Haitians await ballot results expected to come today

Haitian officials say definitive results from November’s disputed presidential election will be announced today ahead of a runoff scheduled for March 20.

Preliminary results put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate in first place and Jude Celestin in second place. The publication of the preliminary results in December triggered days of violent protests by opposition supporters angered by what they saw as vote rigging by the government in Port-au-Prince.

A recent report by the Organization of American States recommended that Celestin withdraw from the runoff, citing irregularities and fraud in the balloting. The ruling party asked Celestin to pull out of the contest, but the candidate has not confirmed that he will.

Popular singer Michel Martelly, who placed third according to preliminary results, has threatened to call his supporters into the streets if his name is not included in the runoff.

Tensions were further heightened in Haiti by the surprise return last month of former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier after 25 years in exile. Haitian officials have charged him with corruption and embezzlement of public funds. Several Haitians have filed lawsuits accusing him of human rights violations during his 15-year-rule, which ended in 1986.

In another development Tuesday, Switzerland used a new law to block money held by the former dictator in Swiss bank accounts.

The law was prompted in part by the legal battle against Duvalier and is designed to make it easier for Swiss authorities to return illegally obtained funds to their country of origin.

Duvalier has about $6 million in Swiss bank accounts. The money was frozen after he was ousted in a popular uprising in Haiti 25 years ago.

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