Election Day Met With Uncertainty
A calm has descended over Port-au-Prince. No one really knows why.
Some suggest that the chimeres (the ghosts) -- ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's supporters in Cite Soleil and other poor areas -- have decided to keep the calm ... at least until the election is over.
Haiti is an amazing place in that it never fails to surprise even the most hardened observers, not to mention the Haitians themselves. The election that has been postponed so many times over recent months is finally taking place today. And everyone has a theory about what will happen afterward and what it all means. There are so many theories, in fact, that it becomes apparent that no one really knows.
But people keep asking: What will happen? Will violence erupt again if frontrunner Rene Preval does not win outright in the first round? Will his supporters react only if Preval seems sure to lose the election? Will Preval's opponents and their supporters cause problems?
There are so many factors. All one can do is wait and see.
The location of the polling stations is still confusing to many. As of last evening, many stations had not received their voting materials. Within a one-block area, people answer differently when asked if there is a polling station there. Polling stations were removed altogether from the hot spot of Cite Soleil. But not everyone knows where to go to cast their vote.
On the streets, the United Nations forces are at their most visible. Peruvian, Russian and Jordanian troops man the checkpoints, stopping Haitian tap taps (taxis), school buses and anyone else they deem suspicious. Sri Lankan troops are taking up residence in schools and factories that are to be used for voting.
Traffic -- always a barometer for the city's condition -- is greatly reduced. Schools are closed and American Airlines has canceled flights for the day. The city is preparing for any possibility, the general mood one of apprehension backed by a strong sense of optimisim and hope.
"The election is very important for me because the country is going from bad to worse," says a student who wants to study in America. "God will help me try to choose a good president for this country, to help change this country."
Another day of reckoning has dawned in Haiti. Those who voted in the 1990 election, when Aristide became Haiti's first freely-elected leader after decades of dictatorship, have another chance to grasp their future.
In the words of one person who stopped to watch a polling station being set up: "There are a lot of people who are going to try and vote. The Haitian people are supposed to care and vote for their country. I will vote because I care about Haiti."
Award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv is on the ground in Port-au-Prince documenting the run-up to Haiti's presidential and legislative elections. >>About This Blog
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