Candidates allege election fraud in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - Haiti's much-anticipated presidential election ended Sunday as broken as the buildings around the capital city, with protests flaring across the country and nearly all the major candidates calling for the results to be tossed out amid "massive fraud."
The day's events took a sharp turn toward chaos before the polls closed, when 12 of the 19 candidates on Sunday's ballot appeared together at a raucous afternoon news conference to accuse the government of President Rene Preval of trying to steal the election and install his chosen candidate, Jude Celestin.
"We are asking the men and women of Haiti to organize peacefully against the Preval government," their statement read. "We are asking everyone to mobilize."
The candidates said they would meet Monday to discuss their next move.
Sunday's fraud allegations sent U.S. officials, foreign observers and humanitarian organizations scrambling to salvage the election process, which had been billed as a critical step toward installing a legitimate government that could oversee the earthquake-devastated country's reconstruction and manage billions in still-undelivered foreign aid.
Foreign governments and international groups have pledged about $5 billion in additional aid since the Jan. 12 earthquake. They are waiting to see whether Haiti will have a legitimate government capable of administering those funds and rebuilding the country. More than a million people are living in tent camps, and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 1,500 and sickened about 25,000.
But after a day of widespread confusion, frustration and boisterous political drama, Haiti's attempt at a unifying political process appeared hopelessly flawed.
"There are high-level discussions with all partners going on about what has happened and what will happen," said Vicenzo Pugliese, a spokesman for the United Nation mission. "Let's see what the outcome of the dialogue is."
Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said the elections went "well" at most of the country's more than 11,000 polling stations but acknowledged "some problems," according to Reuters.
"The CEP is comfortable with the vote," council President Gaillot Dorsainvil said.
By sundown, crowds of young people were marching through downtown amid the sprawling tent camps and ruins as edgy U.N. soldiers in armored vehicles circled nearby.
Supporters of musician-turned-presidential candidate Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly beat drums and danced and chanted that they'd been paid to vote for Celestin but picked Martelly. Earlier, in nearby Petionville, singer Wyclef Jean joined in another Martelly rally. Jean had been ruled ineligible to run himself.