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Protesters in Haiti reject upcoming runoff vote, claiming fraud

Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince to decry the upcoming runoff round of the presidential elections. The opposition is boycotting the vote; accusing the government of fraud.

The protesters barricaded several streets in central Port-au-Prince with burning tires, and set fire to at least two cars during the Monday rally, ahead of the vote scheduled for next Sunday.

"We have reached the limit; we will use violence because we must respond to the (government's) violence against our rights," protester Joseph Onsy said, warning of the danger of the civil war.

The Monday rally came just hours after three electoral offices were set on fire, and at least two more were pelted with rocks in the north of Haiti.

Elections a 'farce'

Haiti held the controversial first round of the presidential election in late October.

According to official results, the pro-government candidate Jovenel Moise placed first with 32.76 percent of the vote, ahead of the opposition's Jude Celestin who won 25.29. A record 54 candidates took part in the election.

However, Celestin called the results a "farce" and

accused the authorities of fraud

in favor of Moise. The opposition candidate also announced he would boycott the second leg of the presidential ballot.

An independent commission published a report saying that the voting was marred by irregularities.

US in favor of vote

Celestin's name and photo will be on the ballot on the January 24, despite his decision to pull out of the race and his refusal to run an electoral campaign, the president of Haiti's electoral council Pierre-Louis Opont said on Sunday.

"I can confirm that as I talk to you today we have two candidates in the race and their names are Jovenel Moise and Jude Celestin," Opont told the Reuters news agency in an interview.

"Their names are already on the ballot and the election will take place as scheduled," he added.

Although Celestin publicly vowed to write to the election council and request his official withdrawal, the officials have yet to receive such notification, Opont said.

The deadline for pulling out of the race has already passed, according to the official.

The United Nations, the United States and the Organization of American States have all spoken out in favor of holding the runoff vote this month. Some observers fear that an electoral failure could spark a

deep crisis

in the poorest nation of the Americas.

dj/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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