Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Fraud claims add tension to delayed Haitian poll results


Eight days after the international community hailed Haiti's election, the painfully slow vote count was bogged down yesterday by claims of fraud, protests and delays.

And Haitians will likely have to wait a little longer for the outcome to be announced, after a commission was formed to probe former president Rene Preval's claims of "massive fraud or gross errors."

Preval rejected results based on 90 percent of the voting stations that gave him 48.76 percent of the vote, which leaves him short of the majority he needs to win outright in the first round despite a massive lead over his 31 rivals.

The presidency indicated the final outcome of the Feb. 7 election would not be announced until completion of the probe to be conducted by Preval's party and electoral authorities with the government acting as referee.

Speaking after the UN Security Council and the US and French governments urged Haitians to respect the outcome, the frontrunner said he had explained his position to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan over the telephone.

"We are convinced that we will win in the first round," said Preval, 63, who was president from 1996 to 2001 and who enjoys strong support among the millions of impoverished Haitians.

Local media reported that several ballot boxes were found in a garbage dump outside Port-au-Prince. Television showed pictures of angry Haitians holding up ballots and complaining of fraud.

Preval encouraged his supporters to continue demonstrating their rejection of the partial results, but urged them to do so peacefully and within the law.

Comparatively small groups of demonstrators took to the streets on Tuesday, in sharp contrast with massive protests the previous three days. On Monday, Preval supporters took over the streets of the capital.

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