PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haitians wrapped up their election in uncertainty Sunday, with nearly all the major presidential candidates calling for the vote to be voided over fraud and reports that large numbers of voters were turned away across the quake-stricken country.
The day ended with crowds surging through the streets protesting problems with balloting, while others held impromptu celebrations to cheer for their candidates.
Twelve of the 19 candidates for president endorsed a joint statement denouncing the voting as fraudulent and calling on their supporters to show their anger with demonstrations against the government and the country’s Provisional Electoral Council, known as the CEP.
The statement included all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President Rene Preval.
“It is clear that Preval and the CEP were not prepared for elections,” said candidate Anne Marie Josette Bijou, who read the statement to a cheering crowd that sang the national anthem and chanted “Arrest Preval!”
The CEP had earlier acknowledged problems with the voter lists but said immediately after the candidates’ news conference that the election would continue.
Even so, the united front of so many candidates could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.
Thousands of people surged onto the streets of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, the second-largest city, after polls closed. People danced in the streets, carrying posters of their candidates and chanting their names. Most of the people in both cities seemed to be celebrating presidential-candidate-turned-musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.
The Haitian government had no immediate response to the criticism.
Representatives of the major international donors, including the ambassadors of the U.S., Canada, France and the European Union, met after the candidates’ declaration to discuss the situation, said Organization of American States Assistant Secretary-General Albert Ramdin, who is in Haiti to monitor the elections.
“We are all concerned about the possibility of violence because we don’t want to see people lose lives in a process that should be democratic,” Ramdin said.
Voters and candidates said Preval, who was barred from running for re-election, was trying to sway the vote in favor of Celestin.