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Haitians Await Results of Election After Chaotic Voting Conditions
Haitians await the outcome of the first presidential election since the U.S.-backed ouster of Jean Bertrand Aristide two years ago. Voters were frustrated by voting stations opening late and other major problems, leading to crowds storming polling stations and voting continuing late into the night. We get a report from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
There were no polling stations Tuesday in the Lavalas stronghold of Cite Soleil, home to at least 200,000 people. Voters swarmed out of that poor neighborhood as well as Bel Air and other areas to discover that voting stations had failed to open, election officials had no ballots, registration lists were incorrect and lines stretched for blocks. Angry crowds stormed the gates of the voting stations. At least four people died, including a police officer who was killed by a mob after fatally shooting a voter.
In many polling centers, vote counting continued late in the night. Doors remained open far longer than planned in order to accommodate voters still lined up outside. Thousands of armed UN troops were deployed to watch over the election process, which has been delayed four times since October. Official results are expected on Friday.
Voters in Haiti were choosing a new president, as well as a 129-member parliament. The frontrunner in the election is an ally of Aristide named Rene Preval. He served as Aristide’s first prime minister and succeeded Aristide as president in 1996. However Preval never joined Aristide’s political party Lavalas. He has said he would not prevent Aristide’s return to Haiti. A factory owner named Charles Henri Baker is polling second. He was a leader of the anti-Aristide Group of 184 and is the only white candidate in the race.
* Andrea Schmidt, independent journalist currently in Haiti. She reports from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.