The United States has suspended financial assistance to Haiti's electoral authorities as they plan to redo a presidential vote that a special commission found was marred by widespread fraud. At a Washington press briefing Thursday, U.S. State ...
By: AP | Port-au-prince |
Published:July 8, 2016 8:15 am
Washington: State Department spokesman John Kirby speaks in Washington on Thursday. PTI Photo
The United States has suspended financial assistance to Haitiâ€™s electoral authorities as they plan to redo a presidential vote that a special commission found was marred by widespread fraud.
At a Washington press briefing Thursday, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the decision to stop funding a Haitian electoral cycle that began in 2015 did not â€œsignal a reduction in US support for the people or development of Haiti.â€
He framed the decision as a simple budgeting matter by the US, which is Haitiâ€™s largest donor. He said Washington did not plan to spend additional taxpayer money for two more voting rounds in the hemisphereâ€™s poorest country but would â€œmaintain assistance in other key priority areas.â€
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â€œWe believe itâ€™s the sound thing to do, the right thing to do for the people of Haiti in the long-term,â€ Kirby said.
Last year, US taxpayers contributed $33 million for a three-round Haitian electoral cycle that was intended to elect a president, parliament members and numerous other offices. But the presidential runoff was repeatedly scrapped amid deep public suspicions of fraud and violent protests.
It wasnâ€™t immediately clear what the absence of US funding would mean for Haitiâ€™s revamped Provisional Electoral Council, which organizes balloting in a country where elections are never easy.
But new council chief Leopold Berlanger did not sound concerned by the US decision or a possible ripple effect with other foreign donors amid a lingering political impasse.
â€œI think if you are a real sovereign country you should get the means to fund your own elections,â€ he told The Associated Press.
Under Berlanger, the council annulled the disputed presidential election and called a new vote, as recommended by a special commission that reported finding what appeared to be significant fraud and professional misconduct.
A total of 27 presidential candidates are now expected to run in the redo vote in October. A runoff would take place in January.
Last month, Kenneth Merten, the US State Departmentâ€™s special coordinator for Haiti, said the US was â€œdisappointedâ€ with the decision to redo the vote because impoverished Haiti could have avoided its leadership muddle if it had stuck to agreed-upon timetables earlier.
Caretaker President Jocelerme Privertâ€™s 120-day mandate heading an interim administration expired June 14 but the fragmented parliament is blocking a vote on extending his term or paving the way for a new interim leader.
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