- Associated Press - Monday, January 10, 2011

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — An international monitoring team will recommend that Haiti’s government-backed candidate be eliminated from a presidential runoff election in favor of a popular musician who finished a close third in the contested official results, according to a copy of its report obtained Monday by the Associated Press.

The report by a team from the Organization of American States was to be presented on Monday to President Rene Preval.

The report had not been released publicly, but the AP obtained a copy and a foreign official with direct knowledge of the report confirmed its conclusions. A second foreign official confirmed that the report was in its final stages of editing and translation into French, but that the conclusion would stand.

Haitian electoral officials must make the final decision on what to do, but the team’s recommendations could weigh heavily. Three candidates believe they should advance to a second-round vote. Rioting broke out in several Haitian cities when the preliminary results were announced.

Mr. Preval is not expected to respond publicly until after Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.

The second round was originally scheduled for Sunday Jan. 16 but was delayed in part because electoral officials were waiting for the results of the OAS review aimed at solving the deadlock. Officials have said that the earliest it can be held is next month.

The experts found that tens of thousands more votes than previously thought should be discarded because polling-place officials did not follow procedures or because there were signs that the tally sheets had been altered.

“After a thorough statistical analysis … the Expert Mission has determined that it cannot support the preliminary results of the presidential elections released on Dec. 7, 2010,” the report said.

According to the review, carnival singer Michel Martelly would end up in second place with 22.2 percent after having 7,150 votes ruled invalid. Ruling party candidate Jude Celestin would drop to third place with 21.9 percent after losing 17,220 votes.

“Should this recommendation be implemented, the position of the candidate in third place would change to second and the candidate now in second place would move to third,” the draft report states directly.

Former first lady Mirlande Manigat would remain in first place with 31.6 percent of the vote after having 13,830 of her votes thrown out.

The team included electoral, technical and statistical experts from France, the United States, Canada, Jamaica and the OAS. It reviewed a sample of the vote — roughly 16.9 percent of the votes cast — along with ballot boxes and bags, user access logs and other material.

The team decided not to recommend throwing out the first-round vote and conducting a new nationwide election, as some observers and candidates have requested.

“A new election would involve more contests and candidacies than the evidence warranted,” it said, adding that it would be too expensive and “subject the Haitian people to a further lapse in constitutional governance.”

It also decided not to recommend a partial do-over in “certain problematic locations” or a nationwide recount.

Mr. Preval’s term is scheduled to end on Feb. 7, but could remain in power until May because he was inaugurated late in 2006.

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