Port-au-Prince burns as election fury takes hold

Protesters question legitimacy of president's chosen candidate.

Violence broke out across Haiti yesterday with the headquarters of the ruling government coalition set on fire after crowds protested against election results widely regarded as fraudulent.

Thousands took to the streets, putting up barricades and setting fires, prompting the outgoing President Rene Preval to call for calm.

The unrest began after the country's election council, perceived to be under the influence of Mr Preval, ruled that populist candidate Michel Martelly had not gained enough votes in the polls to qualify for a second round run-off.

Instead the council declared that Mr Martelly had been beaten into third place by Jude Celestin, the successor chosen by President Preval, who cannot run for a third term under the constitution.

The president urged his rivals to call off the protests in a live radio speech. "This is not how the country is supposed to work," he said. "People are suffering because of all the damage."

After initial clashes the police in the capital, Port-au-Prince, appeared to have abandoned the streets to large groups of people, many of them armed, chanting: "Hang Preval".

Protests also broke out in Les Cayes, Cap-Haitien and other cities.

UN troops fired shots in the air in an attempt to disperse demonstrators who had gathered outside the Election Council headquarters in the wealthy suburb of Petionville.

However, the soldiers – who have been blamed for a cholera epidemic sweeping the country – were keeping a low profile. Barricades of burning tyres and abandoned vehicles were set up along roads flanked by crumbled remains of buildings from last January's devastating earthquake. Aid workers and foreign diplomats stayed indoors – protected by security guards – and the capital's airport was shut down after a number of airlines cancelled flights to the country.

Even in the hours before the announcement of the results, the general expectation was that the two candidates with the highest backing would be Mr Martelly, a 49-year-old former kompa jazz singer also known as 'Sweet Mickey' and Mirlande Manigat, the 70-year-old wife of a former president.

However the results, announced by a visibly trembling election official at a Port-au-Prince restaurant late on Tuesday, credited Mrs Manigat with 31 per cent of the votes, Mr Celestin with 22 per cent and Mr Martelly with 21.84 per cent.

Groups of youths, some masked, began to appear soon afterwards in locations throughout Port-au-Prince, with police trying to break up the groups with tear gas rounds.

One of the protesters, Jacques Morgeau, said: "They are trying to cheat the people. Celestin spent lots of money trying to buy votes but the people rejected him. Now they are trying to steal the election."

Fellow protester Daniel Ramirez, added: "We now know that they will never let go of power peacefully, so we must fight, that is the only way, we shall fight for as long as it takes, we shall burn the place if we have to, but Martelly must be president." Mr Martelly cancelled a press conference scheduled for Tuesday night on security grounds and refused to make any comments until he had spoken to his advisers.

The 28 November election was plagued by allegations of fraud. Thousands of voters were disenfranchised by confusion on the rolls and there were many reported incidents of ballot-stuffing, violence and intimidation.

Turnout was low, according to the preliminary results, as just over a million people cast accepted ballots out of some 4.7 million registered voters. It is not known how many ballots were thrown out for fraud.

Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organisation of American States which had sent monitors to the polls, urged the candidates and their supporters to remain peaceful: "There is always a process for appealing the results; always other channels. It is essential this is the path which is followed," he said.

The United Nations mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and a joint Organisation of American States/Caribbean Community election observer mission had given an initial endorsement of the vote, despite acknowledging irregularities. But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the malpractice was "more serious than initially thought" and called on Haiti's leadership and election candidates to negotiate a "Haitian solution" to avert violence.

The US also expressed its concern at the "inconsistent" presidential election results, while urging calm from the public.

A statement issued by the embassy said: "The United States, together with Haiti's international community partners, stands ready to support efforts to thoroughly review irregularities in support of electoral results that are consistent with the will of the Haitian people expressed in their votes." Mr Celestin's poll showing, the statement added, was "inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council (CNO) election-day observations by official US observers and vote counts observed around the country by numerous domestic and international observers."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before