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Furious protests greet Haiti results

rhondathompson, [email protected]

Furious protests greet Haiti results

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Furious supporters of an apparently eliminated candidate set fires and manned barricades in the streets of Haiti’s capital this morning after officials announced that government protege Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat would advance to a 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 one per cent, according to the results released by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council.
His supporters immediately protested, though official election observers said a third candidate might be included in a Jan. 16 runoff if the electoral council decides the first-round vote was close enough, even if the constitutionality of such a move would be debatable.
An appeals period runs through December 10, with final results expected to be announced around December 20.
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.”
Protests surged again as the sun rose over Port-au-Prince. The black smoke of burning barricades filled the air in areas where Martelly’s support is strongest, including Petionville and Delmas. Thousands were on the streets, singing political songs and chanting for “Micky.”
Vehicles were damaged by rocks and items were reportedly stolen from stores. Foreign aid workers complained that Haitian national police were slow to respond and that many officers refused to report to duty following the election results.
American Airlines halted flights in and out of the Haitian capital because airport employees were unable to get to work Wednesday because of demonstrations, spokeswoman Martha Pantin said.
Violent disturbances were also reported in Cap-Haitien as well as the southern city of Les Cayes, where residents said government buildings had been attacked and set on fire.
Martelly had said before results were released that he believed he would win, and would not accept a spot in a runoff in which Celestin is present. Some of his staffers had praised the protests on Twitter late Tuesday.
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. (AP)