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December 9th, 2010
12:41 PM ET

After quake and cholera, politics brings new turmoil in Haiti

Jessica Desvarieux
TIME

The longstanding credibility issues of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) continued on Tuesday, when it announced preliminary election results that gave second place — and a place on a runoff ballot on January 16 — to President Rene Preval's hand-picked candidate, Jude Celestin. International observer groups maintain that Celestin had, in fact, finished third behind opposition candidate Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly. After an election marred by widespread reports of fraud, many Haitians took to the streets to make it clear whom they were believing, and it wasn't the CEP.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/12/09/art.afpgetty_haitielex.jpg caption="Protesters have taken to the streets of Haiti by the thousands, angry with Tuesday's election results."]

The resulting wrath, especially among Martelly supporters, led to gunfire and left the streets of Port-au-Prince choked by' roadblocks and burning tires on Wednesday, while the headquarters of the ruling INITE (Unity) Party was set on fire. Preval, widely criticized for his aloof response to January's massive earthquake that killed 230,000 people, called for calm; but the unrest shut down the capital's airport. With more than a million Haitians still homeless after the quake, and with a cholera epidemic so far claiming 2,100 more lives, the nation is in no mood to tolerate what many suspect is government-engineered fraud. "All the money Celestin spent on his campaign, he could have [bought us new homes]," says protester Dadil Jean-Pierre, 21. "INITE has been in power for too long, and they haven't done anything for us with their power."

According to the CEP, opposition candidate Mirlande Manigat, a 70-year-old constitutional law professor and former First Lady, finished first with 31% of the vote, followed by engineer Celestin, 48, with 22.5% and Martelly, 49, with 21.8%. That razor-thin margin, representing fewer than 7,000 votes, has provoked widespread skepticism, since independent organizations such as the European Union-financed National Election Observation Council (CNO), which placed more than 5,500 monitors at 15% of Haiti's polling stations, estimated that Martelly won closer to 25% and Celestin about 20%.

Even the U.S., which contributed $14 million to the election effort, says it's worried that the CEP's results are "inconsistent" with those of credible international watchdogs, and urged that the results reflect "the will of the people". And while the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), which jointly monitored the election, said they considered the vote valid, they warned that the CEP results "are preliminary and therefore not the final word on the outcome of the first round," which are scheduled to be released on Dec. 20.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Haiti
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Marie

    Dear Anderson,
    Since after the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, I developped an appreciation for the kind of work that you are doing. I trust your integrity as a journalist. Do you have any idea about what's going on in Haiti right now? What's the role of the UN? Will Haiti ever become what it was before? Will Haitians who miss Haiti ever get the chance to go back to live in their country? Who is benefitting from Haiti's constant turmoil? It is surely not the Haitian people.....

    December 9, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
  2. Vesta

    Anderson, With all the past allegations of fraud by the Haitian government, I guess we shouldn't be surprised by the questionable election results so far. The Haitian people's outrage is justified.

    December 9, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  3. John Moore - PA

    These people have never has anything close to reasonable government. It seems we and others have continually poured in money and assistance but never ensured it was properly used. Unless the world installs an interim government made up of suitable individuals things will not get better.

    December 9, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  4. John Anderson

    Anderson, Why is it that Sean Penn is getting things done and we hear nothing about the USA involvement in moving money, technology, and A&E to Haiti! We can build with computer schedules that tell us when a project will complete design and when construction will be be completed, and here we cannot take action. Where is Bechtel and the other big shot international builders that build complete cities for middle east oil states? These people are our nieghbor and we should and can do more. LET KEEP THEM HONEST.

    December 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  5. Regine Colen

    Anderson please please check on what is going on in Haiti.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  6. Gabriel

    The Haitian government did not do anything for the poor and destitute people of Haiti. Five years of negative performance by René Préval led to the switch of his former partisans to the other most popular candidates (Martelly and Manigat). Because he violated the constitution in so many ways he is afraid of trouble after his presidency so he used the Electoral Council to push his protégé to power. Stealing Martelly's vote is not the only thing that he is doing, if the people let him get away with that he will steal the présidency for Jude Célestin as well.

    The people of Haiti refuses to swallow this one and it will be a tough one for Préval. The fraud goes on and the Haitian people are fed up. Maybe Anderson, you should try to interview Préval with NO RESTRICTIONS in your questions and ask him if he has ordered the CEP to lie about the results.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm |