Originally: Poll shows ex-Aristide ally, U.S. businessman lead Haiti presidential race

A one-time ally of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and a U.S. millionaire who has been barred from running have emerged as the top candidates in next month’s presidential election, according to a poll released on Friday.

Rene Preval, a one time Aristide ally who was Haiti’s president from 1995 to 2000, was backed by 32 percent, according to the poll released Friday by the U.S. Embassy.

Haitian-born U.S. businessman Dumarsais Simeus received 21 percent support in the poll conducted by CID/Gallup, an affiliate of the Gallup organization, for the U.S. government.

Marc Bazin, the official candidate of Aristide’s party _ Lavalas Family _ got just 4 percent in the poll.

It was the first political survey in Haiti since a bloody rebellion drove Aristide from power in February 2004. Voters will choose from about 35 candidates for president on Jan. 8.

Preval is running as an independent but appears to have appealed to Aristide’s electorate: the country’s numerous impoverished masses.

Deeply divided by wealth and race, Haitian society is largely ruled by a dominant elite representing less than 10 percent of the population and more than 90 percent of the wealth. Aristide had at one point raised hopes to improve social justice in the country, before his populist and corrupt rule lead to his ouster.

Though Preval, a one time prime minister under Aristide, is reported to have fallen out with the toppled leader, many in the capital’s ruling circles fear he could reintroduce similar practices if elected to office.

Simeus wasn’t one of the 35 official candidates. He has been barred from running in his native Haiti because he holds a U.S. passport, and the constitution bars dual citizens from running for president. But the Texas-based millionaire has obtained two Supreme Court decisions in his favor and has vowed to stay in the race.

The poll of 1,002 people was conducted in early November by CID/Gallup, an affiliate of the Gallup organization. It had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.