Poor fight 'rigged' election in Haiti

 
Haiti news
 
The Daily Telegraph
<http://dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story/
0,20281,18146321-5001027,00.html >
 
February 14, 2006
 
 
Poor fight 'rigged' election
 
PORT-AU-PRINCE: Haiti erupted yesterday as the nation's poor voters accused officials of rigging a presidential election meant to bring peace to the troubled Caribbean island.

Witnesses said UN peacekeepers fired into a crowd of protesters in the capital Port-Au-Prince, killing at least two people.

A UN spokesman denied the accusation, saying the troops shot into the air.

The riot erupted as former president Rene Preval fell further below the 50 per cent needed to win the election.

The election was held peacefully last Tuesday – the first vote since Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kicked out by an armed rebellion two years ago.

Tensions have risen over recent days amid charges election officials were tampering with results to prevent Mr Preval from taking a first-round victory.

Like Mr Aristide, Mr Preval is viewed as a champion of the Caribbean country's poor masses, most of whom live on $1.36 a day.

But he is distrusted by the small wealthy elite who helped push Mr Aristide from power in February 2004.

"I walked miles to cast my vote last week and now these rich people need to respect it," screamed Noel Rolane in the Cite Soleil slum.

"If they want us to turn this whole country into a heap of ash, then that's what they're going to get."

Traffic ground to a halt and schools shut down.

The UN told its employees to stay home as demonstrators piled wrecked cars and tree branches in the streets.

With 90 per cent of the vote counted, the Provisional Electoral Council said Mr Preval had 48.7 per cent.

Facing grim UN police in blue helmets, the protesters shouted: "If you shoot, we will burn the (Montana) hotel."

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel peace laureate, appeared on a balcony of the Montana Hotel calling for calm.

Waving tree branches and twigs with three leaves representing Mr Preval's coalition known as "the Hope", protesters stormed through the lobby and along corridors.

Hundreds gathered on the pool deck and dozens jumped in, laughing and splashing.

When initial results were announced several days ago, Mr Preval held 61 per cent of the vote, comfortably over the 50 per cent plus one vote needed to avoid a run-off election on March 19.

The results had another ex-president, Leslie Manigat, at 11.8 per cent and the main candidate for the business elite, industrialist Charles Baker, third at 7.9 per cent.
 
 
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