Haiti: chaos wins the elections

Thousands of Haitians took to the streets shortly after the polling places closed at 4 pm on Nov. 28 to protest what they said were delays, confusion, irregularities, violence and outright fraud in presidential and legislative elections that day. In Port-au-Prince, Pétionville, Carrefour, Petit-Goâve, Saint-Marc, Gonaïves and Jérémie, protesters demanded the annulment of the election, sometimes storming polling places and throwing ballots in the street.

The elections—funded and strongly supported by the US and the United Nations–were intended to let Haiti’s more than 4 million voters select a new president, all 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies, and 11 of the 27 senators. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is scheduled to announce the preliminary results on Dec. 7 and the final results on Dec. 20.

Problems started early in the day. Some were inevitable in a country where more than a million people remain displaced 10 months after a Jan. 12 earthquake shattered the capital, destroying identification papers and voter rolls. Many people couldn’t find their names on the lists in their usual polling places, although they often saw the names of friends and relatives who had died in the quake. Other problems resulted from fraud or partisan politics. At a station in Cap-Haïtien in the north, voters said the ballot boxes were filled with votes for candidates of the Unity party of President René Préval. Two people were killed in confrontations in Aquin, a community near Les Cayes in South department.

Turnout appeared to be light in most of the country.

By the end of the day, Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive confirmed that there had been irregularities in the process. At a press conference in Port-au-Prince, 12 of the 19 presidential candidates denounced the vote as fraudulent and called for the results to be annulled. Pierre Espérance, director of the independent National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), described the day’s events as “a total disorder, a shame for the CEP and the United Nations mission in the country.” (AlterPresse, Haiti, Nov. 28; Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Nov. 28; Radio Métropole, Haiti, Nov. 28; Haïti Libre, Haiti, Nov. 28)

A number of grassroots organizations had opposed the plan to hold a vote under current conditions, as had many of the displaced people living in camps since the earthquake. “No to elections under tents and tarps!” protesters chanted during a demonstration by hundreds of camp residents in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 12.

In a statement issued shortly before election day, Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (“Small Haitian Peasants Unity”) said it “has no candidate and supports no candidate in these elections organized by the international community and the government in order to put in power their president, their senators and deputies to continue to rule in their interests, against those of the country and the Haitian people.” The group emphasized that the vote was being held under the control of “foreign occupation forces”—the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)—”and a subordinate government.” “The strength and the future of the people rest in the construction of progressive popular political organizations” rather than in elections like these, Tèt Kole insisted. (AlterPresse, Nov. 25)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 28.

See our last post on Haiti.