Haiti elections a shambles

Etianne Petit Frere, age 23, waits with other frustrated voters at a polling station in Cite Solei, where she had been trying to vote for hours, but could not find her name on the rosters. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles TimesNovember 28, 2010|12:51 p.m.

Amid allegations of stuffed ballot boxes and other fraud, 12 of 18 candidates for president call for the elections to be canceled, accuse President René Préval of trying to fix the contest.

Reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti —

Elections on Sunday in a nation already racked by January’s earthquake and a cholera epidemic devolved into chaos, with thousands of voters unable to find their names on electoral rolls and a general outcry alleging widespread fraud.

Twelve of the 18 presidential candidates issued a declaration saying the elections should be canceled and that the people should “mobilize” to prevent the government from accepting the results. They accused President René Préval of conspiring with the electoral council to install his party in Parliament and his pick to succeed him, Jude Celestin, in the National Palace.

Celestin was second in recent polling, but a reporter talking to dozens of voters at the polls Sunday could not find a single one who was planning to vote for him.

The electoral council said there were minor problems with the election and that it was comfortable with the results, according to radio reports.

The morning started calmly, with far fewer people lining up at polls than during the last national election. But lines began to grow as polling places opened late. Doors were jammed with angry voters who were told they could not vote because their names were not on the lists.

At a school in the seaside slum of Cité Soleil, Dieumercie Francois, 40, started at 6 a.m., going from list to list trying to find her name. By 10 a.m., she still hadn’t found it. She planned to vote for Mirlande Manigat, the leader in the recent polls.

“I think they’re trying to steal it,” she said.

“There were 43 things I saw,” said Coraine Beauvoir, spokeswoman for Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, another leading candidate. She pulled out a list of reports she received from observers around the country.

“In Port-de-Paix, the boxes were already full of ballots even though no voters had arrived. On the ballots in Les Cayes, they put plastic over Sweet Micky’s box so no one could mark it,” Beauvoir said.

She also said people casting ballots for Préval’s party did not have their thumbs marked with ink to ensure they did not vote again.

Allegations of fraud are a usual part of Haitian elections but not on the scale of the claims Sunday, coming from thousands of people and the majority of candidates, including at least two of the front-runners, Manigat and Martelly, who signed the declaration.



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