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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Rene Preval likely to become the new president of Haiti

Early returns give the former protégé of deposed president Jean Bertrand Arisitide a strong lead after Tuesday’s massive elections.

A former ally of the deposed popular leader Jean Bertrand Arisitide is likely to become the new president of Haiti, according to early returns of Tuesday’s elections. Rene Preval holds a commanding early lead with 61.5 per cent of the 282,327 valid votes counted so far, the electoral council said Friday. Former president Leslie Manigat had 13.4 per cent and businessman Charles Henri Baker 6.1 per cent, according to figures released by election officials.

Preval, president from 1996 to 2001, has been supported by the poor masses of the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. His supporters overcrowded polling stations across the country on Tuesday, which lead to incidents that left at least five killed, according to United Nations reports.

The 63-year-old agronomist stood for years in the shadow of Aristide, his dominating predecessor. Aristide, who was ousted in February 2004 by a US backed coup, is now in his exile in South Africa, but he is not expected to return to Haiti as Preval said that he will govern “without being influenced” by him.

In case of winning the elections, Preval will face enormous challenges, as the current situation in the island is far from being stable. After decades of right-wing dicatorships, corruption and economic slump, Haiti is today the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with over 80 percent of its population living in indigency, pre-modern iliteracy rates and notorious levels of violence.

Preval promises to make restoring security a priority if elected. He says he wants to jail the worst of the criminals. Poor Haitians remember that Preval tried to help them and lined for hours on Tuesday to vote for him under the watch of the UN peacekeeping mission. Preval’s first taks will be to bring back Haiti into normality and make their presence unnecessary.

Hernan Etchaleco