Nation awaits results of presidential poll

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: The United Nations has urged Haitians to remain calm as they await the results of last Sunday’s presidential run-off, cautioning that the country’s democratic future was at stake.

Preliminary results are due on March 31, with the final results expected to be released on April 16.

The long wait has raised fears that impatience and claims of an early victory in rival candidates’ camps could spark street protests in Port-au-Prince.

UN observers and Haitian election officials said turnout appeared to be larger than the chaotic first round on November 28 of last year, which was marred by violence and fraud.

“I’ve seen a lot of differences compared to November 28. Participation is greater,” said Edmond Mulet, head of the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH.

“In a democratic way the Haitian people fulfilled their obligation by voting massively and made their choice,” said Haiti Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) head Gaillot Dorsinvil.

Voters had a choice between pop star Michel Martelly and former First Lady Mirlande Manigat.

There are concerns that the long wait for the results could add to tensions, but the CEP said that the candidates had agreed not to make any declaration of victory or hold rallies until the first results were announced.

Sunday’s election was generally peaceful, despite the late opening of some polling stations and scattered incidents of violence. Clashes were isolated to the rural areas of Nord-Ouest and Artibonite, where police chief Mario Andresol reported that two people were killed as supporters of rival political factions shot at each other.

After delays at some polling stations caused by missing voting materials, the CEP extended voting by an hour.

However, Dorsinvil said reports of irregularities would have no impact on the electoral process as a whole.

There had been fears that the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide after seven years in exile in South Africa would destabilize the vote.

After arriving in Haiti last Friday, he criticized the exclusion of his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from the elections, which are also for the country’s legislature.

In addition to the presidential run-off elections, there was also voting for 76 out of the 99 departmental seats.

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