Election Day Met With Uncertainty


Hatian women read from the bible outside a polling place ahead of Tuesday's vote. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

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.


A U.N. soldier searches a Haitian man outside a polling station. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

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.




With schools closed for elections, students play basketball as troops the area. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

"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

By washingtonpost.com |  February 7, 2006; 9:40 AM ET
Previous: Preval's Final Push | Next: Haitians Cast Ballots Despite Chaos

Comments

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Ron, thanks for the evocative photographs and descriptions.

Posted by: Drew | February 7, 2006 11:20 AM

I am happy for my country. The people have expressed themselves! International observers, the UN should make sure that the votes are fairly counted.
I hope the US will respect the will of the Haitian people and not conduct some back alley dealing to please the 5% of the population like they have always done !
This is a Happy Day for Haiti.

Posted by: Joel | February 9, 2006 12:01 PM

i verry happy to day even whats what happended the election was did . and i want an tell thank you to all the people want to brak up haiti . gord will we protage

Posted by: jean lindor | February 9, 2006 12:34 PM

I think the Haitian people rely too heavily on the individual and not on the institutions that are there to serve them. By that I mean we need a boby of checks and balances to curb corruption and incompetence. And, since no one is never happy with the outcome of any elections there. I think they need to better taylor the electoral process to curb dissatisfactions with the outcome

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 9, 2006 02:52 PM

I want to thank the Washington Post for making the information available about the election to haitians living abroad. I'm a very proud Haitian/american. I sincerely hope this election marks the begining of some sense of stability. And again, thank you Washington Post.

Posted by: Jean-Claude Charles | February 10, 2006 03:51 AM

"And, since no one is never happy with the outcome of any elections there. I think they need to better taylor the electoral process to curb dissatisfactions with the outcome"

Only 5% of the population is always dissatisfied with the election because they cannot win. They cannot win via the ballot box because they do not have any legitimacy.

For too long (20 years) the "international community"
have catered to these individuals or MREs at the expense of 95% of the population. The country cannot continue to be held hostage for these MREs. They are free to leave Haiti to the real heir of the Haitian Revolution. They will not be missed.

Posted by: margarette rateau | February 10, 2006 02:07 PM

I don't know what the numbers are but it is more than 5%. However, that is nonetheless still a portion of the population whose voice still needs to be heard. We are a Republic after all. It is non sense to think that we can only have a different outcome when we keep repeating te same thing. You know pertinently that will never happen(leave haiti). It has been 20 years since baby doc left and nothing has changed because again the haitian leadership is inept. They have failed to realize that thier stubborness has cause suffering and stagnation. They have been unable to realize that they must give a little to get what they want. They have failed to contain and curb their oppositions discontent. I will not be surprised if this election is contested.

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 10, 2006 02:56 PM

I don't know what the numbers are but it is more than 5%. However, that is nonetheless still a portion of the population whose voice still needs to be heard. We are a Republic after all. It is non sense to think that we can have a different outcome when we keep repeating te same thing. You know pertinently that will never happen(leave haiti). It has been 20 years since baby doc left and nothing has changed because again the haitian leadership is inept. They have failed to realize that thier stubborness has cause suffering and stagnation. They have been unable to realize that they must give a little to get what they want. They have failed to contain and curb their oppositions discontent. I will not be surprised if this election is contested.

Posted by: | February 10, 2006 02:58 PM

I don't who die and made you an expert on Haiti.

Posted by: margarette rateau | February 10, 2006 04:13 PM

I don't who die and made you an expert on Haiti.

You don't have to be a brain surgeon to know the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Like I thought they have already begun to contest the elections.

Whoever wrote the electoral system up to have a run-off if the leader doesn't have over 50% of the votes should be hanged as well as those who accepted it. It's non sense to have a run off when the second runner upper isn't even close by 10% of the votes.

You have to be an idiot if you think these elections weren't going to be contested. The reason this is happening is because the rules of the game isn't clear or just poorly written that it allows this kind of stuff to continue.

There is nothing new in blaming the interational community. The ones responsible are the leaders on playing field.

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 13, 2006 09:23 AM

Posted by: | February 20, 2006 01:24 PM

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