U.N., U.S. question some Haiti legislative vote results

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) The United Nations and United States on Friday questioned some of Haiti's legislative election results announced this week, saying they had detected unexplained changes that favored the ruling INITE party.

While congratulating president-elect Michel Martelly for his confirmed win in the March 20 run-off, the U.N. and donors including the United States, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France and Spain said they were concerned about 18 legislative contests whose results had been reversed.

These 18 changes, included in final results announced on Wednesday by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, overturned preliminary results released on April 4. Sixteen of the reversals favored the ruling INITE party of outgoing President Rene Preval, the U.N. mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said.

Fraud allegations dogged a chaotic first round of voting in November in the Caribbean nation, one of the world's poorest, which is recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake. This had required a first round vote tally revision by Organization of American States (OAS) experts at the insistence of donors.

INITE, whose own presidential candidate was dropped from the March 20 run-off after U.S.-led international pressure over the first round fraud allegations, has claimed success in the legislative vote, saying it will dominate the 99-seat chamber of deputies and the 30-member senate.

"We have found no explanation for the reversals of 18 legislative races in the final results, which in all except two cases benefited the incumbent party," the U.S. government said in a statement from its embassy in Port-au-Prince.

For example, one INITE candidate who was placed third in the preliminary results finished first in the final results, the U.S. statement said. It cited "reports and allegations of fraud surrounding the final results" announced on Wednesday.

"The final results have therefore raised serious concerns about the transparency and legitimacy of the process leading to their publication," MINUSTAH said in a separate statement.

The U.S. government called on Preval's administration and the Provisional Electoral Council to explain the overturns, from April 4 to April 20, of these 18 results, 17 in the chamber of deputies and one in the Senate.

There was no immediate reaction from the government or the Provisional Electoral Council, which since last year had been accused by critics of favoring Preval's INITE coalition. Under Haitian law, only the council has the power to revise results.

Former pop star Martelly, who will take over from Preval on May 14, has said he will seek to cooperate with parliament to implement priorities like creating jobs and housing for more than 600,000 quake survivors still living in tent camps.

He has promised to guarantee free primary education, decentralize the economy, modernize agriculture and boost investment and production to transform Haiti from a development basket case into a Caribbean success story.

Early attention will focus on who Martelly proposes as his prime minister, who must be approved by parliament.

The president-elect this week met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the United States would support Haiti "all the way" in rebuilding from last year's earthquake.

(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Anthony Boadle)