Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced yesterday morning that government party candidate Jude Célestin is not eligible to run against frontrunner and former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the March 20 national presidential runoff elections. The long-awaited decisions means that Haitian pop singer Michel Martelly, who placed second in November’s first round voting will proceed to the second round.
The announcement mirrors recommendations made by the Organization of American States (OAS), which found evidence of widespread fraud, missing votes and altered tallies in favor of government-backed candidate Célestin. To many observers, the decision is a sign of progress in a country that witnessed a surge of violence and voter ballot confusion during the first round elections in November. Other tumultuous events such as the onset of an ongoing cholera epidemic and the recent return of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier on January 16 have raised the overall uncertainty regarding the election.
Support for the decision from international observers was immediate with Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesperson, saying, "it is of capital importance for Haiti to have a new democratically elected government, to work on the pressing issues of reconstruction and the fight against cholera." The OAS also supports the decision and says it will send a new team of observers for the presidential runoff, as has been requested by the Haitian government.
The results of the runoff will be announced on April 16. Follow AQ Online for more updates and coverage.