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Haiti officials will recount disputed vote

Decision made after protests roiled capital

By Jonathan M. Katz
Associated Press / December 10, 2010

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The electoral council will recount the vote in Haiti’s disputed election in view of election monitors and potentially of the three leading candidates themselves, the council president said yesterday.

The decision follows rioting sparked by the announcement that Jude Celestin, the government-backed candidate, and former first lady Mirlande Manigat were poised to enter a January runoff, while entertainer Michel “Sweet Micky’’ Martelly had apparently been narrowly eliminated.

Council president Gaillot Dorsainvil said on Haitian radio yesterday that tally sheets would be recounted with international observers and electoral officials.

“Given the evident dissatisfaction of many voters, protests, and violence that followed the publication of preliminary results,’’ the Provisional Electoral Council has decided to start a recount immediately, he said.

Dorsainvil said it would be overseen by a commission including the electoral council, domestic and foreign observers, and the three main candidates if they wish.

There was no immediate reaction from the campaigns.

Nearly all 19 candidates, all of whom received votes on the Nov. 28 ballot, have said fraud tainted the results. A coalition of at least 10 candidates reiterated their call yesterday for the vote to be thrown out.

The US Embassy has also said the preliminary results appeared to conflict with reports from observers who monitored the count.

Martelly’s supporters again paralyzed streets in the capital yesterday, piling earthquake rubble into barricades and squaring off with police and UN peacekeepers. On Wednesday, Martelly told his supporters to continue demonstrating, and a campaign manager said he would legally challenge the announced results.

Radio Signal-FM reported that a group of armed men posing as a musical group fired on a crowd on the Champ de Mars, injuring several people and killing as many as three. A witness confirmed that shooting had occurred and said several people were killed.

Radio Kiskeya had said earlier in an unconfirmed report that at least four demonstrators were killed — three in Les Cayes, about 120 miles west of Port-au-Prince in the country’s southern peninsula, and one in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

The protests arise mostly from widespread anger at President Rene Preval, much of it redirected at his preferred successor, Celestin, the head of the state-run construction company. Protesters set fire to the headquarters of Preval’s Unity party, traded blows with UN peacekeepers, and shut down the country’s lone international airport.

Backed by supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president who had been ousted two years before, Preval was swept into office in 2006 when widespread rioting forced the cancellation of a second-round vote through a compromise that gave him more than 50 percent of the vote.

Those supporters turned on him when he failed to bring Aristide, his former mentor, back from South African exile or improve the economy. His popularity bottomed out when Preval disappeared from public sight after the Jan. 12 earthquake and presided over a stalled reconstruction that has helped few people regain homes or income.

Meanwhile, scientists yesterday reported the strongest evidence yet that a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people in Haiti can be traced to South Asia.

The analysis fits with, but does not prove, the controversial idea that the disease came from UN troops dispatched from that region.

DNA analysis found that cholera bacteria recovered in Haiti were nearly identical to strains predominant in South Asia and different from those found in Latin America, researchers said.

That indicates that cholera was introduced by people, rather than arriving through ocean currents or arising within Haiti, as has been suggested, said Harvard researcher Dr. Matthew Waldor.

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