Leading candidate Rene Preval says massive fraud or gross errors have been committed in Haiti's presidential election. It is Haiti's first election since former president Jean Bertrand Aristide was sent into exile following a violent uprising two years ago. UN officials are calling for calm after three days of protests demanding a final count.
Rene Preval says he wants the the will of the Haiti people to be respected. During a news conference in Port-au-Prince he said, "We are concerned about the situation in the streets, where there has been violence."
Barricades still block many streets in the capital city following Monday's demonstrations in which tens of thousands of angry voters protested delays in election results. The protesters are angry that their candidate, Preval, has 49-percent of the votes with 90-percent of the ballots counted.
Many say they think election workers and the international community are trying to steal the elections because they do not want Preval to win.
He needs a simple majority of 50-percent to win the presidency outright. Otherwise, he faces second place candidate Leslie Manigat in runoff elections next month. Manigat has only 12-percent of the vote.
International election observers have not reported serious irregularities.
But suspicion of election fraud spread through the political community as well. Third-place candidate Charles Baker and two election officials have separately made remarks to the press saying they suspect the voting irregularities, and want to launch an investigation.
U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst says these allegations are inflammatory, and do not help to stabilize the tense situation. "I think they are stirring up trouble. People are making gratuitous claims that are unfounded, and of course the people who voted for the number one candidate are being agitated, organized to go on these demonstrations and put up these roadblocks, and its causing chaos in the city and preventing MINUSTAH (U.N. stabilization force) from doing its work and the electoral machine from operating properly. Demonstrating is just slowing things down, it does not help at all," he said.
In New York, Security Council President John Bolton encouraged all parties to remain calm as the final results of the election are certified. He said the Security Council strongly urges all parties to respect the results of the election and refrain from violence.
Monday, thousands of protesters invaded a hotel where U.N. workers and Haitian election officials had set up a media center to announce the results. Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, who was was staying at the hotel, appeared on his balcony and appealed to the crowd to remain calm. U.N. helicopters evacuated guests off the roof of the hotel. After jumping in the pool and running around the hotel, the protesters left peacefully. The hotel has since ordered the U.N. and election officials to close the media center, and vacate the premises.
One person was reported killed during the demonstrations. Witnesses say U.N. troops fired into a crowd, killing one and allegedly wounding others. But U.N. officials deny this, saying the peacekeepers fired two warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd.
Preval was president of Haiti from 1996 to 2001, and is seen as a close ally of exiled president Aristide. Many people who voted for Preval say he is Arisitide's "twin", and expect that with Preval as president, Aristide will return from his exile in South Africa. Analysts say Preval was greatly influenced by Aristide during his first term. Preval says he intends to be his own man.
Preval met late Monday with the top U.N. officials and ambassadors from the United States, France, Canada and Brazil.
Brazilian Ambassador Paolo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto said in a statement afterward that it is very important to reassure the Haitian people that their votes will be counted correctly.
He says, we are confident that the vote count is transparent, and we ask the Haitian people, who were a remarkable example to the world on February 7, to stay calm. He adds, the international community is here to oversee this process and intend to help peace and stability return to this country.
Officials say they hope to release final results within the next 24 hours.