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Final Preparations Set for Haiti Election


A voter looks at a polling station list in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

A voter looks at a polling station list in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Final preparations are set for Sunday's election in Haiti, to choose a new president that will lead the nation still struggling from a massive earthquake. Some residents expressed concerns that political violence was still possible on election day.

Haitian officials said all preparations were set for the elections on Sunday to choose a new president and lawmakers. Haitian police and some 12,000 United Nations troops were expected to deploy across the nation to discourage any trouble.

In recent days, officials have worked overtime to issue new identity cards to scores of Haitian voters who lost their documents in a massive earthquake in January. Still, some voters say, even with cards in hand, there are concerns about whether polling sites have moved because of the extensive damage to the city.

Saturday afternoon, a small group of people gathered in front of the national election office in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. The gate in front of the building was plastered with lists of voter names and the polling sites assigned to each person.

Voter Paul Jean Eddie struggled to find his name on the paper sheets, which were faded and torn. Eddie said he asked a friend to look at the website for the election office to see whether his polling site had changed, but he couldn't find the information.

Nearby, another voter Thermillus Ronald recalled voting at a school during the last elections in 2006. But Ronald said the building that housed that polling station was destroyed in the earthquake and now he doesn't know where the new site is.

Across the capital, vehicle and pedestrian traffic faded, leaving few signs of the commotion and gridlock that are characteristic of Port-au-Prince. One spot of activity was Jacmel station, where passengers pick up bus rides to the provinces

Late Saturday, bus driver Reynold Polisants rushed to load the last passengers for his final trip to Jacmel for the weekend. Polisants said many people are returning to their hometowns because they feel safer there. He said he is worried about violence as well, and he is rushing to get out of Port-au-Prince as soon as possible.

Friday, police said gunmen fired shots during a rally for presidential candidate Michel Martelly in Les Cayes. Martelly's campaign denounced the attack, though authorities said no one was injured.

In the capital, Hugh Marcellus waited aboard one bus bound for Les Cayes. He said he heard about the attack in his hometown, but he still felt it was safer to go there than remain in Port-au-Prince. Marcellus said he and the others are leaving town because the politicians are trying to incite violence. He says, if there is shooting, he will stay home and not vote.

There are 4.7 million registered voters in Haiti, but turnout remains a big question in Sunday's vote. Some critics say the vote should be suspended as health officials struggle to contain a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 1400 people.

Nineteen candidates are on the ballot for president, creating a chance that the race will not be decided in the first round. In that case, a run-off vote would be called for January 16.

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