PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, August 9, 2015 (AMG) — Before the first round of legislative elections opened today, the main concern among international observers was voter apathy, as very few had registered, and turnout was expected to be very low, potentially tainting the legitimacy of whatever candidates prevailed.
Instead, today’s elections– the country’s first of any kind since 2011 — are being tainted by a much different problem. By late morning, polling places all over the country were being closed as unruly partisans attacked, throwing rocks and scattering ballot papers on the ground.
Several attacks, including one in Port-au-Prince and one in the rural Plateau Central have been linked to partisans of PHTK, the party started by current President Michel Martelly.
By 1pm local time, at least 26 voting centres had been closed due to violence or intimidation. Many voting centres didn’t open until several hours after the official 6am start time due to lack of staff or ballots not being delivered on time. Additionally, police have arrested 56 people in connection with election violence or disruption, including Frantz Moise, a candidate for the lower house of parliament in the Sud-Est department.[Update, 3:20 pm. Le Nouvelliste is reporting that two more voting centres have been closed, which would bring the total to 28] [Update, 9:00pm. Police have now reported that they made 137 arrests during the day, including the seizure of 23 guns at voting centres]
Since elections have been delayed for the last four years due to tension between the President and Parliament, every legislative seat in the country is being contested, and over 128 different political parties are fielding candidates.
A map with live updates of election-related incidents, including attacks and irregularities, can be found here.
Image credit: United Nations