Haiti presidential candidates challenge vote results

Candidates formally challenge Haiti presidential election results

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - Three Haitian presidential candidates have formally contested the election's preliminary results, their parties said Friday, after the vote count gave the ruling party's Jovenel Moise an outright victory in last month's first-round.

Jude Celestin, Moise Jean-Charles and Maryse Narcisse are challenging the tally giving more than 55 percent of the vote to Moise, chosen by former president Michel Martelly to represent his party, Tet Kale (PHTK).

He claimed victory in an interview with AFP.

"The people have had their say," Moise said Thursday. "The country can no longer put up with this endless presidential campaign."

If officially verified, the results would mean there would be no run-off round in the impoverished Caribbean country.

Celestin is second so far with 19.52 percent of the vote, according to the preliminary results. They gave Jean-Charles 11.04 percent and Narcisse 8.99 percent in the November 20 balloting.

All candidates had the right to file disputes by 10:00 am (1500 GMT) Friday. After the country's electoral courts analyze the vote count and issue their verdict, the official results will be published no sooner than December 29.

Celestin's opposition LAPEH Party filed a challenge with the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) even before the preliminary results were announced.

It accused the council of ignoring the requirement that voters sign their ballots or mark them with fingerprints, Celestin adviser Gerald Germain told AFP.

"Unfortunately the CEP chose not to consider that aspect," he said. "We thought we were going to have a break with the way we usually organize elections in Haiti. Now we will have to go to court to assert our rights."

Jean-Charles's left-wing party, Platform Pitit Dessalines, went further, accusing the CEP of corruption on Friday.

"According to many witnesses, there were vehicles at roadblocks at the hotel where the Provisional Electoral Council was on Monday night, with a lot of dollars for bargaining with the CEP's members," said Evelt Fanfan, a lawyer for the party.

"For proof, three CEP members refused to sign (the results) because they did not agree with the practice."

- 'Order and discipline' -

CEP president Leopold Berlanger on Monday declined to comment about the decision by the three -- of the council's nine members -- not to sign the tally.

However, after hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police on Wednesday, the council issued a statement reminding Haitians that the results are only preliminary and urging "parties, political groups and candidates to refrain from declaring themselves elected."

Moise urged his competitors to act in what he said are Haiti's best interests.

"We need order and discipline to put the country back on the road to development," he told AFP, adding that it was now time for his rivals "to begin to realize that the country can no longer wallow in this history of violence."

The vote, which took place without major incident, is seen as an essential step to allow the country to return to political order after the cancellation of the results from the first round of the presidential election held in October 2015.

The results from that election -- which put Moise on top with 33 percent -- were scrapped after violence broke out and an independent commission found massive fraud.

Only 21 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the first-round voting last month.

Haiti has been headed by a temporary president, Jocelerme Privert -- previously Senate president -- since February. His mandate was supposed to end in June.