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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Delays and irregularities mark election in Haiti

 

It was a day of missing ballots, late starts — and relative calm — in Haiti on Sunday, where a presidential runoff took place four months after a disastrous first round marked by widespread violence and contested results.

In some places, there were no ballots. In others, there was only dry ink to mark a voter’s finger. In many more, disenfranchised voters were turned away from polls and boisterous political party operatives got in the way.

But despite the irregularities, authorities said the day went smoothly, without the widespread fraud that marred November’s election.

“”Democracy is on the brink of winning a big victory in our country,”” said Gaillot Dorsinville, the head of the Provisional Electoral Council.

The second round was between musician Michel “”Sweet Micky”” Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Both candidates are considered right of center. Martelly is the dark-horse candidate who enjoys the support of the nation’s youth, weary of the country’s old political guard.

The winner will replace Rene PrevalHaiti’s first democratically elected president to finish two terms without being overthrown.

Preliminary results are expected March 31; final results will not be announced until April 16.

The elections took place two days after the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who showed up in his home country after seven years of exile in South Africa. Many people worried that his arrival would upset the election.

Voting appeared light in Port-au-Prince and Gonaives, where the only lines were at the poll stations that lacked the supplies to open.

“”The political class hasn’t shown any results for Haiti,”” said Kenold Thercy, a 34-year-old engineer who cast his ballot in Gonaives. “”So the people think, ‘I will go with this other guy Martelly, who sings and dances and maybe he will do something for the country.’ He’s an embarrassment for Haiti. He’s going to sit down at a table with 1/8French President Nicolas3/8 Sarkozy or Obama?””

When Martelly showed up to cast his ballot, hundreds of jubilant roaring supporters people took over the streets. After Manigat voted, crowds chanted — for her opponent.

Charlemagne Achille, 25, who was unable to vote in November because he could not find his name on the electoral list, said Martelly represents the change Haiti needs.

“”I want this country to move forward,”” Achille said, standing outside Petionville High School. “”We can’t afford to plunge deeper into misery.””

But others were turned off by singer’s often bawdy style on stage.

“”I’m a Christian, a Baptist. I can’t have a guy who is used to making a spectacle of himself in the streets to go sit down with world leaders and represent us,”” said Jerome Mompoint, 53, who works for the airport authority. “”I voted Manigat. She is prepared. . . . She’s someone who can represent.””

Police said at least one person was killed in Marchand Dessalines in the Artibonite Valley, where rival political party supporters shot at each other. Saying that the hip-hop star Wyclef Jean had refused to meet with investigators, Haitian police were still trying to make sense of a report that he had been shot in the hand on Saturday.

Seventy-four voting centers out of 1,500, including the four largest in Port-au-Prince, were affected by logistical problems and missing material, the Organization of American Statesobserver mission said. Voting in the capital was extended one hour to make up for time lost.

Colin Granderson, head of OAS mission, said the second round was “”much improved”” from the first.

“”The atmosphere was calm and people seem relaxed,”” he said.

Hours after polls opened, there were reports of missing and mixed-up voter material in the West department that includes the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. In Port-au-Princealone, more that 40 voting bureaus were missing materials.

At one center with 22 polling stations, elections authorities sent ballots for Senate races instead of for the Chamber of Deputies. There was no Senate election in that district. There were 76 legislative races nationwide.

At the Port-au-Prince stadium, ballots arrived more than six hours after the start of voting, causing some voters to suspect the delay was a deliberate maneuver to dissuade people from voting.

“”It’s fraud,”” said Jean-Baptiste Daniel, 40, noting at 12:30 p.m. that he had been in line since 6 a.m. ””They know it. They did this on purpose. I’m going to stay to make sure I vote.””

Dozens of people were turned away from polling places in Gonaives when they couldn’t find their names on the master list. A Canadian observer noted that many of the people whose names were not on lists were over the age of 70.

Ladimene Lassere, the supervisor in a rural Poteau district, said no more than 50 people were turned away there.

“”It’s a lot more than 50!”” shouted back Ricot Desinor, a disenfranchised voter who lacked a government-issued identity card.

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