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Originally published November 28, 2010 at 6:25 PM | Page modified November 29, 2010 at 8:31 AM

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Presidential contenders call for halt to Haiti election

Haitians wrapped up their election in discord Sunday, with nearly all the major presidential candidates calling for the vote to be voided over fraud and reports that large numbers of voters were turned away across the quake-stricken country.

The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitians wrapped up their election in discord Sunday, with nearly all the major presidential candidates calling for the vote to be voided over fraud and reports that large numbers of voters were turned away across the quake-stricken country.

Twelve of the 19 candidates for president endorsed a joint statement denouncing the vote, the first since a January earthquake destroyed much of the capital, leaving more than a million people still stranded in crowded tent encampments.

The statement called on their supporters to show their anger with demonstrations against the government and the country's Provisional Electoral Council, known as the CEP.

The statement included all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President René Préval.

Ninety-six contenders were competing for 11 Senate seats and more than 800 more were seeking to fill the 99-seat lower house.

But the focus is on the presidential contest. Nineteen candidates were on the ballot.

Voters throughout the country showed up at polling stations only to find them closed hours after their scheduled opening, or to be turned away because their names were not on lists. At one station, even Celestin was turned away.

The call for protests could also spark violence, especially with tensions already high after a series of deadly clashes earlier this month between U.N. peacekeepers and demonstrators who suspected them of bringing a rapidly spreading cholera outbreak.

There were also sporadic reports of violence and intimidation, as well as a ballot box being stolen and its contents strewn about in the capital's Cité Soleil slum.

Thousands of people surged onto the streets of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien, the second-largest city, after polls closed. People danced in the streets, carrying posters of their candidates and chanting their names.

Most of the people in both cities seemed to be celebrating presidential-candidate-turned-musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly.

Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-American singer whose bid for president ended with an August disqualification, joined a convoy led by two candidates — Martelly and factory owner Charles Henri-Baker — to CEP headquarters, where they hoped to meet with officials. U.N. peacekeepers and police deployed extra forces and barricades ahead of the march.

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Other elections

Swiss immigration vote: Swiss voters on Sunday approved a plan to automatically deport foreigners who commit serious crimes or benefit from fraud, in a significant victory for the nationalist party that pushed the proposal opposed by the government.

Ivory Coast: While millions of people voted peacefully, two deaths and voter intimidation was reported in Sunday's contentious presidential election pitting President Laurent Gbagbo, swept into power by street protests in 2000, against Alassane Ouattara. The long-overdue election was supposed to be the final step toward reuniting the country eight years after a civil war divided it in two.

Okinawa effect: Okinawa's incumbent governor Hirokazu Nakaima, 71, who campaigned for the removal of an unpopular U.S. Marine base from the Japanese island, appeared headed for re-election Sunday, in a likely test of the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

Seattle Times news services

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