Supporters celebrate Preval win

HAITIANS celebrated in the streets yesterday as word quickly spread that Rene Preval will be Haiti’s next president.

A former Haitian leader with a huge following among the poor, Mr Preval was declared the winner of the February 7 election after thousands of blank ballots were subtracted from the count, giving him a 51.15% of the votes.

His closest rival, Leslie Manigat, accused election officials of breaking the rules to give Mr Preval a first-round victory instead of forcing the two into a run-off. Mr Manigat, who like Mr Preval is a former president, had about 12% of the vote.

“The right of a second round of elections is inscribed in the election rules,” said Mr Manigat, who wouldn’t say if he would register a formal complaint.

Mr Preval had been just shy of the 50.1% margin until election and government officials decided yesterday to subtract some of the 85,000 blank ballots cast from the total vote, giving Mr Preval a majority, said Michel Brunache, chief of cabinet for interim President Boniface Alexandre.

The interim government, Mr Brunache said, had concluded that ballot-stuffing and other forms of fraud had occurred.

“It was obvious that the people had massively made a choice, and that we needed to make sure that choice was respected,” he said.

The election is crucial to avoiding a political and economic meltdown in the destitute Caribbean nation.

Mr Preval, who was once allied with ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide, vowed to challenge the ruling if there was a run-off.

Haiti has been impoverished since the world’s only successful slave rebellion forced out the French.

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