OAS slams Haiti poll irregularities

March 18, 2011 - 12:11:38 am

WASHINGTON: The Organisation of American States yesterday denounced irregularities in the training of election personnel in Haiti, saying they could impact this weekend's presidential runoff.

The OAS, which is conducting a joint electoral observation mission in Haiti with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said training of election officials was "essential" to the success of the poll scheduled for Sunday, following deadly violence and corruption that marred the first round last November.

"It is therefore regrettable that the training of supervisors was once again disrupted not only by those who were excluded because of their poor performance or delinquency during the first round, but also by protests organized by experienced supervisors" who were replaced in the process, the OAS said.

"Missteps made during the first round will have the same impact in the second round," it said in a statement.

The OAS underlined the need to recruit competent and experienced staff, cautioning that "attempts to insert the names of people who do not meet the criteria can disrupt training and will not help achieve the main objective, which is to improve the organisation of the second round."

Candidates Mirlande Manigat, who is a former first lady, and popular singer Michel Martelly will square off in Sunday's run-off.

Both the OAS and the United Nations, which maintains a stabilization force in Haiti, have reported outbreaks of violence in the run-up to the second round election in the poorest country in the Americas, which is still reeling from a massive earthquake in early 2010 and a deadly cholera outbreak.

Meanwhile the UN Development Programme has contacted nearly half a million Haitian voters by text message, phone calls and online to inform them where to cast ballots on March 20. It plans to reach one million voters by election day.