By Jacqueline Charles, McClatchy Newspapers (MCT): PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A carnival singer who reinvented himself into a polished political outsider is poised to become Haiti’s new president, according to several sources familiar with the results that are expected to be released later today.
Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, 50, has received more than the required 50 percent plus one of the vote required to beat longtime opposition leader and former first lady Mirlande Manigat to winHaiti’s first presidential runoff election in a quarter century. Martelly reportedly won the election by a 3-1 margin.
The preliminary results of Haiti’s March 20 elections were transmitted at 8 a.m. Monday to the executive director of the Provisional Electoral Council, whose members triggered momentary panic Sunday evening when they unexpectedly showed up at the vote tabulation center where tally sheets were undergoing a final scrutiny for fraud.
The second round of elections for the presidential and legislative races were better organized than the first round. But like the chaoticNov. 28 first round, the runoffs were also marred by fraud and irregular voting.
As of 4 p.m. Sunday, some 1,718 presidential tally sheets out of more than 25,000 had been tossed out of the final vote count. The number accounted for between 15 and 18 percent of the tallies. The average margin of fraud in elections for Latin America is between 2 to 3 percent, according to elections experts in the region.
During the March 20 runoff, voters not only stuffed ballots but they also included fraudulent voter identification numbers, which were picked up by elections workers who included 16 attorneys trained in new criteria set up by the Organization of American States. Already leading a joint elections observer mission with the Caribbean Community, the OAS was brought in following the first round to verify the vote and put in new procedures in hopes of salvaging the election.
Less clear are the results of the legislative elections, described by one diplomat “as a mess.”
There were more than 70 legislative runoff races to fill both the Senate and the lower chamber of deputies.
Haitian President Rene Preval’s INITE party was vying to take control of parliament after being forced to remove their presidential candidate from the runoff spot in favor of Martelly.
Following the first round, Martelly insisted that he — and not the government’s choice — should go into the runoff against Manigat. His supporters shut down major cities for three days with rioting. A controversial review of the vote by an Organization of American Statesexperts mission eventually agreed with him.
For days Haiti has been on edge awaiting the presidential results, with Manigat supporters fielding rumors of a victory and supporters of Martelly threatening to take to the streets in a violent outrage if he were to lose.
Pras Michel, a Martelly supporter and a Haitian-American rapper formerly of the Grammy-award winning hip hop group The Fugees, was accused of followers on his Twitter account of inciting violence when at 9 p.m. Sunday, he tweeted: Machete (plus) gasoline (plus) matches (equals) the will of the people.
Followers responded by asking why was he preaching violence, while Martelly supporters quickly denounced him, saying he doesn’t speak on behalf of the presidential candidate. Michel, who was seen in Haiti Saturday night at the bar at the upscale Karibe hotel in Petionville, later removed the tweet.
Last month, the rapper was quoted in a YouTube video saying “They will burn the country if Martelly is not elected president.” He toldThe Miami Herald at the time that his comments were taken out of context. Martelly also distanced himself from the comments, telling journalists at a news conference that he condemned any acts of violence.
“If the people voted for Manigat and she wins, then life goes on,” he said. “If they choose a candidate and it goes a different way, then they will be upset about it. When I say burn the country, I am saying, the people will be in a rage. The people did not agree.”
The U.N. peacekeeping mission along with the Haitian National Police have stepped up security in key cities, including the capital. Additional troops were also put at the tabulation center and also an armored U.N. vehicle is protecting both the elections headquarters and the home of its elections council president Gaillot Dorsinvil.
Late Saturday night, Manigat supporters panicked after hearing that Dorsinvil had returned to the tabulation center.
Earlier in the day, he and the other seven members of the council had rushed to the tabulation center after receiving a fake text pronouncing Manigat as the winner, according to information that would soon be released by Wikileaks. Their appearance raised suspicions of the presidential observers. At the time 107 tally sheets were sent to be processed but were rejected by the computer because the parameters had not been adjusted to permit their inclusion. They were later included.
Sources familiar with the events say that the exclusion of the 107 tally sheets would not have changed the outcome though the tallies may well be a point of contention by Manigat should she decide to fight the preliminary results before the elections council as permitted byHaiti’s electoral law. The 107 tally sheets came from voting centers that had less than 450 voters.