Haiti vote chaos continues

Frustrated voters protest amid calls by major presidential candidates to scrap the ‘fraudulent’ elections.

Poor organisation dogged Haiti polls, leaving many frustrated as they were unable to cast their vote[Reuters] 

Haiti’s Provisional Election Council on Sunday validated the elections after a chaotic day that saw two people killed by gunfire when rival party followers clashed in the southern town, Aquin, and several other people were injured across the country.

And almost two-thirds of the candidates in Haiti’s presidential election have called for the country’s election to be scrapped amid allegations of fraud and reports that large numbers of voters were turned away from polling stations throughout the nation.

Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker reported from Haiti that the “UN is urging for calm, saying that political players in Haiti must call on their supporters not to take matters into their own hands.”

“If security does deteriorate here, it’s going to impact the efforts to contain the spread of cholera,” Walker said.

Unrest and chaos are expected in the days ahead with more protests planned for Monday and the “security question will be one many people will be thinking about,” added our correspondent.

Call for annulment

Thirteen of the 18 candidates for the presidency endorsed a joint statement denouncing Sunday’s voting as fraudulent.

The statement included all of the major contenders except Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of Rene Preval, the outgoing president.

“It is clear that Preval and the CEP was not prepared for elections,” said candidate Anne Marie Josette Bijou, who read the statement to a cheering crowd that sang the national anthem and chanted “arrest Preval”.

Opposition front-runner Mirlande Manigat said the polls were fraudulent, adding that boxes had been stuffed with votes before polls opened.

The CEP had earlier acknowledged problems with the voter lists but said immediately after the candidates’ news conference that the election would continue.

Even so, the united front of so many candidates could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, the first since a January earthquake destroyed much of the capital, leaving more than a million people still stranded in crowded tent encampments.

Al Jazeera’s Latin America Editor, Lucia Newman reported that, “The President of the Electoral Council dismissed the claims of irregularities. He refused to comment on the call by 13 of the presidential candidates to have this election annulled.”

“They were proud of this election and it will not be cancelled out of respect for people who did vote,” she added.

The Haitian government had no immediate response to the criticism.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Nicole Phillips, US election observer from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said that there were flaws in almost every single voting centre that they went to.

“Streams of people, dozens and dozens of people unable to vote because they couldn’t find their name on an electoral list. They were very frustrated, they really wanted to vote,” Phillips said.

It was not yet clear whether the problems were the result of orchestrated fraud or merely disorganisation made worse by the January 12 earthquake.

Call for protests
The group of thirteen candidates called on their supporters to show their anger with demonstrations against the government and the country’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).
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Residents of the cholera-hit country were voting for a new president, parliamentary deputies and several senators.

Ninety-six contenders are competing for 11 senate seats and more than 800 more are seeking to fill the 99-seat lower house. There are also local and municipal contests.

Voting was scrapped in two northern Haitian towns following violence, local officials said, as a polling station was ransacked in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

In the towns of Acul du Nord and Trou du Nord, near Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second city, voting was abandoned after people fired volleys of gunshots into the air and went on a rampage at a voting station.

Neither official pinpointed which candidate’s supporters were behind the violence.

In the Tabarre district of the capital, near the international airport, “about 30 people … went on a rampage” at a voting station after finding their names were not on a list of those registered to vote, the centre’s supervisor Peteckson Renevil said.

About 10,000 people had expected to vote at the station.

The call for protests could also spark violence, especially with tensions already high following a series of deadly clashes earlier this month between UN peacekeepers and demonstrators who suspected them of bringing a rapidly spreading cholera outbreak.

Jean-Henry Ceant, a lawyer running for president on the “Love Haiti” ticket, dismissed the notion that the calls for protests could result in bloodshed, saying, “The only one responsible for the violence is President Rene Preval.”

More than 4.7 million people were eligible to vote. Results are to be made public starting on December 5, but the official tally is to be announced on December 20.

“The international community has a lot at stake there. They have billions of dollars at stake. They are very keen that a new government emerges very quickly but I think that it’s going to be a very unpredictable situation,” Al Jazeera’s Walker said.

Our Latin America editor said that it is “very likely that this will go to a second round because none of the 18 presidential candidates will have been able to score the necessary 50 per cent plus one vote to win in a first round.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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