Port-au-Prince: Haiti is bracing for results on Tuesday of its troubled elections, which have generated fraud charges, protests and sporadic violence and are widely expected to go to a deciding second round in January.
More than a week after the U.N.-backed November 28 presidential and legislative vote was held amid scenes of confusion at some polling stations, the Caribbean country`s Provisional Electoral Council is due to announce the preliminary officials results.
Out of an original field of 18 candidates, the presidential contest is seen by pundits as a three-horse race between opposition matriarch and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, popular musician Michel Martelly, and government technocrat Jude Celestin, a protege of outgoing President Rene Preval.
For a first-round win, a candidate would need to gain more than 50 percent of the votes. With the open presidential field making this unlikely, a run-off between the two leading vote-winners would be held, provisionally set for January 16.
Caribbean media reports citing unofficial results have predicted a run-off between Martelly and Manigat.
The international community has been hoping the elections, held amid a deadly cholera epidemic, can produce a stable, legitimate new leadership to steer Haiti`s recovery from the huge January 12 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people.
But since the November 28 vote, U.N. peacekeepers and international election observers have been grappling with repeated allegations of "massive fraud" made by more than half of the 18 presidential candidates, recurrent street protests and fears of worse violence that could still come.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which has more than 12,000 troops and police deployed in support of Haitian police, has appealed to candidates and their supporters to remain calm, respect the law and avoid violence.
"This coming phase in the electoral process requires a peaceful and serene atmosphere," the joint Organization of American States/Caribbean Community election observer mission said in its own statement.