Port-au-Prince, Haiti – After the first round of legislative elections on 9 August was marred by violence, forced closure of voting centres and low turnout, tensions were high ahead of today’s elections, which included the second round for the legislative, and the first round for presidential and mayoral races.
Yet as the polls closed, at 4 p.m. local time, voting seemed to have taken place without any major incidents. National police were out in force around polling places, and the increased security seems to have encouraged much higher voter turnout than in August. The National Human Rights Defense Network (known by its French acronym RNDDH) had described the first round of elections as “an affront to democratic norms,” but today the group’s Executive Secretary Pierre Esperance was much more positive, describing today’s voting, as a “marked improvement.”
Although more police were mobilised today than in August, huge security concerns still lingered after a truck carrying ballots and other election materials was attacked and set on fire in the north of the country last night, preventing voting centers in Borgne from opening today.
But in contrast to 9 August, when five people were killed, and dozens of voting centres ransacked, there were no violent incidents reported on this election day. Nevertheless, the day was not without irregularities; police made 67 arrests, many of them mandataires (essentially observers sent by the political parties), for trying to vote multiple times or for voter intimidation. Once again, voters used social media to display how easy it was to wash off the ‘indelible’ ink applied to their fingers as a means to prevent voting multiple times.
While Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) will be pleased with today’s events — or lack thereof — they are far from in the clear. In 2011, it was the announcement of the results of the first round of Presidential voting that provoked massive street demonstrations which culminated in the Organization of American States intervening and promoting third-place candidate Michel Martelly (now the country’s President) to second place and thus, into the second round run-off.
Given the massive number of Presidential candidates in this year’s race — 54 to be exact — there will be many disappointed partisans when the results are announced in about 10 days. How they — and the international community — respond might be the biggest test yet for the CEP.
Image Credit: Amy Nelson