Haiti’s Election Turmoil Throws Results Into Question

BY Larisa Epatko  November 29, 2010 at 2:00 PM EDT


Haitian election worker walks over ballots scattered at a polling station in Port-au-Prince. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Allegations of fraud, general disorganization and protests marred Haiti’s presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, and Haitian officials are now mulling over how to handle results.

“The cholera epidemic on top of reconstruction from the earthquake simply was too much for all sides to handle, and there was significant confusion,” said Mark Schneider, senior vice president and special adviser on Latin America for the International Crisis Group.

The confusion and frustration over voting logistics boiled over in some places, where people ripped up ballot boxes and protested in the streets.

So far, Haiti’s election body, the Provisional Electoral Council, has said the irregularities do not merit tossing out the results.

Dissatisfaction with the current government added to the chaos at the polls, said Robert Maguire of Trinity Washington University, who is also chairman of the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Haiti Working Group.

“The stakes in the election were very high, as they always are in Haiti, particularly when it’s a presidential election, and there was a great degree of enmity expressed among several candidates to the incumbent leader Rene Preval,” said Maguire. Some of it was personal — they felt jilted by Preval — and others felt the government had not done what it needed to do to get the country back on track before the election, he said.

Twelve of 18 presidential candidates urged officials to annul elections because of alleged ballot-stuffing and fraud, though the government declared them a success. The 12 leaders planned to meet Monday to determine their next move, said Maguire.

Electoral authorities said people at 56 voting centers, or 3-5 percent of the total 1,500 polling centers, where problems occurred would be given another chance to vote.

The international community, which wants the elections to succeed because it needs a legitimate partner to move forward with the rebuilding of Haiti, will likely call for calm as the various allegations are investigated and to keep the process on track, Maguire said.

A runoff of the top two presidential contenders is scheduled for Jan. 16.

NPR’s Jason Beaubien has been reporting from Port-au-Prince on the election fallout. Ray Suarez will talk to Beaubien and have a report on the Haiti vote on Monday’s NewsHour.

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