PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian President Rene Preval’s ruling party candidate Jude Celestin is considering withdrawing from the presidential race, a senior party official said on Tuesday.
Celestin could “withdraw his candidature in the next hours,” Senator Joseph Lambert, a senior official with the INITE (Unity in Creole) party, told Radio Metropole.
Based on the preliminary results of the November 28 presidential election made public by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Celestin would face off against former first lady Mirlande Manigat in a second round of voting.
However, a monitoring team from the Organization of American States (OAS) regional bloc advised the CEP to revise its initial results because of widespread fraud.
If the CEP follows the advice of the OAS team, popular singer Michel Martelly would face Manigat in the second round run-off instead of Celestin.
Opposition candidates accuse Preval and the CEP of orchestrating massive fraud in favor of Celestin to ensure he made it through to the second round, which has now been delayed.
Protests and rioting broke out in December after initial electoral results indicated Celestin was ahead of Martelly by fewer than 7,000 votes.
Lambert also said that the INITE could throw its support behind one of the two finalists.
“In any case, we will come out winning, because INITE will win the legislative elections and the next president will have to negotiate with us,” Lambert said.
The electoral process remains in limbo more than a week after the original date set for the second round of voting.
Top international diplomats pressed Haitian election officials Monday to accept the recommendation of the OAS monitors.
The recommendations “show the path to follow to get past this impasse,” UN envoy Edmond Mulet told AFP after a 90-minute meeting in Port-au-Prince between international diplomats and election officials.
“It’s up to the authorities, to the CEP, whether or not to implement these recommendations, but it’s the path to follow and we are hoping they do,” said Mulet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s representative in Haiti.
Both Mulet and the US ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten, stressed that the international community did not support canceling the polls.
“We simply want the will of the Haitian people to be respected and we are certainly in favor of the continuation of the elections,” said Merten.
Monday’s meeting was also attended by EU envoy Lut Fabert and a high-ranking French diplomat.