Field cut to 2 in Haiti presidential race

Violence erupts with 3d candidate less than 1% back

Supporters of carnival singer Michel Martelly protested in Port-au-Prince when results were announced yesterday. Supporters of carnival singer Michel Martelly protested in Port-au-Prince when results were announced yesterday. (AFP Photo/AFP/Getty Images)
By Jonathan M. Katz
Associated Press / December 8, 2010

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Government-backed candidate Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat will advance to a second round of presidential voting in Haiti, electoral officials announced yesterday as furious protests broke out in the capital.

The matter might not be settled in the race to lead a country racked by a cholera epidemic and still recovering from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

Preliminary results from the Nov. 28 election, which has been plagued by allegations of fraud, have popular carnival singer Michel “Sweet Micky’’ Martelly trailing Celestin by about 6,800 votes — less than 1 percent.

The head of the joint Organization of American States-Caribbean Community mission has said that officials could consider putting a third candidate in the run-off if the vote is nearly tied.

Martelly had said that he would not accept a spot in a run-off in which Celestin is present. His campaign had no immediate comment. It called a press conference for late last night but later canceled it for security reasons.

An appeals period runs through Friday, with final results expected to be announced around Dec. 20. The run-off is scheduled for Jan. 16.

After the results were released last night, flaming barricades were set up near the Petionville restaurant where the tallies were announced. Martelly supporters threw rocks at people passing nearby and gunshots rang out.

“If they don’t give us Martelly and Manigat, Haiti will be on fire,’’ said a protester, Erick Jean. “We’re still living under tents and Celestin wastes money on election posters.’’

Merchants and residents had braced for rioting by supporters of the losing candidates before the results were announced.

Turnout in the presidential race was low: Just over a million voters cast accepted ballots out of some 4.7 million registered.

Officials acknowledged the rolls were both “bloated’’ and “incomplete,’’ with hundreds of thousands of earthquake dead still registered and many living voters either still waiting for identification cards or being turned away at the polls.

Candidates criticized the vote for disorganization, incidents of fraud, and violence.

But the UN peacekeepers and OAS-Caricom mission observer mission said the problems did not invalidate the vote.

Manigat, 70, a law professor, is the wife of former Haitian president Leslie Manigat, who served in the late 1980s after a much-criticized election before being deposed by a coup.

Celestin, little known before the election, heads a state-run construction firm and is the candidate of outgoing President Rene Preval’s Unity party.

Martelly was a dark horse who gained credibility in the days before the vote. top stories on Twitter

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