Fraud claims, chaotic vote count threaten credibility of Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Charges of fraud and a chaotic vote
count that had workers sweeping up ballots on a Port-au-Prince street
threaten the credibility of an election billed as the last hope for Haitian
An opposition candidate for a local council, meanwhile, was stoned to
death, the third victim of election violence since balloting began Sunday.
The disorderly collection and counting of ballots from legislative and
elections held Sunday was "most unfortunate," said Ambassador Orlando
Marville of the Organization of American States, who is in charge of 200
international observers. Even as he and other observers insisted the elections
were successful despite the problems, officials warned that a prolonged count
was vulnerable to tampering.
Elections were held under pressure from the United States, which sent troops
oust a military regime in 1994, and the United Nations, which took over with a
peacekeeping and humanitarian mission. The last international troops left Haiti in
In a joint statement, opposition parties charged that "an electoral coup
in the works to give a landslide victory to the Lavalas Family party of former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is favored to win presidential elections in
Bickering over fraud in Haiti's last election, in 1997, led to a feud between
the majority party in Parliament and President Rene Preval, Aristide's
protege. Preval disbanded Parliament in 1999 and ruled by decree -- creating an
unconstitutional government that Sunday's vote was supposed to fix.
Also at stake is $500 million in international aid that has been suspended
until Haiti sets up a constitutional government. The money is desperately
needed in a country where 65 percent of the work force is unemployed.
Though official results are not expected for days, Aristide's party claimed
massive victory Monday, and thousands of supporters took to the streets to
Waving Lavalas placards, hundreds lobbed stones at a group of opposition
protesters who had been demonstrating to protest alleged fraud. Opposition
candidate Jean-Michele Olophene was later found dead nearby with his head
Opposition politicians claimed Aristide loyalists had controlled polling
expelled opposition observers.
Some polling stations opened late on Sunday, and hundreds never opened
at all --
which the opposition claimed was a deliberate attempt to discourage its
supporters from voting.
Lavalas spokesman Yvon Neptune, a senate candidate, said the fraud accusations
came from "a group of politicians with no roots among the people."
Ballot papers and empty boxes were strewn in the street in front of the
counting station for ballots from Port-au-Prince, said Jean-Paul Poirier, a
Canadian consultant to the electoral council. Votes gathered there represented
about a tenth of those cast by the 4 million registered voters.
Poirier said he organized a cleanup and thought workers recovered about
percent of the materials.
Inside, four officials tried to collate tally sheets from piles of votes
2 feet (more
than 0.5 meter) high. About 29,490 candidates had contested 7,625 posts in the
national legislature, mayoral commissions, and local and rural councils.
The head of the center, Rose Delaunay, said election officials without
transportation had to carry ballot boxes on their heads in a rainstorm for up to
one mile (1.5 kilometers) on Monday.
At another center in suburban Delmas, hundreds of ballot boxes and tally
were piled up haphazardly and scattered across an open courtyard.
"It's really a disaster," said election official Sanon Miche, 25, clutching
chest the tally sheets and voter registration ledger that he had brought to be