WORKING by candlelight around the clock under chaotic
conditions, Haiti's small army of ballot counters is building a
picture of democracy, vote by vote.
Last Sunday's parliamentary, municipal, and local elections -
the first since democracy was restored last October - have sent a
signal to the world that Haiti has successfully broken with a
tradition of corruption and dictatorships. And it paves the way for
the presidential elections, due in December.
While results straggle in from distant countryside polling
places, a stand-off on their legitimacy is developing between
political parties and the official electoral board.
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) overseeing the entire
process admits that problems - lack of voting material, arson in
polling stations, and incomplete ballots - have marred Sunday's
elections. Yet overall, the eight-member council says, the
elections were a success.
"Elections were held according to the law," insists Council
president Anselme Remy, deflecting criticism of partisanship and
incompetence. "They were honest and democratic."
"We have a better environment today than last year," President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide said, backing the CEP. "Last year we had
guns killing people, this year we have ballots."
Prominent political party leaders, however, disagree. At least
three parties have asked that the elections be annulled, accusing
members from other parties of fraud and "magouy," a Creole word
loosely translated as monkey-business.
"It's clear these weren't honest elections," says incumbent
senatorial candidate Turneb Delpe, party member of the National
Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), the coalition under whose
banner Mr. Aristide came to power in 1990, but which he no longer
"People may have voted freely, but then our political party
observers were chased away, and ballot boxes confiscated. Is this
democratic?" asks Mr. Delpe.
Reports of fraud
At the Port-au-Prince Department Electoral Bureau, where FNCD
members say there was "massive fraud" Sunday evening, dozens of
torn cardboard ballot boxes are stacked in disarray. Used ballots
and torn registration lists litter the floor.
"There was no fraud here," said Raymond Eugene, vice-president
of the Communal Electoral Bureau. His office is responsible for
1,388 polling stations, each of which employed five people on
election day. "It was just that there were a huge number of people
all bringing their results in to us at once."
There have been scattered incidents of electoral violence,
including the death on Monday of an FNCD candidate for deputy in a
southwest district, six cases of arson at voting stations, and the
arrest of several dozen people attempting to disrupt the voting