International observers say Haitian election valid

International observers say Haiti’s elections can be considered valid despite irregularities that generated protests and allegations of fraud.

The joint observer mission from the Organization of American States and the regional Caribbean grouping issued the assessment Monday, one day after Haitians cast ballots in the presidential and legislative elections. The head of the mission, Colin Granderson, said he does not believe that these irregularities, serious as some were, necessarily invalidated the process.

Haiti’s provisional electoral council has declared the elections a success, despite widespread complaints of chaos and mismanagement at polling stations.

Twelve of the nearly 20 presidential candidates had called for the vote to be annulled, alleging fraud. They accused outgoing President Rene Preval of conspiring to hand the presidency to his party’s candidate, Jude Celestin. But two of the candidates, Mirlande Manigat and musician Michel Martelly, later backed away from those calls.

Monday, a spokesperson for U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement saying the U.N. chief is concerned following the incidents that marked the first round of the elections. The spokesperson said Ban looks forward to a solution to the political crisis in the country and has called on the Haitian people and all political actors to remain calm.

Within hours of the election’s start Sunday, chaos and confusion erupted in the streets and at the polling stations around the tiny Caribbean nation, ravaged this year by a massive earthquake and cholera outbreak. Officials say two deaths have been reported in election violence.

Allegations of irregularities nearly brought the election to a halt. They ranged from outright fraud to polling place disorganization that disenfranchised many Haitians.

Many voters had no idea where to vote, while others arrived at polling stations to find that their names were not on the rolls.

Thousands of people took to the streets around the country in protest against Sunday’s elections.

Despite the protests and calls for the vote’s cancellation, the electoral council said there were irregularities at only 56 of 1,500 voting centers.

Haitians also voted for a 99-member lower house and 11 members of the 30-seat Senate.

A runoff election would be held on Jan. 16, if needed.

The Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti killed some 250,000 people and left about 1 million others homeless.

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