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Haiti officials appear on state TV to say they’ll keep promises for fair, peaceful Sunday vote

By David McFadden


Haiti Elections

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti _ About a dozen top Haitian officials appeared on state television Wednesday in an effort to reassure anxious voters that they will keep their promises of organized, fair and peaceful elections this weekend.

The prime minister, various Cabinet members, the police chief and the elections director spoke on the national broadcast about preparations for Sunday elections that will see Haitians casting ballots for president, Parliament and local offices.

Looking directly into a TV camera, Prime Minister Evans Paul told Haitians citizens that the weekend balloting will be held as scheduled and voters will be respected.

“Everybody prepare to go vote, there will be elections,” Paul said, adding that “a lot of money has been spent, a lot of energy has gone into” getting ready for this year’s three-round electoral cycle.

Widespread delays and disorder troubled the first round of legislative elections on Aug. 9. That balloting was billed as a crucial test of the country’s electoral system ahead of the first-round presidential vote this weekend.

Numerous polling stations had to wait for ballots after voting was supposed to start at dawn that day. In some districts, voters grew exasperated after being told they couldn’t vote because their names weren’t on official lists. And some voting centres were so badly married by violence and intimidation that balloting was cancelled in 25 districts, forcing authorities to schedule a new vote for those areas.

But about 2 1/2 months later, Pierre Louis Opont, head of the country’s Provisional Electoral Council, says authorities have identified the weak spots, fired three staffers, and there will be no organizational disarray for Sunday’s balloting.

“We are sure that security will be in place so that everybody can come out and vote in peace,” Opont asserted, adding that he’s confident that all of country’s roughly 13,700 voting centres will be open at 6 a.m. sharp as scheduled.

When a Haitian journalist asked him about the chronic allegation of biased tallies at tabulation centres and an overall lack of transparency, Opont said the electoral council would put out a statement about their “methods” of tallying votes at some point after the Oct. 25 contest.

Calm and transparent elections are a tall order in Haiti and many Haitians are skeptical of the fairness of the electoral process, given the country’s recent history of tumultuous or just plain messy votes.

The Provisional Electoral Council has repeatedly been criticized for votes plagued by disorganization, ballot irregularities and fraud allegations. In 2006, a former electoral council chief was forced to flee the country after he was accused of trying to manipulate results and attackers looted and burned his farmhouse.

But Haitian citizens like Derosier Amos, a university student in agricultural science, said voters are determined to make their voices heard Sunday. “I’m going to vote no matter what because I think it is my responsibility as a citizen,” he said outside his Port-au-Prince school.


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