Preval Named Winner in Haiti Presidential Election

Rene Preval, Feb. 14.

Rene Preval, Feb. 14. Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters

Rene Preval has been declared the winner of last week's presidential election in Haiti. The agreement was announced early Thursday by the interim government and Haiti's electoral council. Preval avoided a second vote by getting credit for slightly more than 51 percent of the votes cast.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Election officials in Haiti have reached agreement to declare a winner in the vote for president. Renee Preval was the frontrunner, but it was not clear if he would be forced into a runoff election. Now, after some negotiations, Preval avoids a second vote by getting credit for slightly more than 51 percent of the votes cast.

Reporter Amelia Shaw is in Port-au-Prince, and she's been following this story.

And, Amelia, first, what needed to be negotiated here?

AMELIA SHAW reporting:

Well, a high ranking official from the Organization of American States came down to Haiti yesterday and met with foreign ambassadors, the U.N., and Haiti's interim government. And they essentially hammered out a plan in which the null votes, or the votes that were blank in the elections, were not counted. And these were some 85,000 votes. By eliminating those votes, they were able to increase Preval's percentage to above 50 percent, which is the simple majority he needed. And they did this by finding a loophole in Haitian electoral law.

INSKEEP: Because the last time we spoke, Preval was below 50 percent, and this runoff would have seemed imminent. Why not just go ahead with it?

SHAW: There have been demonstrations in the capitol for four days now, in which tens of thousands of people have gone into the streets, blocked roads, burned tires, and people have been getting increasing angry, not only at the lack of results in this election. It's been more than a week, and they have not given final results. But also, at the fact that Preval had been loosing percentage of the votes with every day that was going by, that the votes are being counted. And his supporters became very vocal and very angry.

And then on Tuesday, Preval himself came out with a statement to the press, saying that he believed there was fraud, massive fraud in these elections. A few hours later, thousands of ballots turned up charred and burned in a garbage dump outside of the capitol. And this caused widespread anger.

INSKEEP: All right. Well, now that Preval has gotten what he wanted, and he will become president, is that going to end the allegations of fraud?

SHAW: This has yet to be seen. I think what would be interesting would be the reaction of second-place candidate, Leslie Manigat, who got about 12 percent of the votes. He, yesterday, called for a press conference this morning. So, it will be interesting to see his reaction, and to see if he is going to accept this compromise, this deal that has been struck.

INSKEEP: Maybe the way to put it is, was Preval the only person who had thousands of supporters he could turn out into the streets to cause mayhem?

SHAW: You know, yes, because there have really been no signs from other people who did not vote for Preval. There have really been no political protests from the people who did not support Preval. There have been some statements to the press from other political candidates who have also alleged fraud. But it will be interesting to see what the other candidates say.

INSKEEP: And maybe we should stop here a moment to dwell on what might seem like an irony, Amelia. Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced from power with the approval of the United States. A new election was held. And now, a man who is seen as a supporter of Aristide is going to be returned to the presidency of Haiti.

SHAW: This is going to be very interesting, indeed. Many people see Preval as a protégé of Aristide. But Preval has been saying in the press recently that he intends to be his own man. And many of the people who voted for him expect Aristide to come back, and it's not sure whether or not that's going to happen.

INSKEEP: Amelia, thanks very much.

SHAW: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Reporter Amelia Shaw is in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where Renee Preval is the winner of last week's presidential election.

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