Banana exporter Jovenel Moïse won the first round of the Haiti presidential election, according to preliminary results released by the electoral council late Monday. The businessman won a comfortable majority eliminating the need for a second round runoff.
The political novice won 55.67 percent of the votes in the Nov. 20 election well ahead of his rival Jude Celestin who won 19.52 percent of the votes. Given Moïse’s over 50 percent majority and the fact that he leads his nearest rival by over 25 points, a second round runoff is not required as per the country’s election rules.
Moïse also won the presidential election in October 2015 but the result was overturned due to allegations of fraud. Fresh elections were scheduled for October this year but had to be postponed when the Category-4 storm, Matthew, ravaged the country. The hurricane left over 1,000 Haitians dead and over a million in need of humanitarian aid.
Moïse was handpicked by former President Michel Martelly as the Tet Kale party’s presidential candidate. A little-known businessman prior the 2015 election, Moïse was reportedly nicknamed “banana man” during the campaign. Aside from setting up a banana plantation in North Haiti, Moïse also founded the public-private project Agritrans, which helped in exporting the fruit to Europe.
He served as secretary general of the chamber of commerce in northern Haiti and according to his campaign, began a project that would bring solar and wind power to 10 communities. His campaign promises include improving education in the country and the creating more jobs.
Several bouts of violence have marred the country's election process. Interim President Jocelerme Privert appealed for calm before Monday’s announcement. “Resorting to acts of violence can only spoil the fruits of the beautiful day we had on 20 November,” he reportedly said. About 21 percent of Haitians voted on Nov.20.
However, even before the results were announced, the capital Port-au-Prince witnessed violence as supporters of the Lavalas Family party set up flaming street barricades in one part of the city and smashed car windows.
The party, whose supporters spearheaded the week of protests prior to the result, was founded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was elected into power twice and was ousted from office both times. The party’s supporters have said for days that only “massive fraud” would prevent their candidate Marysse Narcisse from coming to power. Narcisse won 8.9 percent of votes.
“We will never accept Jovenel! It is all being manipulated,” Rony Jean-Pierre, one of the demonstrators, said.
“The Haitian people have made their choice and voted for me in the first round. Thank you all for your trust. Long live Haiti!” Moïse tweeted.
The final results will be handed over to the country’s electoral tribunal where parties can appeal against them before the winner is certified on Dec. 29.