News and opinions on situation in Haiti
 
13/2/06

Haiti – Preval lead slipping, allegations of fraud

 

   

13 February – In results that critics slammed as fraudulent, René Préval, a former president and champion of the poor who is the front-runner in key presidential elections here, appeared last night to have lost the majority he needs to avoid a runoff with his closest rival. Thousands of enraged, slum-dwelling Préval supporters took to the streets of this capital city to blow horns and bang drums in protest as they shouted, “Préval on the first round!” Two members of the provisional electoral council overseeing the count from Tuesday’s vote said they believed the results were being manipulated.

“From the beginning, Jacques Bernard was not interested in a first-round victory,” renegade council member Patrick Fequière told Haitian television, referring to the council’s director general. Earlier yesterday, Fequière said he believed Préval had received more than 50 percent of the vote. Pierre Richard Duchemin, another electoral council member, told reporters he thought some other council members had “manipulated” the tally and called for an independent investigation.

A few days ago Préval, 63, was leading with nearly two-thirds of ballots in early returns, raising expectations of a first-round victory. The voting had been hailed as a landmark step toward planting democracy in the hemisphere’s poorest and most troubled nation. The electoral council abruptly postponed a news conference at a posh hotel to announce a final tally last night after protesters amassed outside. Rumors swirled that Bernard would say Préval had 49 percent of the vote, the same lead he’d shown with three-fourths of ballots counted yesterday morning.

Speaking to reporters yesterday outside his remote mountain hometown Marmelade, Préval said of that result, “It’s magouy,” using a Haitian-Creole word for “dirty tricks.” A scientific sampling of ballots by a Haitian observation group overseen by the National Endowment for Democracy, a U.S.-funded agency, had shown Préval winning outright in the first round with 54 percent, according to international election sources. With United Nations peacekeepers standing by, some protesters threatened violence unless there was an immediate recount. (Newsday)

12 February – According to the partial results published by the Provisional Electoral Council, Préval has obtained 49.10% of 75.81% of the valid votes cast and so far counted, and therefore does not at the moment have enough votes to be elected on the first round. His nearest challengers at present are Leslie Manigat of the Rassemblement des Démocrates Nationaux Progressistes (RDNP), who has 11.72%, and the independent candidate, Charles Baker, with 8.02%. (AlterPresse)

12 February – In Cité Soleil, Haiti’s largest slum and an Aristide stronghold, demonstrators ran through the streets past shanties and open sewers, waving tree branches and shouting, “Préval is our president!” They demanded a speedier vote count. Demonstrators complained about Préval’s shrinking lead. He held 61 percent after the first results were released on Thursday and seemed headed toward a first-round victory. But his total dropped on Friday to 50.3 percent and to less than half on Saturday, leading some to believe elections officials were trying to fix the vote. About 7.6 percent of the ballots counted so far were rejected. In some places, the number was much higher. In the southern Nippes department, for example, 14.1 percent of ballots were spoiled, and in the Centre department, 12.9 percent. “It is suspect,” said Patrick Fequière, an electoral council member who often finds himself at odds with other members. “It should be investigated.”

Baker, the third-place candidate, has also asked for an investigation into possible fraud. International observers have said there were irregularities at the polls but probably not enough to taint the result.

Claude Parent, director of a mission representing eight countries in the Americas, including Canada and the United States, said some voters put an X over the picture of the candidate rather than in the circle next to the picture. At some polling stations those ballots were counted and at others they were rejected, he said, adding the ballots that clearly indicated which candidate the voter meant to choose should be counted. “We think this election should be something that the international community should accept and we think the Haitian people should accept it,” Parent said. (Reuters)

12 February – Thousands of chanting supporters of presidential candidate René Préval marched from a seaside slum past the national palace in a victory celebration Saturday as electoral officials continued counting ballots that have given Préval a wide lead. The former president had 50.3 percent of 1.3 million valid votes counted so far, with the other candidates far behind, Haiti’s election council said. The winning candidate needs 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a March runoff with the second-place finisher. Nearly 1.8 million votes were cast, U.N. officials said.

Marchers chanted “Lespwa! Lespwa!” — the name of Préval’s party and the word “hope” in Creole — as they filled a narrow street in the Cité Soleil slum and headed toward the palace. “We’re happy because Préval is president, and that means peace and security for Haiti,” said Jouldean Elouit, who wore a Préval campaign T-shirt as he marched. “It’s never too early to celebrate!” shouted Yoland Roméus, another marcher. “He must win because everybody voted for him.” (AP)

11 February – The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, hailed the election as a “significant step forward”. The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, called on all Haitian citizens to recognise the result.

Charles Arthur, director of the Haiti Support Group, said: “Despite the poor organisation of the voting process, it does seem as though most people were eventually able to cast their votes.” Mr Arthur called for an end to the “negative politics” of the past decade and for the losing candidates to accept the result. “Reconciliation not only means putting aside historical enmities but also means the elite recognising that it is a minority.” (The Guardian)

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Forwarded by the Haiti Support Group – solidarity with the Haitian people’s struggle for human rights, participatory democracy and equitable development – since 1992 www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org

  
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