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28339: Hermantin(News)Second round of voting gets off to a slow start (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Sat, Apr. 22, 2006
Second round of voting gets off to a slow start
A small turnout characterized the second round of voting in Haiti to pick
legislators. Several violent incidents broke out in rural areas.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
Polls opened and closed on time, and election workers were much better
organized for the second round of Haitian elections. But only a small number of
the country's 3.5 million voters turned out Friday for legislative elections.
The day was a sharp contrast from Feb. 7, when large crowds came out for the
first round of balloting for the presidency and the legislature, overwhelming
election workers and threatening to send the politically troubled country
further into chaos.
Traditionally, Haitians have always placed greater emphasis on presidential
races even though Haiti's constitution gives greater power to the prime
minister, who is approved by parliament. That, along with a lack of
campaigning, may have affected balloting for virtually all 129 seats in the
Political analysts and observers said the lack of interest should not be taken
as a reflection of the legitimacy of the new parliament, which would be Haiti's
first functioning legislature since 1997.
''This parliament is going to be coming from a process that is fair, that
wasn't stolen or ripe with fraud,'' said political analyst Lionel Delatour.
``While we would have preferred to have voter turnout higher, it's a reflection
of what the people wanted.''
Still, Eric Gaillard, a statistician who has been studying possible election
outcomes, said the low turnout and large number of political parties in the
contest could make it difficult for Haitian President-elect René Préval, who
will have to form a coalition government because no single party will be able
to win control of parliament.
''I am optimistic in the sense that I think we are moving forward. I think we
are learning from our past mistakes, and I think for good governance we have to
go through this process,'' he said.
Haiti has been in crisis and under an unelected interim government since a
violent revolt in 2004 ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Friday's
election was critical to the country's return to democracy. Official results
are expected by next Friday, but as they are tallied, they will be posted at
www.cep-ht.org. The site will be updated every two hours, election officials
said. Still, the day was not without violence, especially in the Artibonite
Valley north of Port-au-Prince, where voting was canceled after voters invaded
a polling station and began ripping up ballots, said Jacques Bernard, director
general of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council.
Bernard said this is the second time that violence disrupted the voting in that
town, Grande Saline, one of the 37 ''trouble spots'' where electoral officials
and U.N. peacekeepers had deployed extra patrols to avert violence.
Almost two hours after the center was shut down, an unidentified person pulled
out a gun and started firing, killing one man and wounding another, Bernard
In Verrettes, also in the Artibonite, elections observer Maurice Mac Michel was
shot and wounded by a candidate for the lower chamber, Bernard said.
''In Port-au-Prince, it was very quiet,'' said Bernard. ``In the countryside,
passions really went high.''
Despite the incidents and low voter turnout, Bernard said he was ''very, very
satisfied'' with the vote.
That sense of optimism was also seen among voters.
''I am voting to get out of the mess we are in. Usually people don't take these
races seriously, but this time I want to give a chance to Préval,'' said Fauche
Baptiste, 49, as he voted in Port-au-Prince.
Putting her parliamentary vote more bluntly, Manouchka Philidor, 22, said, ``I
am voting to give the head [Préval] a body.''
Herald Writer Chantal Regnault contributed to this report from Port-au-Prince.