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Haitians Protest Election Results

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haitians are setting fires and taking to the barricades as thousands of people protest the results of the country's presidential election.

Furious protesters in the capital, Port-au-Prince, were reported to have set fire to the headquarters of the ruling political party on Wednesday.

Residents run as they protest in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. (Kena Betancur/Reuters) "[Protesters have] got barricades all around the city," CBC's Connie Watson reported. "You can't move in a vehicle. You can only get around in a moto-taxi or by foot, and that is becoming a very dangerous proposition."

Watson said big chunks of concrete littered many roads Wednesday, meaning only pedestrians or motorbikes can pick their way through the debris.

The protests first erupted Tuesday, after the provisional electoral council said none of the candidates had won an outright majority in the first round of voting.

Mirlande Manigat, a professor and wife of a former president, claimed 31 per cent of the votes, followed by the government-backed candidate Jude Celestin, with 22 per cent, officials said.

Michel Martelly, a popular musician also known as Sweet Micky, came in just behind Celestin with slightly more than 21 per cent.

A contact in Cité Soleil, Haiti's largest slum, said there were shootings and two possible casualties as Celestin supporters clashed with Martelly supporters, Watson said.

She said most businesses are not open and many workers and children are staying home for the day, adding that there were reports of protests in Cap Haitien and Les Cailles.

American Airlines said Wednesday it has halted flights in and out of the Haitian capital because airport employees were unable to get to work because of the demonstrations.

"Martelly tried to call a news conference last night but then called it off for security reasons, so we expect to hear from him today for sure," Watson said.

The election is expected to go to a run-off on Jan. 16, but it's not clear whether Martelly will be allowed to join the top two candidates on the ballot.

The Nov. 28 election was marred by reports of fraud and blatant ballot-box stuffing, and many of the 19 presidential candidates had called for the vote to be cancelled.

Concerns about the vote centred around conflicts between the announced results and those reported recently by a local election monitoring group financed by the European Union - the National Observation Council.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti published a statement Tuesday expressing concern about the results and calling for calm.

"The United States, together with Haiti's international community partners, stands ready to support efforts to thoroughly review irregularities in support of electoral results that are consistent with the will of the Haitian people expressed in their votes, " the statement said.

Haiti is trying to contain a deadly cholera outbreak that has claimed more than 2,000 lives, and is still struggling to rebuild after a powerful earthquake flattened parts of the country in January.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press
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