Haiti’s presidential runner-up alleges vote ‘cheating’

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    Haitian presidential candidate Jude Celestin, who lost the country’s election to opponent Jovenel Moise according to preliminary results, challenged the outcome Tuesday, alleging it was due to “cheating.”

    “We are saying there was cheating and we will see who cheated,” Celestin told AFP, without naming Moise directly.

    Official preliminary results released late Monday showed that Moise, a businessman backed by former president Michel Martelly, won the election outright, garnering 55.7 per cent of the vote.

    Any candidate who wins more than half of the ballots cast in the first round is the victor, preventing the election from going to a second round.

    Celestin, who ran as a candidate of the opposition LAPEH, came in second with 19.5 per cent.

    Provisional Electoral Council president Leopold Berlanger cautioned that the results were preliminary and final results would not be confirmed until December 29.

    Three of the council’s nine members refused to sign the results announced on Monday, signalling a potential conflict over the outcome.

    “There were no demonstrations of joy in Haiti. When a candidate wins with more than 55 per cent, there should be spontaneous demonstrations by people who are out in the streets because they are happy,” Celestin said.

    The fact that there were no such public revelries “means that people do not agree with the results which do not reflect the popular vote,” Celestin said.

    The Caribbean nation’s streets have remained calm following announcement of the outcome. With many fearing violence, fewer people than usual were out in Port-au-Prince Tuesday morning, although no major incidents were reported.

    Haitian law offers candidates the opportunity to challenge the results — which saw Moise win by more than 350,000 ballots — in electoral courts.

    “It is not just a fight to narrow the gap, but rather to demonstrate that a candidate cheated and therefore must be punished as the electoral decree mandates, which is to say he should be removed from the process if necessary,” Celestin said, indicating he would pursue the matter in the courts.

    The long-delayed November 20 election took place without major incident. Haiti’s vote was originally held in October 2015, but the results were scrapped amid opposition protests after an independent commission found massive fraud.

    Moise was initially said to have won the October 2015 election’s first round with approximately 33 per cent to 25 per cent for Celestin, who denounced the results as a “ridiculous farce” before they were scrapped.

    Nearly 6.2 million people were eligible to vote in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, parts of which are still struggling to recover from a devastating hurricane.

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