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Haiti Presidential Candidates Lead Protest To Nullify Election

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Frustrated presidential candidates led a march through Haiti's capital Thursday to demand officials annul an election they say was tainted by fraud.

At least four of 19 candidates on Sunday's ballot walked with hundreds of supporters to an electoral council office. They denounced electoral officials, President Rene Preval and the ruling Unity party's candidate, state construction company chief Jude Celestin, chanting: "Prison for Preval, liberty for Haiti!"

"These were not elections. People were not allowed to vote and there was stuffing of the election boxes ... We need democratic elections," candidate Charles Henri-Baker, a factory owner, told The Associated Press.

The presidential hopefuls were part of a group of 12 candidates who called for voting to be canceled while polls were open, alleging the election was rigged in favor of Celestin.

Protesters also decried fellow opposition candidates Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly, who reversed position in favor of the elections as it appeared they could advance to a Jan. 16 second-round vote.

Jacques Pierre, a leader of a community group that participated in march, said any candidate who accepts the presidency following a corrupt election is not fit to serve.

The election was riddled with problems. Polls opened late and many registered voters were improperly turned away from polls.

Organization of American States-Caribbean Community observers also cited instances of violence and voter intimidation, but said the problems were not widespread enough to invalidate the election. Other observers said the vote was tainted.

Witnesses said some demonstrators threw rocks at police, who fired warning shots. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

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