News / Americas

Haitians Vote in Presidential Runoff

Man wearing t-shirt with U.S. President Barack Obama's face is seen inside of a polling center during presidential elections in Port-au-Prince, March 20, 2011
Man wearing t-shirt with U.S. President Barack Obama's face is seen inside of a polling center during presidential elections in Port-au-Prince, March 20, 2011
Jeff Swicord

In Haiti, voters came out early on election day Sunday. After wide-spread allegations of fraud in the first round, officials were hoping this second and hopefully final round vote would run smoothly. International donors are waiting for a legitimate government to which they could release billions of dollars in aid to rebuild the country. But there were some sporadic problems in downtown Port-au-Prince.

At 6:00 a.m., early voters at the Lycee Marie Jeanne polling station in downtown Port-au-Prince began to trickle in. Haitians have been urged to turn out en masse to decide which of two candidates will lead the country as it struggles to rebuild after the earthquake of over a year ago.  

Polling station supervisor Jeanty Williams was pleased with how smoothly voting was going.

"So far everything is OK.  We opened at 6:00 a.m.  And as you can see the people are voting. They are coming and going, but it is a little slow," Williams said.

Watch video footage from Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The race for president pits former first lady Mirlande Managat against musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly.  Also on the ballot are senators and deputies in 76 run-off legislative races.

Roseline Beljane told us she left her house at five in the morning to vote.  She had to wait more than an hour because there was no ink used to mark voter's fingers after they vote.

When we asked her who she voted for, she smiled coyly and as she was walking away said: "For the person who is working for the country ... Wyclef."  She was referring to Wyclef Jean, the rapper who launched a candidacy for president last year. His candidacy was disqualified by the national election committee.  He has been at the side of band mate and friend Michel Martelly for much of his campaign.

But things rarely go as planned in Haiti. As we walked toward the front gate, security guards had blocked it off and were not letting anymore voters in. The Electoral Committee had ordered the polling station closed because some voting materials had never arrived. The polling station supervisor, flanked by security guards, walked out to speak to the crowd.  

But angry voters like Joseph Sinal were uninterested in his explanation.

"I am here. I have an electoral card and they would not let me vote. They say they are missing materials, but I am here to vote for Michel Martelly. That is it," Sinal said.

Voting was also halted the Lycee Jeune Filles polling station just a few blocks away because of missing materials.  

An Election Committee spokesperson told us an emergency meeting had been called to discuss the problem. They also told us voting was going smoothly in other parts of the city and across the country. A few hours later both polling stations were reopened.  

Results are not expected until some time in April.

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