Celestin, President Rene Preval’s handpicked protege, made it through to a second round run-off in flawed elections.
Markets and banks opened for business for the first time since violent protests erupted on Tuesday when the results were announced.
The streets of the capital, eerily deserted Friday as tire smoke lingered in the air, were once again teeming with people Saturday, many of them stockpiling goods, fearful the period of calm may not last long.
In a bid to counter the widespread allegations of fraud and stave off further protests, the CEP announced plans to add up all the tally sheets in the presence of the three main candidates.
But those plans are now in disarray. Celestin’s qualification for the second-round run-off came at the expense of popular opposition candidate Michel Martelly, who he edged out by less than 7,000 votes.
Martelly has already accused the government of having fixed the result, and in an angry letter to the election commission, dismissed a process he said would be rigged again.
“The solution of this public farce, which has already caused some regrettable losses in human lives is certainly not a simple recount of the tally sheets in the possession of the CEP,” he wrote.
The singer-turned-politician called for “the cancellation of tally sheets from polling stations that were sacked, vandalised, the object of massive and scandalous fraud in favor of the ruling party candidate Jude Celestin.”
In an interview with AFP on Friday, Martelly, 49, called the recount a “trap” and accused Preval of conspiring with the election commission and Celestin to rig the polls in secret back-room meetings.
Hundreds of Martelly supporters demonstrated peacefully in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville on Saturday night, chanting “Martelly or death! Martelly is president!” until being dispersed by police gunfire. According to official results, Mirlande Manigat, a 70-year-old academic and former first lady, won the poll clearly ahead of 48-year-old Celestin, who squeaked through to the January 16 run-off ahead of Martelly.