Haiti normally runs elections for one third of its Senate every two years, but the last scheduled legislative elections in 2012 were not held because of on-going disagreement between the government majority and the opposition over electoral laws. As a consequence, Sunday’s elections decided two thirds of the Senate, as well as the entire Chamber of Deputies.
However, smooth was the last word that could have described Sunday’s electoral process. Around the country, a significant number of polling stations had not yet received ballots hours after the vote officially began. The Washington Post also relates that some voters in the capital Port-au-Prince were not left to cast their vote as for some reason they did not figure on electoral lists.
The capital was also the focusing point of turbulence: three of its polling stations were reportedly closed because of fights starting. In one instance, a gang started throwing rocks and bottles towards the polling station, preventing the electoral process from taking its course. Other similar incidents were reported throughout the country.
Events could have gone for the worse in another Port-au-Prince voting center as voters started ripping ballots and armed police fired warning shots to calm down the situation. No details about eventual victims or casualties were released as of yet, but the center had to be closed for the rest of the day. Dozens of arrests were made throughout the day over the country in similar incidents.
This marked the first election during the mandate of president Michel Martelly, a former famous Haitian singer, who is accused of abusing the power granted by his position to put individuals loyal to him in certain functions. Martelly was elected president in 2011, and under the Haitian constitution cannot partake in this year’s presidential election as consecutive mandates are not allowed.
Martelly has effectively ruled the country by decree since February this year, as he dissolved the Parliament by constitutional right as its term had expired. This furthered tensions as massive protests held throughout the country as a reaction to the political stand-off ended with violent clashes between Haitian police and rioters and several people being killed. At Sunday’s elections, Haiti policemen were also helped by international peacekeepers and UN-sanctioned police to contain any possible mass incidents.
Image Source: Yahoo News