Haiti president should be exiled for fraud, says populist candidate

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The Independent US

The most populist candidate in the Haitian election claimed yesterday that he had been declared winner by the voters and demanded that the country's president should be forced into exile for "being responsible for massive fraud" at the polls.

Michel Martelly, a former jazz singer, warned that his followers would not accept being "cheated" out of their constitutional rights after the Election Council rejected a call from him and other opposition figures to annul the elections.

In a day of rising tension and sporadic violence, Wyclef Jean, the US based hip-hop artiste, maintained that there would be unprecedented strife within 24 hours unless an independent international body carried out an investigation. The row complicated hopes of achieving a stable government to lead the country's recovery from the devastating earthquake in January that left 250,000 dead.

Mr Jean said: "The people are already rising and we shall see violence on a scale never seen before" if the polls are allowed to stand.

Such a decision will also have highly damaging effect for Haiti internationally, Mr Jean added, with donors becoming unwilling to release the billions of dollars which have been pledged in aid. Mr Jean had run a successful campaign before being barred from the contest by the Election Council – widely perceived to be under the control of the outgoing President René Préval – for not being a Haitian resident for the last five years.

The majority of Mr Jean's supporters are believed to have switched to Mr Martelly, and the two men took part in a protest march on Sunday following widespread complaints of ballot stuffing and intimidation. Mr Martelly insisted that Jude Celestin, the government candidate chosen as successor by President Préval, who cannot stand for a third term under the constitution, should also be thrown out the country.

Mr Celestin, who lives with the president's daughter, has been a key figure in orchestrating the electoral malpractice, said Mr Martelly: "The regime of Preval and his chicken Celestin has brought nothing but misery to this country. The people are tired of being hungry and thirsty and having no jobs. We say to them go out of Haiti now, and we should ensure that this happens."

Mr Martelly accused the Election Council of upholding an illegitimate election and ignoring the choice of the people with a warning that his followers may take matters into their own hands.

The Council had originally stated that it would issue preliminary results by Sunday evening, however this has been changed to Wednesday. Under the rules, the two candidates with the highest backing would take part in a run-off in mid-January.

The Organisation of African States, which had sent election monitors to Haiti, yesterday announced that it was in the process of analysing incidents recorded by its teams and will be issuing a report. The United Nations mission in the country expressed concern about reports of malpractice.

The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research called Sunday's elections in Haiti "an obvious farce", with "numerous irregularities" including apparent ballot stuffing.

"The international community should reject these elections and affirm support for democratic institutions in Haiti," said Mark Weisbrot, the center's co-director. "Otherwise, Haiti could be left with a government that is widely seen as illegitimate."

Pablo Alvarez, a political analyst, said: "This has distinct echoes of the elections in Afghanistan. Here too we have a state entirely dependent on the West for its economic survival with a deeply flawed electoral process... This is an opportunity for the US and its allies to help try and clean up the politics in Haiti. Failure to do this would almost certainly mean that there will be a lot of violence and we shall get a deeply divided society."