Martelly is Haiti election winner, official says

Singer Michel Martelly is the winner of Haiti's presidential election, beating former first lady Mirlande Manigat, according to official preliminary results, a senior electoral council official said on Monday.

"Martelly won," the official at the Provisional Electoral Council, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. He spoke ahead of a public announcement due later on Monday to give the eagerly awaited first results from the March 20 run-off vote in the poor, volatile Caribbean state.

Martelly, who has no previous government experience, had preached a forceful message of change, pledging to break with decades of past corruption and misrule in Haiti.

Anxious anticipation tinged with fears of violence had gripped the country since the preliminary results announcement was delayed from last week because of reported high levels of fraud.

The initial results are preliminary pending definitive confirmation later in April,

The presidential contest had been an intriguing contrast of styles and personalities between extroverted entertainer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, 50, a political newcomer, and experienced law professor and former senator Manigat, who is 70.

Polls before the run-off had shown Martelly as favorite.

Blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers were out patrolling the capital Port-au-Prince and other potential flashpoints around the country, one of the world's poorest which is struggling to rebuild after a crippling 2010 earthquake.

Some stores and businesses boarded up windows in anticipation of trouble and said they would send employees home early before the results.

"Steps have been taken with regard to security," Ambassador Colin Granderson, head of the Organization of American States/Caribbean Community observer mission to the Haitian elections, told Reuters.

He said Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, the electoral body charged with announcing the preliminary results, earlier received the envelope containing them from the vote tabulation center in Port-au-Prince, where final counting had taken place.

The United Nations and donor governments including the United States which have pledged billions of dollars of reconstruction funds to Haiti want the election to produce a stable, legitimate leadership to take charge of the recovery.

They want to avoid the rioting and fraud allegations that marred a first round of voting held on November 28 in the elections to choose a president and some fresh members of parliament.

[Source: By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters, Port-Au-Prince, 04Apr11]

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