Protests in Haiti capital contest election results

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PORT-AU-PRINCE: Hundreds of protesters blocked streets with burning barricades in parts of the Haitian capital on Wednesday to contest results of troubled elections that are also being questioned by the United States.
The protesters, some carrying sticks, shouted slogans in support of Michel Martelly, a popular musician and presidential candidate who failed to go through to a second round of voting. Preliminary results from the Nov. 28 first-round elections were announced by Haitian electoral authorities late on Tuesday.
In the Petionville district of Port-au-Prince, the demonstrators set up barricades of large boulders, debris and flaming tires, which sent plumes of black smoke into the air. Others ran carrying sticks and posters of Martelly.
They shouted slogans against outgoing Haitian President Rene Preval, whose protege presidential candidate Jude Celestin went through to an elections second round expected in mid-January in the poor Caribbean nation, according to the results announced by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). “Hang Preval!” protesters yelled.
The official results from the turbulent Nov. 28 elections showed former first lady Mirlande Manigat and government technocrat Celestin both in the deciding run-off, with Martelly narrowly in third place and so excluded. Martelly had already accused Preval and Celestin of trying to rig the elections.
The United States, through its embassy in Port-au-Prince, immediately questioned the CEP results late on Tuesday, saying it was concerned they were “inconsistent with” vote counts observed around the country by “numerous domestic and international observers.
The international community has been hoping the elections would produce a stable, legitimate new leadership to steer Haiti’s recovery from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people. But this goal now seemed increasingly difficult to achieve and election unrest could also badly hinder a UN-led fight against a raging cholera epidemic in the country.
The United Nations mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and a joint Organization of American States/Caribbean Community election observer mission had given a cautious initial endorsement of the Nov. 28 vote, despite acknowledging irregularities.