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Haiti president defends questioned elections

Published:Wednesday | December 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Haiti's President Michel Martelly, centre, speaks as he walks with his Cabinet Chief Ann Valerie Timothee Milfort after an interview at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP):

Haitian President Michel Martelly is defending the much-criticised elections in his divided country and has asserted that the opposition has spread unsubstantiated allegations about widespread electoral fraud, purely to strengthen its position.

During an interview with The Associated Press, Martelly said he believed that disputed official results showing the government-backed candidate topped October's first-round presidential vote was a genuine reflection of voters' will.

"We feel confident enough that what happened the first time will happen again because it's the vote of the people," the outgoing president said Monday on the grounds where the domed National Palace once stood, before it pancaked in Haiti's 2010 earthquake.

Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council reported that Jovenel Moise of Martelly's well-financed Tet Kale party received nearly 33 per cent of the October 25 vote in a packed field of 54 presidential candidates. Official results have the agricultural entrepreneur, a political newcomer hand-picked by Martelly, getting 117,602 more votes than second-place finisher Jude Celestin, a former state construction chief, who was the government-backed candidate in the last election cycle.

Growing allegations of rampant fraud have sparked sometimes-violent street protests and so many accusations from civil society, religious and opposition groups that Haiti's December 27 runoffs were postponed Monday.