The front-runner in Haiti’s disputed presidential elections, Mirlande Manigat, is urging the international community not to impose its own political solution on the quake-hit nation, the Agence France Presse reports.
“It is a Haitian crisis, and it is the Haitian people who have to find a solution,” Manigat, a 70-year-old former first lady who was the clear leader in the November 28 first round poll, told journalists late Tuesday.
A resolution should not be “created and imposed” by the international community, she added.
President Rene Preval, who has served a maximum two terms and is accused of rigging the poll in favor of a handpicked successor, has delayed publication of the final results until an international probe has been carried out.
The disputed vote has further destabilized the impoverished country, much of which is still in ruins from a deadly January earthquake that killed a quarter of a million people and has been battling a cholera outbreak since mid-October.
The outbreak — the Caribbean nation’s first in over a century — has now killed 2,591 people, officials said, and 21,518 people have been treated for the water-borne bacterial infection, including 63,711 hospitalizations.
And in a grim twist, officials said angry Haitian mobs have lynched a total of at least 45 suspected sorcerers in recent weeks, accusing them of spreading the deadly disease. Most were killed in the far southwestern region of Grand’Anse, which has largely been spared of the outbreak.
“The victims — most of them voodoo priests — were stoned or hacked with machetes before being burned in the street,” said communications ministry official Moise Fritz Evens.
The cholera outbreak led to deadly anti-UN riots last month as a desperate populace turned its anger on peacekeepers from Nepal accused of bringing the disease into the country.
About half of Haiti’s population is believed to practice the voodoo religion in some form, though many also follow other religious beliefs at the same time. Sorcery and spiritual magic have been incorporated into some of the beliefs.
The attacks came amid growing religious tensions — namely between ardent voodoo followers and evangelical Christians — in the wake of January’s catastrophic earthquake that killed 250,000 people and left more than one million homeless.
A delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) is due to arrive in Haiti over the weekend and begin a probe Monday into the alleged vote-rigging before a recount of first round tally sheets.
Manigat was skeptical that a recount led by international actors would have a more satisfactory outcome than the first ballot count.
“The OAS fancies itself the great fixer of the crisis, but how much time will it need to complete its work?” she asked, expressing concern that a protracted process would delay a run-off set for January 16.
Last month’s chaotic first round was carried out amid widespread allegations of fraud and the disenfranchisement of thousands of people, who either could not get the necessary papers to vote or were not on the register.
Preliminary results had Manigat in the lead with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Preval’s handpicked candidate Jude Celestin, 48, with 22 percent.
If those results hold the two would advance to a run-off next month, but the count was rejected by popular singer Michel Martelly, 49, who trailed by less than 7,000 votes despite partial estimates putting him clearly second.
Martelly’s supporters took to the streets after the initial results were announced, torching cars and government buildings and clashing with rival supporters and UN peacekeepers in violence that killed at least five people.