Haiti police clash with demonstrators ahead of election results

Supporters of Fanmi Lavalas political party run away as National Police officers use tear gas to disperse the demonstration in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
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By Makini Brice

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitian police fired tear gas at demonstrators backing presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse on Tuesday, in the second day of tension as the Caribbean nation awaited results from elections at the weekend.

Haiti voted in presidential, parliamentary and local elections on Sunday that were meant to end a year of political and economic uncertainty. A previous vote in October 2015 was annulled due to allegations of widespread fraud.

Official results from the provisional electoral council are not expected until next week, although some 29,000 “tally sheets” showing results from polling stations throughout the country should be uploaded onto the council’s website sooner.

It is normal for Haiti to take days counting ballots, but the process for this election has been exacerbated by the fallout from Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the country last month.

Demonstrators backing Narcisse, of the Fanmi Lavalas party, took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital, on Tuesday, where police dispersed them with tear gas.

Dozens of supporters walked and jogged through the streets of working-class neighbourhoods like Delmas 18, carrying posters for the party.

“Maryse Narcisse: revolution!” one demonstrator called.

In the Saint Martin neighbourhood, the main road had been cleared but a tire continued to burn in the middle of the street. Residents lined the avenue and occasionally threw rocks at passing cars.

Fanmi Lavalas, which claims to have won the election, wants protests to continue.

The Bald Heads Party of rival candidate Jovenel Moise has also already claimed victory.

More than two dozen candidates competed in Sunday’s presidential vote. Unless one candidate wins more than 50 percent, the election will go to a second round in January.

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Electoral law bans the forecast of results before the electoral council proclaims a winner, as well as demonstrations for candidates, political parties or groups between Election Day and when the results are announced.

“The Fanmi Lavalas political organisation salutes the entire population who protested against the electoral coup d’etat,” the leftist party, founded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said in a press release referring to protests on Monday.

“We who protest today because we voted for Dr. Maryse continue to peacefully claim our vote.”

Geographical and logistical hurdles have made transportation of the tally sheets from polling centres throughout the country a slow process.

Nicole Simeon, the spokeswoman for the provisional electoral council, said that as of 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday, 57.92 percent of tally sheets for the presidential election had been received from six of the country’s 10 departments.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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