Haiti's electoral council
said on Tuesday it would launch an investigation after burned
ballots, many cast a week ago for former president Rene Preval,
were found still smoldering in a state dump.
Preval, a one-time ally of ousted president Jean-Bertrand
Aristide opposed by the same wealthy elite who helped drive
Aristide from power two years ago, said on Tuesday that only
"massive fraud" had prevented him from winning a first-round
victory in the February 7 election.
A few hours later, reports that hundreds and maybe
thousands of ballots had been found discarded in a massive
garbage dump in Port-au-Prince rippled through the ranks of
Preval supporters, triggering anger and demonstrations after
"That's absolutely unacceptable," said Rosemond Pradel,
secretary-general of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)
charged with organizing the impoverished Caribbean country's
presidential election -- the first vote since Aristide was
ousted by an armed revolt and international pressure to quit.
"The CEP was not handling the ballots," Pradel said. He
said securing the ballots after they had been cast was the
responsibility of the 9,000-strong U.N. force trying to keep
the peace in Haiti, known by its acronym MINUSTAH.
"I cannot answer to those problems but we are going to set
up a commission to investigate the problem," Pradel said.
U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst said ballots were supposed to
have been sealed in bags and placed in a container, protected
by U.N. troops. "It's not normal to have these ballots there."
Wimhurst suggested the discarded ballots could have come
from nine polling stations outside Port-au-Prince ransacked
during the election, with the loss of around 35,000 votes. He
also acknowledged that polling station workers, who were often
of the same political group, could have engaged in fraud.
In the district of Truitier, where the burned ballots were
found, angry Preval supporters and local residents denounced
what they saw as an attempt to deny them a voice in Haiti's
fractious and fragile democracy.
"The people are not going to accept losing their February 7
vote," said a community leader who did not give his name.
He said residents had seen unfamiliar garbage trucks
pulling up to the dump since last Thursday but hadn't thought
anything of it.
"They took all Preval's ballots. They threw them away in
order to prevent the vote of the people from passing. That is a
crime," said Rene Monplaisir, an official in the Preval
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