News from Haiti

Saturday, February 11, 2006

CEP -- No exact date for final tally (Charles Henri Baker)

Port-au-Prince, February 11, 2006. Rene Preval's lead in the Haitian presidential race shrank dramatically Friday, raising the possibility of a runoff election to determine the troubled nation's next leader. With half the ballots counted, Preval had 50.26 percent of the vote, barely above the 50 percent mark required to avert a runoff, Haiti's electoral commission announced.

The announcement was a blow to Preval supporters, who rejoiced Thursday when the commission said the former president had 61 percent of the vote after 15 percent of ballots had been counted.

Preval is trailed by another former president, Leslie Manigat, with 11.4 percent, and Charles Henri Baker, a businessman, with 8.3 percent. Baker has alleged fraud.

The final results are awaited anxiously in a nation prone to election-related violence and dissension. Electoral commission members refused to project when they would be finished counting. "You cannot force me to give an exact date," member Max Mathurn said.