Latin America & Caribbean

Haiti: Michel Martelly backed by losing candidates

Haitian presidential candidate and Haitian born singer Wyclef Jean arm-in-arm at a campaign rally, 11 March
Image caption Mr Martelly (right) is also backed by fellow singer Wyclef Jean

Five candidates who were defeated in the first round of Haiti's presidential election have given their support to pop singer Michel Martelly in the second round run-off.

Mr Martelly will face former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the 20 March vote.

The five candidates said Mr Martelly was the candidate most likely to promote democracy and development.

But they said the best solution would have been to annul the first round because of widespread fraud.

'Spirit of openness'

In a joint statement, defeated candidates Josette Bijou, Wilson Jeudy, Genard Joseph, Chavanne Jeune and Eric Smarki Charles praised Mr Martelly for the "spirit of openness" he had shown in his campaign.

"We urge all our supporters in all corners of the country to go out and vote in mass for Michel Martelly to become president on Sunday 20 March," the statement said.

But the candidates added that the "best solution for democracy" would have been to annul the "mascarade" of the first round.

Image caption Mirlande Manigat won the most votes in the first round

Controversy

Ms Manigat won the most votes in the first round, but opinion polls give Mr Martelly a slight lead ahead of next weekend's decisive vote.

The election to chose a successor to outgoing Haitian president Rene Preval has been mired in controversy.

International observers said the first round on 28 November was marred by fraud and intimidation.

Violent unrest broke out when Haiti's electoral authorities announced initial results that put the governing Inite party candidate Jude Celestin in second place.

The second round was postponed, and experts from the Organisation of American States were called in to assess the result

They found there had been large-scale fraud in Mr Celestin's favour, and recommended he withdraw.

After sustained international pressure, the electoral authority announced new results which put Mr Martelly through to the run-off against Ms Manigat.

Whoever wins the election faces the task of rebuilding Haiti after last year's huge earthquake, which killed around 230,000 people and left the capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruins.

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