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Haitians Vote For President

The votes are being counted after Haiti's presidential election. There were thirty-three candidates on the ballot. If no candidate receives fifty-percent or more of the vote, there will be a run-off election in March.

Haiti’s top election official Jacques Bernard told reporters on February 8th that voter turnout, likely over sixty percent of those registered, broke all previous records. Voter turnout was large, and because of a shortage of election workers and ballots, some Haitians spent many hours waiting at polling stations. There were also some incidents of violence.

Haiti’s leading human rights group, The National Human Rights Defense Network, called the elections “free, honest, and democratic, despite the numerous difficulties encountered.” "All Haitians can be proud," says Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organization of American States. More than nine-thousand United Nations peacekeepers are in Haiti to provide security.

U-N Undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno called the election a sign of hope:

"The role of the U-N is to make sure that whoever wins the election, that victory is not seen as the defeat of the ones who will have lost the election; because considering the challenges of Haiti, if it's one half of the island against the other, it's not good for the country, so it will be very important for Haitians to come together."

The new president will take over from an interim Haitian government headed by President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. They were selected in 2004 by a Council of Eminent Persons to form a government to replace the one headed by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Following a year of growing protest against his autocratic rule, Mr. Aristide resigned and fled into exile as armed rebels marched on Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, in February 2004.

"Even with all the glitches and the raggedness and the complications, the Haitian people scored a victory," says Tim Carney, Charge D-Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. Haitians, he says, "went out with a combination of patience and persistence to vote."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.