Scattered early unofficial results of Sunday's general elections indicated a solid lead for fiery left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Bertrand Aristide on an election day marked by confusion and delay, but a notable absence of violence. Official results were expected late yesterday but diplomats and international election observers said voting trends favored Fr. Aristide, who has emerged as champion of Haiti's impoverished majority.
Raphael Dufour, French ambassador to Haiti, told reporters that early results from Cap Haitien, the second-biggest city, indicated a two-thirds majority for the populist priest.
Mr. Dufour said Aristide appeared to have done well even in Petionville, a plush suburb of Port-au-Prince that had been considered a sure constituency for Aristide's main rival, former World Bank official Marc Bazin.
``In two polling stations in Petionville,'' Dufour said, ``the results showed 105 votes for Aristide and nine for Bazin in one, and 120 to six in the other.''
At the Port-au-Prince school where the 1987 general elections came to a savage end with the massacre of 34 voters, election officials said Aristide had garnered 127 votes against Mr. Bazin's 20. A dozen or so went to minor candidates.
Confusion and delays plagued the elections but voters were spared the violence that marred their last election. Since the Duvalier family dynasty fell in 1986, Haitians have made three attempts to hold peaceful, democratic elections. Instead they have endured voter massacres, coups, uprisings and assorted military and civilian governments so fragile that diplomats have dubbed them disposable ``Kleenex'' regimes.
Three minutes before polls were to close, the Provisional Electoral Council announced the 14,500 voting stations would remain open past the 6 p.m. deadline until everyone voted.
At many polling places, voting did not begin until long after the 6 a.m. starting hour because ballots, ballot boxes, and basic supplies had not been delivered. Long lines formed in the morning, but tapered off in the afternoon.
Authorities cited logistical problems. International observers agreed that most problems stemmed from bad planning in a poor nation that used everything from borrowed helicopters to mules to deliver election supplies.
``Despite all the problems, Haiti has democratic elections. This is a giant step forward, a historic event,'' said Jocelyn McCalla of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees.