Leading article: The right result

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Delays in announcing the results of elections, no less than delays in holding them, invariably raise suspicions of manipulation, fraud and worse. With last week's presidential election in Haiti, both strictures apply. The votes in this much-postponed election took more than a week to count, amid persistent charges of malpractice.

Yet in many ways this election passed off better than it might have done. There was a large turn-out and little disorder. Whatever took place between the closing of polling stations and yesterday's declaration - the discovery of completed ballot papers on rubbish dumps offers one indication - may be best passed over in silence. The result was the right one. Joyous crowds greeted the declaration of the populist, Rene Preval, as this troubled country's next president.

The recognition of Mr Preval's victory probably staves off open unrest for now. Regarded as the heir of Haiti's deposed former president, Jean-Baptiste Aristide, Mr Preval has an electoral mandate and popular goodwill behind him. This improves the atmosphere, but it will not by itself solve Haiti's many pressing problems - from the grinding poverty and acute social tensions to a glaring absence of civil rights.

For the relative calm to continue, two things need to happen right away: an orderly investigation into the conduct of the election, preferably under the aegis of the Organisation of American States, and recognition by Washington of Mr Preval as president. The White House said beforehand that it was prepared to work with whoever won the election. It must honour that promise, even if it would have preferred another result.

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