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Haiti chooses new leader, hoping this one delivers

A poll worker lays her head on a desk Sunday at the end of the voting in a downtown soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Preliminary election results are expected March 31.

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A poll worker lays her head on a desk Sunday at the end of the voting in a downtown soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Preliminary election results are expected March 31.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitians scarred by decades of poverty, political corruption and natural disasters cast ballots Sunday for president in hopes a new leader could do what others have not: replace homes and schools in the earthquake-devastated capital, improve education and create some optimism.

Voters chose between Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, a popular musician who has never held public office, and Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and senator and longtime fixture on the political scene. Voters formed what for the most part were orderly lines throughout the country, some shrugging off delays of three hours. Preliminary results are expected March 31.

"A lot of governments come through to make change for themselves and their families," Jean-Claude Henry, 43, an economist, said after he voted at a school in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince, the capital. "We want radical change for the population."

The vote was much calmer than the first round of voting in November, which was marred by disorganization, voter intimidation and allegations of widespread fraud.

Whoever wins will face enormous challenges in a country emerging from last year's earthquake, which the government estimates killed more than 300,000 people.

"There is a lot of frustration," said Jazon Didier, 28, a computer scientist and Manigat supporter. "People want a change and a better life."

Martelly seems to have captured the ardor of young jobless voters. Hundreds cheered him wildly as he danced on the roof of an SUV after casting his ballot.

Two recently returned ghosts from Haiti's past — Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Jean-Claude Duvalier — formed part of the backdrop to the election, but there was no evidence that either had any effect on it.

Former President Aristide returned to Haiti from South Africa on Friday after seven years of exile. He stayed out of sight Sunday.

Duvalier, the infamous dictator known as "Baby Doc" who was forced from the country in 1986, made a surprise return in January. He remains in Haiti but has lain low as a judge investigates whether criminal charges should be filed against him.

While there was no widespread violence, there were clashes between rival political factions in two separate incidents in rural areas that left two people dead from gunshot wounds, Haitian police Chief Mario Andresol told reporters.

Wyclef Jean says he was wounded

Musician Wyclef Jean said Sunday that a bullet grazed his right hand late Saturday night as he stepped out of his car in the Delmas section of the capital, Port-au-Prince, to make a call on his cell phone. Jean, who has been in Haiti helping the presidential campaign of his friend Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, didn't know who fired the shot, or whether it was directed at him.

Haiti chooses new leader, hoping this one delivers 03/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 3:31pm]

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