Returns Put Former President Ahead in Haiti Elections

Incomplete returns showed that Rene Preval — a popular former president and one-time protege of ousted leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide — has a commanding lead in Haiti's presidential election outright, an official with his party and a rival said Thursday.

The official at Preval's Lespwa party headquarters said that with almost 25 percent of the ballots counted, Preval was leading with 67.7 percent of the vote. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to release the data.

Leslie Manigat, a 75-year-old candidate who was president for five months in 1988 before being ousted by the army, also said early returns from his party's representatives monitoring the count showed Preval with a wide lead.

"There is a tiny chance that we will have a second round, but I fear Preval has made a clean sweep of the votes," Manigat told The Associated Press.

The electoral commission has not yet released any official results from Tuesday's presidential and parliamentary elections. But the results are also being tabulated by political parties that have representatives at the polls and have signed off on tally sheets.

The official with Preval's party said 359,000 votes had been counted so far, which would be almost 25 percent of the votes cast, according to estimates of voter turnout.

Preval's political adviser, Bob Manuel, also said Wednesday that preliminary calculations showed the former president having won 67 percent of the nationwide vote, with 16 percent of votes counted.