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#3764: For Haitians, voting is an ordeal (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Jennifer Bauduy
PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 21 (Reuters) - Jeanne Aleandre squatted on the
ground behind her husband to rest her legs, tired after standing in line
for four hours waiting to vote on Sunday at an as yet unopened polling
booth in Haiti's capital.
"The country can't stay like this. I was forced to come vote so that
things can get better," Aleandre, 49, said.
Aleandre, who makes alcoholic beverages in her home for a living,
echoed a desire among most Haitian voters for the country to climb out of a
devastating poverty marked by unemployment upward of 60 percent.
While voting began without incident in some polling sites early on
Sunday through much of the country, hundreds lined up outside schools and
other polling sites waiting all morning in lines that never moved because
ballots, voting boxes and other voting materials had not arrived.
In many sites poll workers simply never showed.
"In a lot places, one, two or even three of the poll workers didn't
show up. We don't know if it was done on purpose," said Jean-Max Bellerive,
president of the voter bureau for Haiti's West Department, which
encompasses the capital.
Voting in parliamentary and local elections was slated to begin at 6
a.m. (1100 GMT) and end at 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) in Haiti's efforts to
establish a fully functioning government in this impoverished Caribbean
"The poll worker told us that he arrived late because he had to go and
open some other sites and he has to go on foot," said Monosby Magene, 27, a
teacher waiting to vote.
Poll workers inside the Ecole Normal Superior, across from the
national palace, where President Rene Preval later cast his ballot, were
still busy at mid-morning setting up cardboard partitions on tables and
benches to create voting booths.
They were still doing an inventory of plastic-wrapped ballots some
five hours after voting was expected to start.
In the seaside slum of Cite Soleil, voters demonstrated in the
streets, angered that materials had still not arrived by mid-day at most of
the area's polling sites.
In Leogane, about two miles (3 km) south of the capital, witnesses
said members of the Lavalas Family of former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide intimidated voters and forced them to vote for their party.
Opposition politicians said the widespread chaos was deliberate and
aimed at reducing voter turn-out. They said that in many cases their party
observers were not allowed to enter voting sites.
Election officials had instigated the use of indelible ink to reduce
At a polling site in Petionville, the hilly suburb above the capital,
one youth showed the thumb he had just dipped into the supposedly indelible
ink in order to vote. The ink had already vanished.