Haiti vote ‘valid’ despite flaws

International observers say irregularities, violence and disorganisation do not necessarily invalidate the elections.

Observers said disorganisation at polling stations prevented many voters from casting their ballots [Reuters]

International observers said Haiti’s elections could be considered valid despite “irregularities” that generated violent protests and charges of fraud.

The joint observer mission from the Organisation of American States/Caribbean Community said that although there had been widespread problems, including acts of violence and intimidation and poor organisation blocking many people from voting, this was not enough to doom the polls.

“The joint mission does not believe that these irregularities, serious as some were, necessarily invalidated the process,” Colin Granderson, head of the 118-member mission said on Monday.

Twelve of the 18 presidential contenders in Sunday’s polls called for their invalidation after claiming that “massive fraud” had been designed to help Jude Celestin, the preferred successor of Rene Preval, the current president.

But Michel Martelly, a musician who is one of the election frontrunners, backed away from this position on Monday, saying he believed the votes should be counted.

Mirlande Manigat, a longtime opposition leader and pre-election favourite, also softened her call for annulment, saying she would participate in a runoff if the vote count showed her among the two candidates with the most votes.

‘Fraud minimal’

The Provisional Electoral Council has validated the election in all but 56 of the country’s 1,500 polling stations insisting that any voter fraud was minimal and isolated to about three percent of polling stations.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, which helped administer the polls, expressed “deep concern at the numerous incidents that marred the elections.”

Two people were killed when rival party followers clashed in the southern town of Aquin on election day and several polling stations were attacked by mobs.

“Streams of people, dozens and dozens of people unable to vote because they couldn’t find their name on an electoral list.”

Nicole Philips, US election observer

Observers said the polls were also dogged by poor organisation. Hundreds of thousands of survivors of January’s earthquake were reportedly without the necessary ID cards and others had the right papers but did not know where to vote.

Demonstrations against the election were held on Monday in Saint Marc, Gonaives, Carrefour and other cities, but most were quickly dispersed by police.

Nicole Phillips, a US election observer from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said there were flaws in almost every single voting centre her organisation visited.

“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,” she told Al Jazeera.

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.

Results are to be made public starting on December 5, but the official tally is to be announced on December 20.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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