Sunday 4 December 2016

Ex-Haiti president Jean-Bertrand Aristide rallies support for election candidate

Published 01/10/2015 | 05:40

Haiti's former president Jean Bertrand Aristide during a an election campaign meeting in Port-au-Prince (AP)
Haiti's former president Jean Bertrand Aristide during a an election campaign meeting in Port-au-Prince (AP)

Twice-ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide urged thousands of supporters gathered outside his house to vote for the presidential candidate of the political faction he founded years ago.

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Backers of the Fanmi Lavalas movement chanted, sang and waved photos of Mr Aristide after they trekked to his home in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Tabarre following a campaign rally miles away for the party's presidential candidate.

In early evening, he appeared with Lavalas' presidential candidate and party chief, Maryse Narcisse, to address the festive crowd.

Standing on the back of a pick-up truck alongside Ms Narcisse, he called on supporters to ensure that the party's leader wins this year's presidential election. The first round is on October 25.

"Everybody needs to stick together for Maryse Narcisse to enter the National Palace as president," Mr Aristide said into a microphone during his seven-minute speech, prompting loud cheers and applause.

Music blared from loud speakers as excited supporters jostled to catch a glimpse of the charismatic ex-president outside the home where he has lived quietly since returning to Haiti in 2011.

Mr Aristide remains a popular yet polarising figure more than a decade after he fled the country on a US plane in February 2004 amid a violent rebellion that led to his second ousting.

He has stayed mostly silent at his family home since he returned to Haiti following years of exile in South Africa.

Supporters began travelling to Tabarre any way they could after Ms Narcisse told the rally in Port-au-Prince that Mr Aristide was waiting for them at his home. She made the comments after officially launching her bid to become Haiti's next president.

She is among over 50 candidates vying for the job to replace President Michel Martelly, who cannot run for a consecutive term.

Mr Aristide's public endorsement could be a boon for Ms Narcisse, who is polling well below frontrunner Jude Celestin. During the last election cycle, the party was barred from the ballot.

A former slum priest and Haiti's first democratically elected president, Mr Aristide was a champion of the country's impoverished masses and led a movement to oust dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

He alienated Haiti's wealthy elite and was forced from power twice, first by a military junta in 1991 and again by a violent rebellion in 2004.

Critics say he broke promises to help the poor, allowing corruption fuelled by the drug traffic and masterminding attacks on opponents with armed gangs.

Press Association

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