Riots follow Haiti's election amid allegations of fraud

The aftermath of Haiti's election continued on its chaotic course yesterday with international monitors validating the polls even as candidates produced further evidence of widespread fraud.

Popular discontent at the conduct of the polls was evident across the country with shootings in rural areas and a protest march by hundreds of people in the capital, Port-au-Prince, broken up by police firing tear gas rounds.

However the common front by the presidential hopefuls in calling for the election to be cancelled appeared to be fracturing after two of them, Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, backtracked from the call. Mr Martelly, a 49-year-old former kompa jazz singer also known as "Sweet Micky", insisted that the voters had declared him the winner and his supporters would not accept being "cheated" out of their choice.

Mrs Manigat, the 70-year-old wife of a former president and a Sorbonne graduate, said she had a "good chance of winning" and was now prepared to take part in a second round run-off scheduled for mid-January.

Jean-Henri Céant, representing the Lavalas Party of the former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said: "What Michel Martelly and Mrs Manigat said was wrong and will damage what we were trying to achieve. The correct thing to do would be to cancel the election which was full of malpractice."

The United Nations mission in Haiti, (Minustah), which had helped to administer the polls, stated its "deep concern at the numerous incidents that marred the elections". But observers from two regional groups maintained that the process had worked, despite evidence of violent intimidation and ballot stuffing.

The only candidate not to have alleged fraud in the voting, Jude Celestin, the chosen successor of the outgoing president, René Préval, said the view of the international observers reinforced the verdict of the Election Council and showed that everything possible had been done to ensure a fair result.

The developments added to the disillusionment being experienced by many of the voters in a country shattered by the devastating earthquake of last January and an ongoing cholera epidemic.

At Cité Soleil, a ghetto in Port-au-Prince, Fabrice Walter, an unemployed carpenter, said: "All they want to do is hide the scandal. The foreigners do not have the interest of the Haitian at heart. This shows that the only way for us to have our voices heard is out on the streets and that is what we will be doing."

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