Aristide at the polls

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The Independent Online
Port-au-Prince (Reuter) - Surrounded by cheering supporters, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide voted yesterday in Haiti's first free elections since his return from exile last year.

Voting, under the watchful eye of more than 6,000 UN peace-keepers was far calmer than in previous years, but was still chaotic in many places.

One municipal electoral official was attacked in a suburb of Port-au- Prince and some voters faced angry demonstrators and ballot shortages or locked doors at their polling stations.

Voting was called off in the northern cities of Limbe, Dondon and Le Borgne after weekend attacks on local electoral offices destroyed thousands of ballots, officials said.

The presidency was one of Haiti's few elected posts not on Sunday's ballot. More than 10,000 candidates are vying for elected posts in the Senate and in 133 municipalities. Mr Aristide has promised he will not run again when the presidential election is held in December.

The vote is only the second democratic poll in the Caribbean nation's turbulent history. Haiti's first free election, in December 1990, swept Mr Aristide to power in a landslide. But it was followed nine months later by a military coup.