Furious protests greet Haiti election results
PORT-AU-PRINCE: Furious supporters of eliminated candidates set fires and put up barricades in the streets of Haiti's capital after officials announced that government protege Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat would advance to a second-round runoff in presidential elections.
The results announced late Tuesday were immediately questioned at home and abroad, threatening more unrest for a country wracked by a cholera epidemic and still recovering from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.
Popular carnival singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly trailed Celestin by about 6,800 votes - less than 1 percent, according to the results released by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council.
Martelly supporters set up flaming barricades near the Petionville restaurant where the tallies were announced and threw rocks at people passing nearby. Gunshots rang out and an Associated Press journalist was robbed. "If they don't give us Martelly and Manigat (in the second round), Haiti will be on fire," said a protester, Erick Jean. "We're still living under tents and Celestin wastes money on election posters."
Radio Kiskeya reported protests outside Port-au-Prince in the Haitian cities of CapHaitien and Les Cayes.
Much of the concern centered around conflicts between the announced results and those reported recently by a local election monitoring group financed by the European Union - the National Observation Council - which said that Celestin, who is backed by outgoing President Rene Preval, would be eliminated.
"The Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council's announcement of preliminary results ... that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council" as well as U.S. observers and vote counts monitored by domestic and international observers, the U.S. Embassy said in an emailed statement. The Nov. 28 election was plagued by allegations of fraud. Thousands of voters were disenfranchised by confusion on the rolls and there were many reported incidents of ballot-stuffing, violence and intimidation confirmed by international observers. Officials acknowledged the rolls were both "bloated" and "incomplete," with hundreds of thousands of earthquake dead still registered and many living voters waiting for ID cards. In the last days of counting, tabulators had to sort out clearly fraudulent tally sheets. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the problems were worse than originally reported. -Reuters
BERN: Geneva state President Mark Mueller (R), newly elected Swiss President for 2011 Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey (C) and President of the Swiss National Council Jean-Rene Germanier pose before breaking a pinata. -Reuters