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Rene Preval Wins Haiti's Presidential Election


After days of street protests and allegations of massive fraud, Haitian officials named Rene Preval the clear winner to last week's national elections. The February 7 elections were the first since former President Jean Bertrand Aristide fled the country following a violent uprising, two years ago. Jubilant crowds have taken to the streets.

After meeting with foreign ambassadors and international observers, late into Wednesday night, Haiti's interim government announced front-runner Rene Preval as the winner in the contested presidential race. The announcement came after midnight. Before dawn, Haitians were in the street celebrating.

Hundreds of people paraded in the street, singing with jubilation. Alexon Sylvis was part of the celebration.

"The demonstrations are over now," said Sylvis. "We are just going to show our happiness from now on. We will live with our brothers in peace, and we will thank God, now that we know who is running our country."

The government announcement came after more than four days of public protest in the capital and mounting allegations of election fraud. Monday, tens of thousands of protesters mounted demonstrations in the capital, burning tires, blocking roads and paralyzing the city. Demonstrators were protesting the delays in announcing the result and the falling percentage Mr. Preval was receiving in the announced vote count.

Tuesday, Mr. Preval told the media he believed there was massive fraud in the elections. Mr. Preval initially led the race with more than 61 percent of the vote. However, after 90 percent of the ballots were counted, his lead fell to 49 percent. He needed a simple majority plus one vote to win the presidency without going to a second round.

Tuesday afternoon, thousands of ballots were found burned and dumped at a trash site on the outskirts of the capital. Protesters once again took to the streets and demonstrated throughout the day, Wednesday. The interim government suspended the ballot count, pending an investigation.

The decision to declare Preval president now is likely to put an end to the continued protests. Brazilian diplomats led the effort to overcome the impasse, while the secretary general of the Organization of American States, the United Nations and ambassadors from the United States, Canada and Chile were also pushing for the deal.

Loopholes in electoral process allowed the election officials to eliminate 85,000 blank votes recorded in the initial vote count, changing Preval's lead from 49 percent to more than 51 percent of the vote.

UN officials say the details of the deal are still being negotiated.