|Many Haitians see the election as irrelevant in the face of a cholera epidemic and post-earthquake recovery [EPA]
Haiti's inconclusive presidential election will go to a runoff vote between former first lady, Mirlande Manigat, and ruling party candidate, Jude Celestin, officials say.
The provisional electoral council announced the runoff between the top two vote winners on Tuesday, after no candidate gained more than the 50 per cent required to win in the first round of the presidential and legislative elections, held on November 28.
According to provisional results Manigat won 31 per cent of the vote and Celestin 22 per cent. Michel Martelly, a muscian, finished third with 21 per cent of the vote and therefore did not make the runoff.
Protests and sporadic gunfire erupted in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, following the announcement, particularly among Martelly's supporters, witnesses told Reuters news agency.
Martelly finished less than one percentage point behind Celestin, a protege of Rene Preval, the outgoing president.
Much of the concern centred around conflicts between the announced results and those reported recently by the National Observation Council, a local election monitoring group financed by the European Union, which said that Celestin would be eliminated.
The US embassy said in an e-mailed statement: "The Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council's announcement of preliminary results ... that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council'' as well as US observers and vote counts by domestic and international observers".
While acknowledging problems and irregularities, the UN and international observers have cautiously endorsed the vote as acceptable and urged Preval's government and its opponents to respect the outcome.
The electoral council announced the preliminary results on the basis of just over a million votes counted, out of a total of 4.7 million registered potential voters.
A total of 18 candidates were competing for the presidency in a country gripped by a cholera epidemic and still trying to recover from a January earthquake that killed 250,000 people and destroyed much of the capital.
In the eight days since the polls, thousands of residents had chosen not to wait for the results, taking to the streets instead to denounce the elections as rigged in violent protests sometimes quelled by tear gas.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters, demanding the annulment of the elections, clashed with riot police.
The protesters yelled "Arrest Preval". They accused Preval, Celestin, and electoral authorities they say are controlled by Preval, of trying to steal the elections.
Final results of the polls, which were also for 11 of the country's 30 senators and all 99 parliamentary deputies, will not be announced until December 20.
The second round has been provisionally set for January 16, but the date has to be confirmed by electoral authorities.