Minor Problems Reported in Presidential Voting; Monitor Declares 'Best Elections' in Troubled Nation's History

Article excerpt

Byline: Reed Lindsay, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Observers complained about minor voting irregularities yesterday as Haitians awaited the results of Tuesday's presidential election, which many hope could help end the country's slide into violent political conflict.

A spokesman for former President Rene Preval, the apparent front-runner, said he had a substantial lead, but those claims could not be verified.

In spite of the various problems at the polls, international monitors praised the relative lack of violence compared with past elections and declared the vote a success.

"It's possible that these are the best elections in Haiti's history," said Gerardo Le Chevallier, head of the elections for the United Nations' peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

Mr. Le Chevallier expected half of the ballots to be counted by last night, but the final results were not to be announced until tomorrow at the earliest. Jacques Bernard, director-general of the Provisional Electoral Council, said the release of preliminary tallies would begin today.

Organization of American States Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza estimated that two-thirds of registered voters cast ballots, while Juan Gabriel Valdes, chief of the U.N. mission in Haiti, put turnout at more than 60 percent.

Some observers were critical of the voting process.

Close to Cite Soleil, a vast neighborhood where armed groups frequently clash with U.N. peacekeepers, thousands of voters waited at polling stations that opened more than three hours late.

Spontaneous demonstrations erupted as angry voters denounced the electoral council's decision to remove polling stations from Cite Soleil as a ploy to disenfranchise its poor residents. The area strongly supports Mr. Preval, who dominated pre-election polls.

In other areas, some voters could not find their names on the lists at packed voting centers. …