PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian human rights groups led a protest in the capital Thursday calling for new and "fair" elections, while the country's electoral authorities said a presidential runoff will take place as scheduled later this month.
Rights groups say the first-round vote was so plagued with irregularities and alleged vote-rigging that they have no confidence in official results that put the previously obscure government-backed candidate finishing first.
About 1,000 people, a relatively small protest by Haitian standards, marched to the headquarters of the Provisional Electoral Council to voice the groups' complaints.
"The rights of the Haitian voters are not being respected," Marie Yolene Gilles of the National Human Rights Defense Network said into a microphone as the protesters shouted their agreement.
She and other activists asserted that the line between democracy and dictatorship is becoming blurry in Haiti, which was ruled by civilian and military dictators until its ?rst genuinely democratic election in 1990.
The first-round presidential vote in late October, while one of the most peaceful elections in Haitian history, brought so many complaints and allegations of voter fraud that many analysts question whether the Dec. 27 runoff between the top two finishers can take place.
But electoral council spokesman Roudy Stanley Penn insisted the runoff between leading candidate Jovenel Moise and No. 2 finisher Jude Celestin would take place.
"The elections are going to happen on Dec. 27," Penn told The Associated Press.
Penn said ballots have already been printed by a company in Dubai and will be shipped to Haiti soon.
Campaigning for the runoff is technically under way, but so far it appears that only Moise, of outgoing President Michel Martelly's Tet Kale party, is actively campaigning.
Celestin has alleged "massive fraud" in favor of Moise, and his opposition alliance is threatening to unravel the runoff.
Celestin and seven other candidates in October's presidential vote have demanded changes in Haiti's electoral council and national police. If that doesn't happen soon, they have called for a transitional government to adopt a new constitution, make various reforms and organize "credible" general elections within two years.
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