Rene Preval likely to be Haiti President
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Rene Preval likely to be Haiti President

Rene Preval, a champion of Haiti's poor, appeared to be on the verge of regaining the presidency of the Caribbean nation.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 16:01 IST

Rene Preval, a champion of Haiti's poor, appeared to be on the verge of regaining the presidency of the impoverished and turmoil-wracked Caribbean nation, as vote results trickled in.

Early results gave the 63-year-old former president a massive lead over his closest rival with a clear majority of the tallied votes.

Preval -- a former ally of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the last elected president who fled the country two years ago -- scored almost 62 per cent in an official count of 15 per cent of the ballots.

His closest rival, Leslie Manigat, also an ex-president, trailed far behind with just over 13 per cent.

Vote counting continued on Friday, three days after the presidential and legislative elections, and vote counts from remote areas of the mountainous Caribbean country were yet to arrive in Port-au-Prince.

The UN Security Council Thursday called on all parties in volatile Haiti to respect the outcome of the elections and to shun violence.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, international observers and Haitian officials have hailed the absence of political violence during Tuesday's voting in this turmoil-torn and impoverished Caribbean nation.

For the first time in days, UN troops in the Cite Soleil slum of the capital faced gunfire on Wednesday night in an incident that left no casualties, according to a UN official who dismissed the incident as insignificant.

Electoral observers paid tribute to the patience of voters, who often had to walk for hours only to find long lines outside voting centers.

In some areas, voting started hours late, and four people died as furious crowds stormed shuttered gates.

"The Haitian people freely and unequivocally demonstrated their desire to follow the path of democracy," said Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the Canadian who heads the 127-strong International Mission for Evaluating Haitian Elections.

US Ambassador Tim Carney said that the majority saw no future role in Haiti for former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, who is exiled in South Africa.

Carney said the election "is going to demonstrate, as the secretary of state (Condoleezza Rice) said when she was here last fall, how Jean Bertrand Aristide is a man of the past."

Haiti's last elected president, Aristide, resigned and fled the country with US and French help on February 29, 2004 as Haiti descended into chaos amid and insurgents closed in on the capital.

Like Aristide before him, Preval, who was president from 1996 to 2001, is often seen as a champion of the poor who make up 77 per cent of the 8.5 million population.

Preval was once a close ally of Aristide and served as prime minister in his administration in 1991, but his aides say the two have had no contact since February 2004.

Asked if a Preval victory could impact ties with Washington, Carney insisted, "None of the frontrunners are problematic for the US government to deal with".

Despite problems during the elections, which had been postponed four times since November, observers hailed the fact that voting could be held in a country plagued by violence and poverty, and with a history of fraudulent elections.

More than 3.5 million Haitians were registered to participate in the election.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 16:01 IST