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Haitians Protest to Demand Election Results


In Haiti, protesters filled the streets of Port-au-Prince Monday, demanding the results from last week's national elections, the first since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile in 2004.

Helicopters circled overhead, as thousands of demonstrators demanded election officials declare front-runner Rene Preval president. Protesters dragged the carcasses of cars into the road, and burned tires, blocking all the major arteries of the city.

Junior Masse, a resident of Petionville, a slightly upscale neighborhood of the city, said he is protesting what he thinks is a fraudulent election.

"Something strange is happening here," he said. "We won't negotiate at all, unless Preval is president. Everyone here voted, and now we want the results. They don't give them, so, we had to take the streets."

Many city residents who voted for Preval say they suspect that election officials and the international community have tampered with the vote, to prevent Preval from becoming president. Preval was president in Haiti from 1996-2001. He is widely popular among Haiti's urban poor, and is seen as a close ally of exiled former President Aristide.

One day following last Tuesday's elections, officials released partial results showing Preval in the lead with 61 percent of the vote. But, as more ballots arrived from rural areas, Preval's lead slipped to 49 percent, with over 90 percent of the ballots counted. He needs a simple majority of just over 50 percent to avoid a runoff election next month, with second place candidate Leslie Manigat.

Preval and two electoral officials say they want to launch an investigation for voter fraud.

But David Wimhurst, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, says allegations of fraud are unfounded.

"We have not heard of any official complaints of fraud or manipulation of the system," he said. "It is really important that people who say that to the media, is that the only way to proceed with voter fraud - if there are any - is to write it down, and make a proper complaint to the CEP, for the procedures can be undertaken. It doesn't serve anybody's purpose to make broad general claims through the media, there's no proof. The allegations are unfounded."

Wimhurst says he hopes Haitians can remain calm, wait for the election results to be released, probably by Tuesday, and accept the final results peacefully.

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