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Vote Fraud, Disenfranchisement Allegations Mar Haitian Election

November 29, 2010 at 5:16 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: And to Haiti, where long-awaited presidential elections were held this weekend. Ray Suarez reports.

RAY SUAREZ: Ballots burned and a polling station lay in shambles today, as potential political chaos was added to the long list of Haiti’s woes.

Any expectations for an orderly, uneventful presidential and legislative election on Sunday were dashed by allegations of vote fraud and disenfranchisement.

JEAN JUSTINE, Haiti (through translator): The people believed that they were prevented from voting, so they decided it is better to block and destroy the voting center.

RAY SUAREZ: But electoral officials said that just 3 percent of polling stations experienced problems.

PIERRE-LOUIS OPONT, Electoral Council Official (through translator): Fifty-six out of 1,500 voting centers were affected. There were voting sites destroyed. There were other places where people got in with guns. There were areas where people could not vote because their names were not in the lists.

RAY SUAREZ: Those irregularities led 12 of the 18 candidates vying to replace President Rene Preval to call for the vote to be invalidated, even before the polls closed yesterday. Much of their ire was directed toward Preval’s chosen successor, Jude Celestin, who is accused of benefiting from undue official influence.

But the government said the results would stand and there would be no revote. In the run-up to the election, observers said it was a necessary step toward rebuilding a broken land.

ALBERT RAMDIN, Organization of American States: That there is need for political stability, there is — that there is need for a new constitutionally elected president next year, February. There is a need for a legislative framework that can work together with the executive authorities in dealing with the challenges Haiti faces today.

RAY SUAREZ: But, for some Haitians, the ordeal of daily life made the election an afterthought.

CARLINE ESTINVILLE, Haiti (through translator): We have nothing to eat and no place to live. We are so thin that even the air that blows can lift us. From where do we get the strength to go out and vote?

RAY SUAREZ: That sentiment seemed widespread. Haitians turned out in low numbers for the vote. The first results are due next week, and runoffs are expected to take place in January.