PORT-AU-PRINCE Haiti should abandon a flawed election and start from scratch, a commission set up to re-examine first round results said on Monday, a decision that could trigger protests and further delay the vote for the Caribbean country's next president.
The commission was established under the government of interim president Jocelerme Privert, who took office after protests led to a runoff being scrapped. The politically volatile nation has been without an elected president since February.
The commission's findings are not binding and it is the electoral council that must decide whether to follow its advice.
"The presidential election should be organized all over again, because the whole election system screwed up," said Francois Benoit, a former foreign minister who led the commission.
Privert urged the provisional electoral council to make good use of the report and emphasized the decision was not his to make.
Benoit said the commission sampled 25 percent of polling station results in the October first round and found that almost a third could not be traced in the system. In many cases it appeared the same finger print had cast multiple votes.
"We cannot blame the problems on a particular candidate but there was massive fraud," he said, defending the commission's work as "scientific."
Several foreign embassies have warned in recent days that the commission's finding could lead to protests and instability, although the capital's streets were quiet on Monday night.
The party of the last elected president, Michel Martelly, whose candidate Jovenel Moise won the October vote and thus has the most to lose if the election starts again from scratch, was quick to accuse the commission of bias.
"We reject the conclusions of the commission just as we rejected the creation of the commission itself," said the PHTK party's spokesman Guichard Dore.
"The committee is an instrument in the hands of Mr. Privert and his allies to fulfil their partisan political will."
Privert failed to hold an election during an agreed timeline and the PHTK wants him to step down on June 14.
(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Michael Perry)