Haiti to fund $55-million new try at elections after results scrapped

A girl holds national flag of Haiti before Pope Francis' arrival at the Campus Misericordiae during World Youth Day in Brzegi, near Krakow, Poland July 30, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti said on Wednesday it would spend $55 million on a new election after the results of the last vote were scrapped, with most of the money to be drawn from the poor Caribbean nation's own coffers as foreign donors are reluctant to pay again. The United States, which contributed $33 million to the last election, strongly opposed aborting the results and said in July that no aid would be forthcoming for the repeat. Washington also asked Haiti to return nearly $2 million. Haiti's electoral council said the new budget would cover a period from June 2016 to March 2017, by which time both rounds of the presidential vote are due to be completed. Finance Minister Yves Romain Bastien told Reuters the polls would be largely paid for through funds collected from a port, the central bank and Haiti’s National Credit Bank. "The only way for us to have these elections is to get our own financing in place," Bastien said. Funding of other government programs would be largely unaffected because the port and two banks were providing profits they ordinarily do not share with the state, he added. Budget cuts this year for education and health have had no link to the election costs, he said. About 50 presidential contenders vied to succeed former President Michel Martelly in Oct. 2015, but after protests and multiple postponements of a run-off, a non-binding investigation said the vote had been marred by fraud. Subsequently, the electoral council said it should be started from scratch. Haiti has been led by interim president Jocelerme Privert since February to avoid the prospect of Martelly leaving office without a replacement. Privert's 120-day mandate expired in June but parliament has not yet voted on whether he can stay in office. In June, he told Reuters he intended to stay in office until the elected president took office in March. At the time, international observers said the poll results were legitimate, despite irregularities. The European Union has said it will not send observers for the election. The Organization of American States has said it will, urging that the agreed-upon timeline be respected. Haiti will vote in presidential and legislative elections on Oct. 9. Another round of legislative elections and a possible second round will take place Jan. 8. (Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Clarence Fernandez)