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Latest update : 2011-02-03

Former First Lady Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly will contest the second round of Haiti’s disputed presidential election, authorities announced Thursday, eliminating government-backed candidate Jude Celestin from the race.

REUTERS - Haiti's former First Lady Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly will contest a presidential election second round run-off on March 20, members of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council told Reuters on Thursday.

The long-awaited definitive results from the chaotic Nov. 28 presidential and legislative elections in the poor, earthquake-battered Caribbean nation were revealed by two council members and a council lawyer ahead of an official announcement. They asked not to be named.

The results were in line with a recommendation by Organization of American States (OAS) electoral experts, strongly backed by the United States and western donors, to place Martelly in the deciding presidential run-off instead of government-backed candidate Jude Celestin.

At the electoral council offices in Port-au-Prince guarded by United Nations and Haitian police, frustration among waiting local and foreign journalists had mounted through the night as the authorities failed to deliver on an original commitment to announce the results on Wednesday.

Manigat had gained the most first-round votes but not enough to win outright. The United States and the United Nations had piled pressure on Haiti's leaders and electoral authorities to accept the OAS recommendation in Martelly's favor.

OAS experts had cited irregularities in the preliminary tallies to recommend a revision. Martelly supporters rioted in December when initial results from the electoral council put Celestin in the run-off.

On Wednesday, amid fears of possible violence over the awaited election results, many banks, businesses and schools in Port-au-Prince closed early. The United Nations and its agencies, as well as embassies, warned employees and citizens to be alert.

Adding to the already nervous political atmosphere is the possible return of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has asked the government for a diplomatic passport so he can come home from exile in South Africa.

Several hundred pro-Aristide protesters demonstrated on Wednesday outside the Foreign Ministry to demand Aristide be issued a passport.

Washington and Western donors, who are trying to keep the contentious presidential election on track, are wary that Aristide's return could inflame Haiti's fractious politics.

The firebrand leftist ex-Roman Catholic priest retains a passionate following in Haiti. He became Haiti's first freely elected president in 1990 before being ousted by an armed revolt in 2004.

Outgoing President Rene Preval's mandate formally ends on Monday, but he has parliament approval to stay on if necessary until May 14 so he can hand over to an elected successor.

The poorest state in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is struggling to recover with foreign help from a devastating 2010 earthquake and is also fighting a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 4,000 people.

Date created : 2011-02-03


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