The Washington Post reports that Haiti’s closely-watched presidential runoff election got off to a wobbly today as anger welled at several polling stations in the capital that still had not opened hours after the scheduled time. At five of six precincts, electoral workers said that ballot boxes, ink, and other voting materials had not been delivered, preventing them from opening the doors. Outside in the streets, seething crowds of would-be voters warned there would be trouble if the government didn’t let them in. Police armed with clubs and shotguns stood by at several locations where similar irregularities occurred during the first round of voting on November 28, 2010, leading to riots. While many people stayed away from polls, other voters who did arrive early simply walked away in disgust.
The runoff election for Haiti’s president and legislature is a seen as an essential step in the country’s rebuilding process, as foreign donors and aid groups wait to see if Haiti can install a government capable of managing the country’s rebuilding effort following the devastating January 2010 earthquake. More than a year after the disaster killed 200,000 people, more than a million Haitians are still living in squalid tent camps, so any further political wrangling will likely prolong their misery.
In this runoff between Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, 50, and Mirlande Manigat, 70, Martelly seems to have the most momentum in the race, particularly among Haiti’s urban youth.
It was not clear if the problems with polls this time were due to “dirty tricks” or “Haiti’s general disorganization.” Martelly supporters were convinced that [René] Preval was scheming to cheat them. While moods heated up, by 9:00am, three hours after doors should have opened, polls workers arrived with the proper materials, unloading them under guard from Haitian police and armed officers from Canada and Italy.
Some 200 international observers are on hand to monitor the vote. Preliminary results are not expected until March 31, with the full count due on April 16.
For original article, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/tensions-high-at-haitian-polls/2011/03/20/AByYjo1_story.html