Protests and clashes as Haitians await vote results

2010-12-06 07:54

Hundreds of people yesterday protested against recent elections in Haiti, and a police official said several were killed in factional clashes in the week since the vote.

“We have counted five bodies from the clashes in the Grand-Ravine district south of the capital... but there must be more,” a national police inspector told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“We have heard gunfire since November 27,” the eve of the vote, he added.

Election commission head Pierre Louis Opont said it would release the initial results of the vote today or tomorrow, as Haitians hoped for new leaders who could rebuild the western hemisphere’s poorest country.

Candidates and opposition leaders have meanwhile mounted protests in the capital accusing President Rene Preval’s government of rigging elections in the earthquake-smashed country that is fighting a growing cholera epidemic.

“Arrest Rene Preval! Dismiss the provisional electoral council!” the protesters shouted on Sunday as they neared the presidential palace, which was destroyed by a massive January earthquake that killed 250?000 people.

“It was not an election, but a selection... Jude Celestin’s men stuffed the ballot boxes,” one protester said about Sunday’s vote, referring to the governing party’s candidate.

They also chanted against Edmond Mulet, head of the UN mission in Haiti, which is widely accused of having brought the cholera that has killed nearly 1,900 people since mid-October and compounded the country’s woes.

Opponents of the march heckled them until riot police moved in to break up the anti-Preval protestors with tear gas. In the ensuing melee a UN truck holding Brazilian peacekeepers was pelted with rocks.

International observers said the election was credible despite incidents of violence, fraud and other mishaps, but several candidates have accused Preval loyalists of rigging the vote for his preferred candidate.

The final results are expected on December 20 with a likely mid-January runoff between leading contenders.

Haitian health officials, meanwhile, said nearly 1?900 people had died from cholera, a diarrhoea disease that has spread rapidly in the weeks since it broke out in northern Haiti.

Nearly 76?000 cases have been reported, including more than 35?000 people hospitalised.?

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