Haiti leader has "reservations" over OAS vote report

PORT-AU-PRINCE Thu Jan 13, 2011 5:38pm EST

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PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian President Rene Preval has reservations about a report from a regional organization that challenges the official results of Haiti's chaotic November elections, an official said on Thursday.

Preval, who cannot himself stand for a second consecutive term, on Thursday received the report by the team of Organization of American States experts, which recommends that a government-backed presidential candidate be eliminated from a second-round run-off election.

"The president has a number of reservations on the methodology the members of the (OAS) commission used to get to their conclusions," said the senior government official, who asked not to be identified.

The OAS report challenges the official preliminary results from Haiti's November 28 national elections.

Preval's reported doubts about the report could stir political tensions and uncertainty a day after Haiti commemorated the first anniversary of the devastating January 12 2010 earthquake in the poor, volatile Caribbean country.

The president, whom opponents have accused of rigging the U.N.-backed November elections that took place amid widespread confusion and fraud allegations, had originally asked the OAS to help verify the disputed preliminary election results.

It was not clear whether Preval would reject the report's recommendation or seek to discuss his reservations further with the OAS experts.

The preliminary election results, which were hotly contested by opposition candidates and triggered streets riots when they were announced by the Provisional Electoral Council last month, had put government technocrat and Preval protege Jude Celestin in the second round.

The OAS experts' report cited "significant" vote tally irregularities to recommended that Celestin be replaced in the second round run-off by popular musician Michel Martelly, who had been narrowly placed third in the preliminary results.

In a meeting on Thursday with Colin Granderson, head of a joint OAS/Caribbean Community mission that observed the elections, Preval also expressed anger at the fact that the report by the seven OAS electoral experts had been leaked on Monday to a U.S. media organization, the official said.

He added Preval's reservations also focused on the fact that six of the seven members of the OAS team came either from the United States, Canada or France, countries which had raised early public objections to the preliminary Haiti election results. The seventh member of the team was from Jamaica.

The OAS experts' report confirmed opposition matriarch Mirlande Manigat as the candidate who won most votes in the first round, although she did not gain enough to win outright. She therefore remains in the second-round run-off.

(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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