Aristide ally ahead in Haiti vote count

Initial results in Haiti's presidential election have given a one-time ally former President Jean Bertrand Aristide a huge majority in several parts of the Haitian capital.

    Rene Preval was president of Haiti from 1996 to 2001

    According to results posted on Wednesday, one day after presidential elections in the turmoil-torn country, Rene Preval had performed well across both rich and poor districts of Port-au-Prince.

    Many of the results from around the country were still en route to the capital and some were carried by mule from mountainous, hard-to-reach areas.

    Preval, 63, scored more than 90% in a large centre where residents of the notorious Cite Soleil slum cast their ballots, and unexpectedly garnered a strong majority in several voting offices in wealthier neighbourhoods.   

    At a school in the middle-class suburb of Petion-Ville, Preval took 70% of the votes, according to results posted on the walls. Electoral officials insist the results are not official as they still have to be verified and officially tabulated.
    Preval, who was president from 1996 to 2001, was long a close ally of Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's last elected president. Aristide resigned and fled the country with US and French help on 29 February, 2004 as insurgents closed in on the capital.
    Like Aristide before him, Preval is often seen as a champion of the poor, who make up 77% of the 8.5 million population. He draws little sympathy from business leaders, many of whom said they favoured Leslie Manigat, former president or Charles Henry Baker, industrialist, who trailed far behind Preval in voting centres of the capital surveyed by AFP.
    UN security

    Haitans voted in long overdue

    On Wednesday morning, members of the 9500-strong UN military and police force in Haiti escorted ballots to the heavily-protected electronic tabulation centre where electoral officials immediately got to work. 
    Juan Gabriel Valdez, the UN special envoy to Haiti and Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organisation of American States, as well as electoral observers kept an eye on the proceedings at the tabulation office. 

    Reflecting the difficulties in staging elections in a country as poor as Haiti, much of the vote counting during the night was done by candlelight. In some voting centres, the tallying continued on Wednesday morning.
    Authorities initially said results would not be known until Friday, but they now suggest voters could get a good indication on Wednesday of who won. 
    Crucial polls

    The presidential vote was marked by stampedes that reportedly left four people dead and several more wounded. Throngs of people walked for hours in the absence of public transportation, only to find massive lines outside many voting centres that opened hours late.
    Angry crowds stormed the gates of the offices. Despite problems during the elections, which had been postponed four times since November, international observers hailed the fact that voting could be held in a country plagued by armed gangs and rampant poverty, and with a history of fraudulent elections and military coups.
    More than 3.5 million Haitians were registered to participate in Tuesday's election that also renewed the 129-seat parliament. 



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