New line-up in Haiti’s runoff elections

 

MEXICO CITY —After a
nearly two-month standoff with international donors over its disputed
presidential election, Haiti’s electoral commission removed the government-backed
candidate from the second round of voting in favour of a popular musician whose
supporters had rioted when he was initially excluded.

The election authorities said
Mirlande H. Manigat, a former first lady and college administrator who was the
top vote getter in the 28 November election, will face Michel Martelly, a
performer with the stage name “Sweet Micky,” in a 20 March runoff.

The decision was a turnabout for
the government, which had released preliminary results in December showing that
Jude Célestin, a public works official who was President René Préval’s choice,
had come in second, leading to days of violent protests over accusations of a
stolen election.

But Mr. Préval, whose popularity
has fallen as the pace of rebuilding from the January 2010 earthquake has
slowed, came under intense diplomatic pressure to accept the conclusion of a
team of international experts who argued that Mr. Célestin did not earn a spot
because of tainted results.

The announcement comes at a moment
of simmering political turmoil and intrigue, after the sudden return 16 January
of Jean Claude Duvalier, the former dictator known as “Baby Doc,” who now faces
corruption and human rights charges stemming from his rule.

There are also hints that
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a populist priest and former president pushed from
power in 2004, may soon come back, too.

His political party, Lavalas, which
is still popular in many, poorer quarters, was among more than a dozen banned
from participating in the elections for what the authorities said were improper
documents.