August 25, 2016 / 3:09 PM / 2 years ago

Haitian president says election must occur on time

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti’s long-delayed presidential vote must take place on Oct. 9 as scheduled to install a legitimately elected leader as soon as possible and assuage concerns about political stability, interim President Jocelerme Privert told Reuters.

Haiti's interim President Jocelerme Privert talks to Reuters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 24, 2016. Picture taken August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jeanty Junior Augustin

Privert’s comments late on Wednesday come as Haiti scrambles to find funding for its third election process in a year. A history of volatility and missed deadlines in the nation’s recent electoral history has raised doubts about the October date.

The results of a presidential vote last year were scrapped after the electoral council accepted a commission’s conclusion that many of the ballots were fraudulent, a disputed decision that prompted some in the international community to withdraw support for the elections.

A January runoff was also canceled after violent protests. Privert said this would not happen again.

“I cannot even picture a Plan B,” he said. “The risk for the country is too large.”

The election will be mostly self-financed as the U.S. government, a major donor to last year’s vote, said it would not contribute this time. Privert said $15 million had already been allocated to the provisional electoral council.

He said the estimated $55 million to pay for the vote would be found, even if other recipients vying for the country’s limited budget lose out to what he called a “priority project.”

“We have done all that is humanly possible to assure that on Oct. 9, the people go to the polls to elect the legitimate authorities capable of confronting the economic and social challenges that our country faces.”

Election council President Leopold Berlanger, who has also emphasized the need to hold the election as scheduled, said on Tuesday that about $25 million was available for it.

Haiti’s campaign season began on Tuesday for the third time in a year.

Privert, whose term officially expired in June, has led the country since former President Michel Martelly left power in February without an elected successor. Opponents have accused Privert of dragging his feet to stay in office longer.

Still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed 220,000 people, Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest nation, has also been hit by a cholera outbreak brought by U.N. peacekeepers and now faces the threat of the Zika virus.

The favorites in the race are conservative Jovenel Moise and center-left Jude Celstin, who lead a field of 27 candidates. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the first round, a runoff will be held in January.

Haiti has more than 6 million registered voters.

Editing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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