Haiti was dealt another pair of blows this week, between news that a cholera outbreak could likely be traced back to UN peacekeepers and protests over election results. With no candidate winning the requisite majority of the vote, Haitians will choose their next president by casting ballots in a January 16 runoff. But some voters aren’t happy with the results from the November 28 election, which was tainted by fraud allegations; governing party candidate Jude Celestín edged out pop star Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly by less than a percentage point and will face former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the second round. The ruling party felt protesters’ wrath on Wednesday when its headquarters were set on fire. The December 7 election results coincided with news that a report leaked to the Associated Press linked UN peacekeepers from Nepal to a cholera outbreak that has, thus far, claimed 2,000 lives in Haiti.
Results released by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) show Manigat with 31.37 percent of the vote compared to second-place Célestin’s 22.48 percent. There was little surprise that long-time opposition leader Manigat took the top spot, given that she had been pegged as the frontrunner. But many observers believed she would be matched up against Martelly, who won 21.84 percent of ballots and came in just behind Célestin, who was endorsed by President René Préval. “[W]ith just 0.64 percentage points separating Célestin, 48, and Martelly, 49, the road to the presidency may not be that clear cut,” reports The Miami Herald. Candidates have three days to contest the results.
That protests broke out was of little surprise; before polls even closed on November 28, a majority of presidential candidates rejected the election as fraudulent. Observers expressed concern over “irregularities” at the polls while critics worried over ties between the CEP and the Préval government. With tension brewing, the UN had urged Haitians to wait for the results before disputing them. But, with the EU-backed National Election Observation Council predicting a different election outcome, the U.S. Embassy to Haiti said it would “support efforts to thoroughly review irregularities in support of electoral results that are consistent with the will of the Haitian people.”
On Tuesday night, demonstrators not only protested the CEP’s vote outcome, but also showed outrage over news that UN peacekeepers may well have sparked the cholera outbreak that has, thus far, claimed some 2,000 lives and sickened 100,000 people. A paper authored by a French epidemiologist points to Nepalese peacekeepers as the source, though UN officials called the report “inconclusive.” Get updates about the cholera outbreak from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
- An AS/COA hemispheric update explores who’s who of the country’s major presidential candidates.
- Website of Haiti’s electoral council.
- Get news updated from The Miami Herald’s Haiti page.
- “On the Goat Path,” a blog by a freelance journalist and a non-profit worker, offers coverage and photos from the election.
- MSNBC.com’s photo blog offers images of the protests that broke out on the evening of December 8.