Haiti`s leading candidate speaks against council

Supporters of one of her competitors in Haiti`s presidential election set barricades on fire and threw rubble at cars when initial results put him third.

Port-au-Prince: Supporters of one of her competitors in Haiti`s presidential election set barricades on fire and threw rubble at cars when initial results put him third. The No. 2 finisher urged his partisans to mobilize and his staff warned they could start a war.

But during the turmoil since the preliminary vote count, Mirlande Manigat, the 70-year-old law professor and former first lady in first place, has kept her calm and stayed in the classroom and her stucco-walled office.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, she blamed the discord on a "crisis of confidence" with Haiti`s electoral officials.

She also defended her decision not to participate in a recount and said she is open to power-sharing agreements with other parties as a means of emerging from the crisis.

"Now we are in a situation which has no relation whatsoever either with the constitution or to the electoral law," Manigat said. "I would like to see my country heading for a true democracy, and I am personally concerned about the whole situation."

Manigat is not new to the dirty business of Haitian politics. Her husband, Leslie Manigat, was elected in a criticized 1988 election under a military junta that quickly ousted him in a coup. She won a Senate seat in 2006 but resigned in protest when her husband was denied a run-off in a compromise favoring now-President Rene Preval.

Her supporters clashed with U.N. peacekeepers in two provincial cities between the dysfunctional Nov. 28 election and the much-critcized Dec. 7 announcement of results, throwing rocks and burning tires to demand she be declared the winner.

Since the vote tally the crisis has boiled down to a fight for second place — the other spot in a Jan. 16 runoff — between Jude Celestin, the candidate of Preval`s party, and Michel Martelly, a singer who trails him by 6,845 votes. Manigat, all but assured of going on to the next round, has stayed in the background.
That changed briefly when the provisional electoral council, or CEP, proposed creating a commission to recount the tally sheets. Manigat and Martelly declared they were opposed; only Celestin accepted.

"Nobody trusts the CEP. Nobody in Haiti," Manigat said Monday. "I cannot accept (the proposal) because there is no indication about the location, the rules, the membership, etc., etc."
She was also put off by the way she was invited — by e-mail received over her faulty Internet connection at 5 a.m.

"I did not even answer, because for me it was a very bad way to communicate to someone who is a candidate or supposedly might become the next president of Haiti," she said.

Bureau Report

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