By Makini Brice
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitians have chosen banana exporter Jovenel Moise as their next president, provisional results released by the election council on Monday showed, with the political novice winning a majority and avoiding a second round runoff.
Moise won 55.67 percent of the vote in the Nov. 20 election, the electoral council said, a majority that means the impoverished Caribbean nation will avoid a runoff and a political void, so long as the losing candidates do not contest the result.
“We want to salute the maturity of the Haitian people,” said Leopold Berlanger, president of the election council, which organized the vote weeks after a devastating hurricane hit the country.
The results follow a week of protests and unrest led by supporters of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party, which claimed victory for its candidate, Maryse Narcisse, soon after the election.
After the results, supporters of Moise danced to a band in a middle-class neighborhood in the capital.
Earlier, Fanmi Lavalas protesters marched through various neighborhoods, and police blocked attempts to burn tires. The result appears unlikely to quell the unrest.
The election was a repeat of a vote originally held in October 2015 that was overturned after allegations of fraud.
It was scheduled for Oct. 9, but was postponed again after the Category-4 Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean nation, killing up to 1,000 people and leaving 1.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
Election results are slow to be released in Haiti because votes are hand counted and transported across unreliable country roads, a situation made worse by Matthew, which tore up much of the south.
Moise was the chosen successor to former President Michel Martelly, a singer. A political unknown before last year, Moise also came first in the October 2015 vote, a result that triggered protests and the claims of fraud from opponents.
Moise, 48, is a successful businessman, running a banana export company that he sees as a model for rural development. As president he will face the daunting task of reviving Haiti’s economy and rebuilding a country that was still recovering from a 2010 earthquake when the hurricane hit.
The election took place without any major security incidents. Although turnout was very low and critics charged there had been instances of fraud, electoral observers said the vote had been acceptable.
Interim president Jocelerme Privert, who took power after Martelly left without an elected successor in February, called for calm in an address before the results were released.
He also said the political uncertainty of the past year had compromised economic and political development, referring to the $55 million that Haiti spent without assistance from the international community.
“When we spend $55 million to have elections, that is 55 kilometers of roads that we cannot construct,” Privert told journalists. “That is 55 high schools that we cannot construct. That is 110 lower-grade schools that we cannot construct.”
The electoral council said 12 percent of the tally sheets were set aside because of irregularities and were not included in the count.
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)