PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti's outgoing leader met with election authorities Tuesday in search of a solution to the country's electoral impasse, after an official said it would be impossible to hold a presidential runoff in time for a transfer of power by the constitutional deadline.
President Michel Martelly announced last week that Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council was warning that the runoff must be held by Jan. 17 to fulfill the constitutional mandate of inaugurating a new president Feb. 7.
But in a Monday letter to Martelly, council chief Pierre-Louis Opont said more time was needed to organize the already once-postponed runoff, writing that 12 days of preparation "will not be sufficient."
If there is another delay, a transitional government may have to be formed in the impoverished country where elections are never easy and allegations of vote manipulation are common.
The Group of Eight opposition alliance, comprising second-place finisher Jude Celestin and seven other presidential candidates, is demanding members of the Provisional Electoral Council resign over what it says is corruption and vote-rigging. The bloc says a transitional government will be required to complete the electoral process in a fair and transparent way.
The United Nations, the U.S. government and representatives of other nations making up the "Core Group" that monitors Haiti have urged state institutions and political actors to "take all steps necessary to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected president" by the Feb. 7 deadline.
A commission that recently evaluated Haiti's electoral process and was meant to provide clarity about the Oct. 25 first-round presidential vote has put out conflicting information.
While the commission's report said the contest between 54 candidates was "stained by irregularities" in which poll watchers intervened to help several candidates, a panel spokesman later said most of the irregularities had to do with the ineptitude of poll workers.
The report also said the October vote showed "clearly that the electoral institution no longer enjoys the credibility that permits it to continue with the process without the danger of sinking the country into a still-more-serious crisis." Yet commission spokesman Rosny Desroches said Monday that the runoff could still reasonably be held Jan. 17 if various improvements were made.
Elections held in early August and late October have been the first votes during Martelly's tenure. Despite pressure from the U.N., the United States and elsewhere, previous efforts to hold legislative and local votes were snarled by bitter infighting between the executive and legislative branches.
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