Haiti's presidential runoff ends peacefully

14:36, March 21, 2011      

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Haitian women wait to cast their ballots at a polling center in Pention Ville neighborhood, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 20, 2011. Haiti's presidential run-off between former first lady Miralnde Manigat and singer Michel Martelly ended on Sunday in peace after an extension of one more hour of voting time in the capital city. (Xinhua/Eliana Aponte)

by Liu Lili, Liu Lianxiang and Chen Yao

Haiti's presidential runoff between former first lady Mirlande Manigat and popular Haitian singer Michel Martelly came to a peaceful end Sunday.

The election started at 6:00 a.m. local time (1100 GMT), and was originally scheduled to close at 4:00 p.m. (2100 GMT), but the polls were open one extra hour because of the delay in the morning.

Gaillot Dorsinvil, head of the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), said about 4.5 million Haitians cast their votes Sunday at 1186 poll centers. He also apologized for the delay in opening some poll stations in the morning because the materials had not been sent on time.

After the election, officials began to count the votes. The results of the second round of elections will be announced on March 31, and the final outcome will be official on April 16.

Different from the first round of votes which ended in riots, the second round went smoothly, disrupted only by sporadic clashes. Mario Andresol, Haiti's national police chief, said there were no major disruptions on election day.

The two candidates, Manigat and Martelly, both voted Sunday morning cheered on by their respective supporters, with recent opinion polls showing Martelly ahead of Manigat.

The voters stood in line before each poll station while UN peacekeeping personnel and local policemen stood guard outside.

In the poll center on Haiti's famous Saint Pierre Square, workers were busy checking voters' identification cards. Two boxes were placed in each voting room, one with ballots for the president and the other for the vice president.

After having their ID cards checked, voters received blank ballots. They were then asked to cross the room to a remote table and write their choices on the ballots.

Michel Martely, a 20-year-old voter, told Xinhua he had cast his vote for Martelly. "I hope Martelly can change the country and bring the children more chances to go to school," he said, adding he had confidence in the transparency and fairness of the election.

Alice Surene, a 36-year-old cook, refused to mention whom she had voted for, saying "Haiti is a country which experienced a series of difficulties, such as the earthquake, cholera and the political crisis." She hoped the new government could bring Haitians a fresh start.

Many Haitians showed their confidence in Haiti's new government. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, having suffered a devastating earthquake, diseases and a political crisis following the fraud of Jude Celestin, candidate of Haiti's ruling Inite (Unity) Party, in the first round of election. He finally decided to withdraw under enormous pressure.

Edmond Mulet, head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), said that no matter who wins the presidential runoff, the new president will play a positive role in promoting Haiti's democratic process and national reconstruction.

"Both the presidential candidates have sworn to change Haiti's current situation if he or she is elected, including promoting the post-disaster reconstruction and national development process," he told Xinhua in an interview.

Dorsinvil called the election a victory of democracy. "This election is really important for Haiti's future, because the country's destiny is depending on it," he said. "The Haitians need a capable government which can bring them a beautiful future."

Source: Xinhua

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