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Preval declared winner in Haiti polls
by ALJ
Thursday Feb 16th, 2006 8:02 AM
Haiti’s interim government and election officials have reached an agreement to declare Rene Preval the winner of the country’s presidential election.

"We have reached a solution to the problem," said Max Mathurin, president of the Provisional Electoral Council. "We feel a huge satisfaction at having liberated the country from a truly difficult situation."

Gerard Latortue, the prime minister, said: "We acknowledge the final decision of the electoral council and salute the election of Mr. Rene Preval as president of the republic of Haiti."

There was no reaction visible in the streets of the capital in the pre-dawn hours on Thursday.

The election last week had triggered massive street protests by backers of Preval, who said fraud was being carried out to deprive him of the 50% plus one vote needed for a first-round victory.

Preval, an agricultural scientist and former president, will replace Jean-Bertrand Aristide, his former mentor, who was ousted in a bloody rebellion two years ago.

Blank votes

With 90% of ballots counted, Preval had been just shy of the 50% margin needed for a first-round election win. But under the agreement, some of the blank votes - representing 4% of the estimated 2.2 million ballots cast - were subtracted from the total number of votes counted, giving Preval the majority, said Michel Brunache, chief of cabinet for Boniface Alexandre, the interim president.

"Preval wins with 51.15%," Brunache said after the meeting ended. "On 7 February, the people made a choice. It is a historic day."

A popularly elected government with a clear mandate is seen as crucial to avoiding a political and economic meltdown in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. Gangs have gone on kidnapping sprees and factories have closed for lack of security.

The agreement capped a tense nine days since Haitians began turning out in droves to elect a new government for this impoverished Caribbean nation. They almost overwhelmed election workers by their numbers. When election returns were slow in coming, suspicion built that the vote count was being rigged.

At least one Preval supporter died in largely peaceful street protests. Preval claimed on Tuesday that "massive fraud or gross errors" had been committed and he had vowed to challenge the results if officials had insisted on holding a March run-off.

by BBC (reposted)
Thursday Feb 16th, 2006 8:03 AM
Rene Preval has been declared president of Haiti, following last week's vote marred by claims of irregularities.

He gained 51% of the vote after the authorities reached a last-minute deal to remove thousands of blank ballot papers from the count.

The 7 February vote triggered big rallies by Mr Preval's supporters, who had alleged widespread vote-rigging.

Jubilant crowds have poured into the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, to celebrate Mr Preval's victory.

UN peacekeepers are stepping up security in the city to prevent any rioting by opponents of the winner, reports say.

The UN Security Council earlier this week renewed the mandate of its 9,500-strong mission in Haiti for at least another six months.

Crisis talks

Mr Preval was credited with 51.15% of the votes, based on 96% of voting stations counted, the electoral body chief announced.

"Rene Preval... is declared the winner," Max Mathurin said.

His comments came after officials agreed to subtract more than 80,000 blank votes - or just over 4% of the total tally - from the election, taking Mr Preval over the winning threshold.

The decision followed late-night talks between the electoral council, the interim government and the Organization of American States.

Correspondents say the authorities were keen to avoid further violence over the allegations of electoral fraud.

The agreement follows days of protests, fuelled by the apparent discovery of charred ballot papers at a dump near Port-au-Prince.

Fraud inquiry

Mr Preval had warned of more protests if partial results - which would require a run-off if confirmed - were published as final.

The politician insisted he had won the vote, but partial results suggested he was just short of the 50% needed to be elected outright.

Haiti's interim government had earlier blocked publication of results until an inquiry into the fraud allegations was complete.

The UN Security Council has called on the Haitian authorities "to fully investigate those charges".

Haiti - the poorest country in the Americas - was also choosing a 129-member parliament on 7 February.

Poor following

The candidate of the small L'Espwa (The Hope) party, Mr Preval was once an ally of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and has inherited his following among the poor.

An agronomist who studied in Belgium, Mr Preval was active in the movement to oust military ruler Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier during the 1970s.

Mr Preval was prime minister for a brief period in Mr Aristide's first administration in the early 1990s.

He replaced Mr Aristide as president between 1996 and 2001. The political situation began to deteriorate by the end of his term.
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