Haiti officials reverse contested vote results

Haitian officials on Wednesday reversed their findings on election results for all but four of 19 legislative races contested by the international community because of concerns about possible fraud.

A tally released by Haitian election officials on April 20 enabled the political party of outgoing President Rene Preval to expand its presence in parliament. But Wednesday's changes distributed many of those seats among little-known opposition parties. Three seats went to Preval's Unity party.

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince said the three seats that were awarded to Preval's party under the new tally should still have gone to candidates in other parties.

"It should not have to be this hard for the Haitian people to have their voice respected, and we continue to stand by those people who feel their votes have been ignored in the three races in question," said U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten.

Unity officials did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment. An election spokesman could not be reached to explain the new findings despite repeated calls.

The latest vote tally comes after the U.S. and other international partners pressed Haitian election officials to explain how the final results from a March 20 runoff varied so widely between preliminary tallies released on April 4 and final ones published a few weeks later.

The results released on April 20 showed that 17 deputies and two senators received thousands of votes that they didn't have when the initial results came out. That meant Preval's party won 46 of the 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and an absolute majority in the Senate with 17 of 30 seats.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont urged the State Department to look at the visas and U.S. residency status of Haitian officials — a threat reminiscent of when U.S. officials early this year revoked visas for about two dozen Haitian government officials believed to be connected with violence or corruption during the country's disputed first round of the presidential vote in November.

Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, an entertainer popular among the urban poor, won the presidency. The first-time politician takes office Saturday.