|Haiti’s presidential poll results set off a storm of violent protests in the cholera-gripped nation [AFP]|
Election officials in Haiti have said they will review the disputed results of last month’s presidential election to try to defuse violence and nationwide protests over the polls.
There will be an immediate vote recount in the presence of the top three candidates – Mirlande Manigat, Jude Celestin and Michel Martelly and international observers.
Thursday’s announcement follows violent demonstrations by supporters of Martelly, the third-placed candidate, who charge that the initial results were rigged in favour of Celestin, the ruling party’s candidate.
Martelly alleges the count was rigged to deny him a second-round runoff place.
Haiti appears on the brink of a major social unrest that many have feared ever since a devastating earthquake wrecked havoc in the country in January.
Demonstrations over the disputed results of the elections have turned violent in several major cities.
Protests flared again on Thursday, the day after an angry mob set the ruling party headquarters on fire and armed clashes between rival political supporters left four people dead.
Meanwhile, Celestin called on his supporters to “mobilise,” saying that he would use legal means to defend the results amid violent protests.
“We believe that the election cannot be contested through destruction. We demand that you remain calm but mobilise across the country, because we will legally defend your votes,” he told his supporters.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said that the security situation in the capital continues to deteriorate.
“Despite the anger over the elections, many residents here are frustrated with the slow recovery efforts after the devastating earthquake, and the subsequent cholera outbreak. Many here feel their leaders have let them down,” he said.
Anger first boiled over on Tuesday evening when the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that President Rene Preval’s handpicked protégé Jude Celestin had defied opinion polls and estimates to make it into a runoff.
His passage through to the second round against former first lady Manigat came at the expense of Martelly, a popular entertainer whose grass-roots campaign won him legions of young fans in the capital Port-au-Prince.
Less than 7,000 of more than one million votes cast separated Celestin and Martelly, prompting thousands to take to the streets convinced that the ruling Unity party and the CEP had rigged the elections in favour of Preval’s man.
In a bid to quell the protests, the electoral commission announced it would check all the results sent in from polling stations around the country to make sure the order of the top three candidates was correct.