The streets of Port-au-Prince are filled with violent protests tonight after the Provisional Electoral Committee (CEP) released the results of an election that has been fraught with allegations of widespread fraud and irregularities. In a press conference at a concert hall in Petionville, CEP Spokesman, Richard Dumel, read the results as throngs of local reporters held their phones and voice recorders to speakers hanging from the ceiling. There were 19 candidates for president, but only the top three received enough votes to be notable. Here is the breakdown:
Mirlande Manigat – 31.37%
Jude Celestin – 22.48%
(Photo by Ben Depp)
Michel Joseph Martelly – 21.84%
The top two candidates, Manigat and Celestin, will now go on to a run-off that will take place on January 16th. The reason why there are countless gunshots outside our complex, burning barricades in the streets, and loud explosions filling the night is because Michel Martelly will now be left out of the second round. A heavy favorite amongst the people in Port-au-Prince, Martelly’s followers are now flooding the streets and protesting results that they claim are fraudulent. Jude Celestin, who is backed by current President Rene Preval, has been accused of election fraud throughout the country, which makes this announcement that much harder to swallow for the Haitian people. At one road-block that Ben came up to, they asked him for gasoline so they could light a truck on fire that the protesters had pulled into the street. He said ‘no’, and they then threw rocks at him. We passed the same road-block 10 minutes later, and they had, in fact, lit the truck on fire.
We then quickly drove towards our houses (we live almost next-door to each other), but as we were driving we passed by the market which had a large group of people congregated around it. Amongst the protesters was a man who works with the CEP that I had met while getting my credentials. I approached him and asked him how he was doing. He explained that he was scared, and that he needed to get out of the market area. “I have CEP on my back,” he explained, “these guys are going to kill me.” He looked around nervously as he scarfed down some street food. “They’re going to burn down the city,” he whispered, “this is not good.”
He explained that the people are unhappy with the results, and that they should be…as they were incorrect. “President Preval put pressure on us,” he explained, “we were forced to include Celestin in the second round.” I was shocked, this man was clearly scared for his life, yet he was divulging this huge bomb of information that the President of Haiti forced one candidate out of the run-off, and inserted his own hand-picked candidate into his place. “We kicked Martelly out of the race, and now the people are going to destroy the city,” he said. I prodded further, asking him what the correct percentages were. “Manigat had 39%, Martelly had 27%,” he said, “and Celestin had 15%.” If these are, in fact, the correct results, then Michel Martelly has been cast aside from the second round of an election that he fairly won a chance to participate in.
The man had been abandoned by his colleagues at the CEP who had “escaped to the hills”, and he pleaded with us to give him a ride to his home in lower Delmas, which is not a good part of town (especially considering what was happening). Things were quickly escalating, and the people around us were starting to give the man dirty looks and yelling angerly at him. We told him to jump on the back of the motorcycle, “We need to get out of here, NOW,” Ben exclaimed as he started the bike. We took the man down the street to an empty street corner and let him off, going any further would have been dangerous as ahead of us in the road was a newly started fire. As we pulled away the man stood in the middle of the road, searching for somewhere to go, or someone to bring him to safety. He had been abandoned by his co-workers, and now had to defend himself amongst his own people, all because of a decision the CEP was forced to make.
We went straight home, passing a barricade that a group of men were putting up at the entrance to our neighborhood. Ben, graciously, allowed me to drive his motorcycle home, as the streets were no longer safe to walk on. “If you’re going to go, go now,” he hastily said, “and don’t stop.” Ben is a really level-headed guy, so when he says that it’s not safe you know it’s not safe. I accelerated down the road towards my complex as a group of men were congregating in an alley ahead of me, and made it safety home as the sound of gunshots filled the air.
The following days are expected to be filled with more protests and, I’m assuming, an appeal by Martelly. According to the man from the CEP, these results are final, and they will now just move on to the run-off, but I was also told that the final results would not be released until just before Christmas, and that these were just preliminary. Either way the people here feel slighted, and are upset that yet another election has resulted in the same fraud that has permeated their government for decades.