[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

28339: Hermantin(News)Second round of voting gets off to a slow start (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.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.

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 legislature.

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 said.

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.