Haiti run-off vote pairs Martelly, Manigat
Government-backed candidate Jude Celestin out of race
Haiti's run-off presidential election on March 20 will be contested by law professor Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly, the country's Provisional Electoral Council said Thursday.
The announcement means government-backed candidate Jude Celestin will drop out of the vote.
Preliminary results from the Nov. 28 election indicating that Celestin had edged out singer (Sweet Micky) Martelly for second place — and the final spot in the run-off — set off often violent protests in December. Manigat was the first-place candidate, but did not have enough votes to win outright, triggering a run-off vote.
An Organization of American States report had recommended that Celestin be dropped from the race in favour of Martelly because of apparent election fraud.
Haitians had nervously awaited the announcement after rumours spread that Celestin would remain in the run-off round or that the election might be cancelled, prompting fears of more violent protests.
The announcement came after dawn following more than 13 hours of deliberations, and cheers broke out in the streets outside the council's office at the news.
"We are satisfied with the decision. Everyone can go about their business today without problems," said Emmanuel St. Louis, 34, a maintenance worker who had voted for Martelly. "[Now] we need a different council to run the second round so all people are allowed to vote."
The first round saw widespread disorganization, violence, intimidation, fraud and a call on election day from nearly every candidate — including Martelly and Manigat — to cancel the vote while it was going on.
Manigat is a socially conservative constitutional law professor whose husband briefly served as president under a military junta following the 1986 ouster of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. She told AP in an interview late last year that Haiti is too dependent on foreign countries and that she would like to see UN peacekeepers leave by the end of her term, replaced by a Haitian security force.
Martelly is a populist with a law-and-order platform that includes the reconstitution of Haiti's armed forces. His political popularity grew when people saw him as a casualty of President René Préval's aspirations for Celestin in the preliminary results.
Préval's five-year term is scheduled to end Monday under the constitution. An emergency law passed by members of his former party in an expiring Senate would allow him to remain in office for up to three more months, in part because his 2006 inauguration was delayed.
With files from The Associated Press