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Saturday 20 September 2014

Haitian ex-president Manigat dies

Published 27/06/2014 | 16:22

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Leslie Manigat's short term in office was ended by a military coup in 1988 (AP/Scott Applewhite)

Leslie Manigat, a prominent figure in the Haitian political establishment whose term as president was cut short by a military coup in 1988, has died at the age of 83.

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The former president died at home after a long period of illness, according to Evans Baubrun, deputy secretary of Mr Manigat's political party.

Mr Baubrun said Mr Manigat's condition might have been complicated by a recent bout of chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne virus which has been rapidly spreading in Haiti since the first locally transmitted cases emerged earlier this year.

His death "creates a huge void in the Haitian intellectual community and in the world", said prime minister Laurent Lamothe. A statement issued by his office said Mr Manigat "contributed to the education of several generations of Haitians and has helped to enhance our national pride".

Mr Manigat, a former professor of history and political science, won the presidency in January 1988 amid the tumult that followed the fall of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier two years earlier.

The election, which was boycotted by the main opposition parties, was widely seen as illegitimate. A round of balloting three months earlier was called off after gunmen shot into lines of voters at polling stations and other assailants hacked people to death. Witnesses said soldiers took part in the shooting and the opposition said the military organised the bloodshed to ruin the first free election in three decades.

Within six months, Mr Manigat was ousted in a coup led by Lieutenant General Henri Namphy. Upon fleeing to the neighbouring Dominican Republic, he appeared finished with politics.

"I'm not going to fall into the classic trap of deposed political men who see the return to power from one moment to the other and pass all their time waiting for that imminent return," he told reporters at the time. "I'm not only a politician, but a political scientist. I can avoid that vision, that force of mistaken politics and personal frustration."

He did eventually return to Haiti and politics. He ran for president in 2006 but came in second to Rene Preval. In 2010, his wife, Mirlande Manigat, ran and was defeated by Michel Martelly, the current president.

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