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Protesters Demand Haiti's Preval Leave Office Immediately

Haitians march in the streets of Port-au-Prince, to protest against the government, February 7, 2011
Haitians march in the streets of Port-au-Prince, to protest against the government, February 7, 2011

Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, to demand that President Rene Preval leave office immediately.

The protesters rallied in the city Monday as the government announced that President Preval will remain in office for three more months while the Caribbean nation chooses his successor.  Mr. Preval's chief of staff, Fritz Longchamp, told the Associated Press  that the president will leave office May 14.  

His term was scheduled to end Monday, but a runoff election to replace him will not take place until March 20.

Mr. Preval has faced criticism, in part, for his perceived inaction following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, which caused widespread destruction in the capital and left more than 200,000 people dead.  More than 1 million others were left homeless, and hundreds of thousands of people still live in tent cities.

An emergency law passed after last year's earthquake allowed President Preval to extend his term so that he could hand over power to an elected successor.

Mr. Preval's current term began in 2006.

Haitian election officials announced last week that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and popular singer Michel Martelly will face off in the March vote.

The electoral commission's announcement means ruling party candidate Jude Celestin is out of the race -- an outcome supported by the international community.  The final results of the disputed November election differ from preliminary results, which put Celestin in the runoff with Manigat.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.  It also is battling a deadly cholera outbreak.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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