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Haitians head to the polls in presidential run-off

Appeals for calm as electorate cast votes in the second round of presidential election.

People gather with images of Haitian presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat at a campaign rally on Friday.
People gather with images of Haitian presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat at a campaign rally on Friday.
Image: AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini

POLLS OPEN IN HAITI TODAY for the country’s presidential run-off between a former first lady and a pop star.

Singer Michel “Micky” Martelly and Mirlande Manigat emerged as the two leading candidates after November’s first round vote, despite accusations of fraud at that election.

Both candidates have similar agendas and a similar centre-right stance, but their backgrounds could not be more different. Manigat, 70, is a former senator while Martelly is a pop star with a history of crude onstage antics.

The return of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide after several years in exile in South Africa has been heavily criticised by the US, which has suggested his return will destabilise today’s voting. Aristide has accused the US of being involved in the coup which overthrew him.

Earlier this year, former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, or Baby Doc Duvalier, returned after 25 years in exile. He and his father gained notoriety for their use of a private army of militia men called the Tonton Macoutes which have been accused of terrorising and torturing Haitians.

The US, UN and Organisation of American States (OAS) have appealed to voters and candidates to maintain a peaceful atmosphere today.

Haiti Libre reports that the head of the UN mission to Haiti, Edmond Mulet, said that be believes the outcome of this vote – the first time the country has ever held a second round – will be legitimate and accepted by the majority of Haitians.

The electorate will also cast its votes for the legislature.

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Whoever wins will face major challenges, including a senate and chamber of deputies controlled by the party of outgoing President Rene Preval, as well as reconstruction and resettlement issues. Cholera continues to be a concern in Haiti, and could see a resurgence in new cases once the rainy season starts.

- Includes reporting from the AP

Read: Martelly supporter Wyclef Jean shot and injured in Haiti >

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