Course à la montre 2

The second round for the presidential and legislative elections in Haiti will take place on January 24, said Tuesday the director of the electoral council. Pierre-Louis Opont, president of the Provisional Electoral Council, made the announcement after meeting with the board of the regulatory body.

President Michel Martelly announced last week that the second round would be held on January 17 to meet the constitutional decree to invest a new president on February 7. But in a letter sent Monday to Martelly, Opont said it needed more time to organize the election, which was already postponed once, and stressed that 12 days of preparations "not enough".

On Tuesday night Opont said in another letter to Martelly arguing that he could "guarantee" that the council will be organize the elections a week later. United Nations, the US government and representatives from other countries of the "Core Group" that monitors Haiti have urged government institutions and political actors to "take all necessary measures to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to new President-elect "before the constitutional deadline on February 7.

Thomas Shannon, State Department consultant, plans to visit the country on Wednesday. In a statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the "prolonged electoral process" and urged all Haitians to ensure that "it concluded as soon as possible in a transparent, inclusive and credible manner." If there is another delay, a transitional government in an impoverished country where elections are never simple and is usually accusations of vote rigging might have to be put in place to continue with the proces.

That is precisely what the opposition alliance calls Group of Eight, which includes the candidate who came second, Jude Celestin, and seven other candidates demand. The group wants to renounce the electoral council members on the grounds that there was corruption and manipulation of votes. The block calls for a transitional government to complete the electoral process in an impartial and transparent manner.

It is not clear whether an agreement can be reached for Celestin to participate in the second round. He has described the official results as a "ridiculous farce" and has refused to make campaign. In recent weeks he has been silent, while other members of the Group of Eight have issued statements and have spoken to the press. A committee that recently evaluated the electoral process in Haiti and was intended to clarify what happened in the first round of presidential elections held on October 25, presented conflicting information.

Although the evaluation commission said the elections among the 54 candidates were "tainted by irregularities" though it did not have the capacity nor the time to prove allegations of fraud, a spokesman for the panel said later that irregularities were due to the inability of poll workers. The report also noted that  "clearly the electoral institute no longer has the credibility that allows it to continue the process without any danger of plunging the country into an even deeper crisis."

However, the spokesman of the commission, Rosny Desroches, said Monday that the second round could be done in a reasonable manner on January 17, when several improvements were carried out. The elections held in early August and late October were the first of Martelly's government. Despite pressure from the UN, the US and other countries, previous efforts to hold local and parliamentary elections were stopped due to the conflict between the executive and the legislature.