You are viewing the content for Thursday 16 February 2006

Ballot boxes found in Haitian dump

By Andrew Selsky, Port-Au-Prince
HUNDREDS of smashed ballot boxes and bags apparently used to carry vote count sheets were scattered across a rubbish dump yesterday, more than a week after Haiti’s disputed presidential elections.

UN officials sent troops to the rubbish dump five miles north of the capital to recover the election material, according to UN spokesman David Wimhurst, who called the discovery "extraordinary."

Associated Press journalists saw hundreds of empty ballot boxes, at least one vote tally sheet and several empty bags, numbered and signed by the heads of polling stations, strewn across the dump.

Leading candidate Rene Preval has alleged election officials have undercounted his support in an effort to prevent him from winning a first-round victory.

Hours earlier, the local Telemax TV news broadcast images from the same dump showing smashed white ballot boxes with wads of ballots strewn about. Ballot after ballot was marked for Mr Preval. Among the bags was one vote tally sheet from the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Carrefour that recorded 129 votes for Mr Preval out of 202 cast. A man picking through the dump, Jean-Ricot Guerrier, said a truck dumped the material a day after the election. Someone tried to burn the material, but rain put out the fire.

Mr Wimhurst said the ballots could have come from any of nine polling stations across the country that were ransacked on election day, forcing officials to throw out up to 35,000 votes. At least one voting centre was destroyed by people tired of waiting in line, others were destroyed by political factions, he said.

Haitians will have to wait a little longer for the outcome to be announced, after a commission was formed to probe Mr Preval’s claims of "massive fraud".