Preval Named Winner of Haitian Presidential Election

Preliminary election results had triggered massive protests, including flaming tire barricades in the capital Port-au-Prince. At first, Preval had a sizable lead among the 32 other candidates, but later tallies had him just shy of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off in March.

Preval supporters said vote-counting fraud denied the former president a first-round victory.

Preval, 63, who was president of the Caribbean nation from 1996 to 2001, had said he would challenge the election results if he was forced into a run-off.

On Wednesday, the U.N. mission in Haiti denounced the discovery of voting bags, marked ballots and other election material in a garbage dump in the outskirts of the capital and urged Haitian authorities to launch an investigation, according to the Associated Press.

Under the deal struck Wednesday night, a loophole in Haitian electoral law allowed the government to discard an estimated 85,000 blank ballots included in the original tally.

By excluding the blank ballots, which were estimated at 4 percent of the 2.2 million ballots cast, Preval’s vote total rose from 49.76 percent to 51.15 percent, reported the AP.

“We have reached a solution to the problem,” said Max Mathurin, president of the Provisional Electoral Council. “We feel a huge satisfaction at having liberated the country from a truly difficult situation.”

The election was the first since Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from the presidency in a bloody coup in February 2004. Aristide fled into exile and now lives in South Africa.