A top United Nations official who observed Haiti’s elections has condemned the violence and other shortcomings that marred the polling day in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
At least two people were killed during voting August 9 that was disrupted by attacks and other problems that forced the early closure of at least 26 polling centers.
Sandra Honore, who heads the UN mission for stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told AFP the incidents were “regrettable.”
“If you impose your position by force or violence, this means that your position is weak,” Honore said.
The elections, which were four-and-a-half years overdue in a country still struggling from the effects of a devastating 2010 earthquake, were held to choose the Chamber of Deputies and two thirds of the Senate.
Haiti’s 5.8 million registered voters had to make their selections from a field of more than 1,800 candidates from 128 parties.
Most political parties are calling for the creation of a commission to assess the impact of violence on the election process, and some even want results from the vote scrapped.
Honore, who is from Trinidad and Tobago and has run MINUSTAH since July 2013, said she wants Haitians to make their objections known peacefully using legal means.
Voters heading to the polls faced a litany of troubles. Even finding the correct voting station and then a voter’s name on the electoral list was a challenge.
When people finally got to vote, they often had to deal with poorly designed booths that afforded little privacy.
Some voting centers were extremely small and had to cast their ballots from behind flimsy cardboard partitions, sometimes sharing the same table with officials checking election rolls.
Honore said that in many schools, which had been converted for the day into polling stations, “space was rather limited. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) will have to review the layout of the polling stations to ensure voters have an easier time exercising their democratic rights.”
– Electoral marathon –
Haiti is undergoing something of an electoral marathon, with two other polling days planned by the end of the year.
The second round of legislative elections is set for October 25, and the first round of presidential and local elections will take place at the same time, raising the specter of even more cramped voting stations.
Honore said she was confident the CEP would take into account problems with available voting spaces.
Even though the elections are mainly financed by the international community, Honore says there is no foreign interference in the process.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, suffers from chronic instability and is still grappling with the havoc caused by its 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation’s infrastructure.
Parliament was dissolved on January 13, 2015 after lawmakers’ terms were not extended, and the legislative chambers have remained empty for months.
In addition to violence, the August 9 elections also suffered from low voter turnout. Honore called on Haitians to vote in greater number at the next poll.
“The Haitian population can present its demands and ensure that its voice is heard and counted,” she said.
Source: The AFP