Leslie F. Manigat, a prominent political figure inHaiti who as its president in 1988 was overthrown in a bloodless military coup after serving in office for less than six months, died Friday at his home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was 83.
Evans Baubrun, deputy secretary of Mr. Manigat’s political party, confirmed the death without giving a specific cause. He said that Mr. Manigat had been ill for some time, and that his condition may have been complicated by a recent bout of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has been spreading in Haiti.
Mr. Manigat (pronounced mahn-ee-GAH), a political-science professor, was elected on Jan. 17, 1988, in army-run voting that was widely seen as rigged. The election was boycotted by the main opposition parties and by most of the electorate.
A round of balloting three months earlier had been called off after gunmen — some of them soldiers, witnesses said — shot into lines of voters and other assailants hacked people to death. More than 34 were killed.
Opposition figures said the military had orchestrated the bloodshed to ruin Haiti’s first free election in three decades after years of dictatorial rule by Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was known as “Baby Doc,” and his father, François Duvalier, “Papa Doc.”
After Mr. Manigat was inaugurated, a three-man ruling junta, headed by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, dissolved itself. It had ruled the country for two years after Jean-Claude Duvalier was deposed and went into exile.
By mid-June, however, Mr. Manigat and General Namphy were locked in a power struggle, and on June 17 Mr. Manigat sacked the general as commander of the armed forces, accusing him of insubordination. Two days later he proclaimed a reorganization of the Haitian military, which had held sway over the island for much of the previous 200 years.
General Namphy struck back quickly, using troops loyal to him to seize the national palace in Port-au-Prince and to take Mr. Manigat into custody at his home. General Namphy proclaimed himself president and set up a military government.
Mr. Manigat had reaffirmed his allegiance to democracy after taking office, and many Haitians lauded him for forming a cabinet of respected intellectuals and technical experts. When he removed General Namphy and other officers, he said he was facilitating the growth of democracy. It was widely believed that the military had restricted Mr. Manigat’s policies.
That September, General Namphy himself was deposed in a coup by noncommissioned officers. Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril, chief of the presidential guard and a former Duvalier adviser, declared himself president.
Mr. Manigat, the author of several books, was an energetic man with a grizzled mustache, a broad smile and large, sometimes mournful eyes. He had a spirited speaking style that went down well with Haitian students. His admirers said he had a sharp, analytical mind. His detractors said he was ambitious, volatile, fond of intrigue.
Leslie François Saint Roc Manigat was born on Aug. 16, 1930, in Port-au-Prince. He was one of the four children of François Saint-Surin Manigat, a secondary-school mathematics teacher, and the former Haydée Augustin, an elementary-school teacher.
Mr. Manigat came from a family of educators and politicians with roots along the conservative north coast of Haiti, where most of the battles that led to independence from France in 1804 were fought. His grandfather, François Manigat, was a general and a contender for the presidency at the turn of the 20th century.
Leslie Manigat attended parochial schools in Port-au-Prince and went on to the Sorbonne in Paris, where he completed the course requirements for a doctorate but did not write a thesis.
Back in Haiti, he went to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1958, François Duvalier asked him to establish the School of International Studies at the University of Haiti. He became its first director.
But in 1960 Mr. Duvalier accused Mr. Manigat of helping instigate a student strike. He went to jail for two months and then fled the country. He remained in exile for 23 years, teaching in France, the United States and Latin America, including Venezuela, and giving speeches urging the ouster of the Duvalier family. (Jean-Claude Duvalier, at 19, succeeded his father on his death in 1971.)
In 1979, in Venezuela, Mr. Manigat organized a political party, the Rally of Progressive National Democrats, which formed a military wing that an aide said had trained in the hope of invading Haiti in the early 1980s.
In the years after he returned to Haiti, Mr. Manigat received the Haiti Grand Prize of Literature in 2004, given at the Miami Book Fair International, and ran for president again, in 2006, coming in second behind René Préval, himself a former president.
His wife, Mirlande Manigat, was a candidate in the 2010 presidential election, running as a member of her husband’s party.