Haitians head to the polls for the long-de­layed leg­isla­tive elec­tion

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Af­ter nearly four years of de­lays, Haiti staged leg­isla­tive elec­tions Sun­day in a vote over­shad­owed by fears of vi­o­lence and poor turnout.

Polling sta­tions opened at 6:00 a.m. (1000 GMT) for the first time since Pres­i­dent Michel Martelly came to power in May 2011.

The poor­est coun­try in the Amer­i­cas, Haiti suf­fers from a history of chronic in­sta­bil­ity and is still strug­gling to re­cover from the dev­as­tat­ing 2010 earth­quake.

The dis­as­ter killed more than 250,000 peo­ple and shat­tered much of the Caribbean na­tion’s in­fra­struc­ture.

Long post­poned by a cri­sis be­tween Haiti’s ex­ec­u­tive power and op­po­si­tion, the elec­tions will de­ter­mine all mem­bers of the Cham­ber of Deputies and two-thirds of its Se­nate.

But po­ten­tial vi­o­lence, huge num­bers of can­di­dates and a tra­di­tion­ally low turnout pose big chal­lenges.

A to­tal of 5.8 mil­lion peo­ple are reg­is­tered to vote in a pop­u­la­tion of around 10.3 mil­lion.

No fewer than 128 reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties and 1,855 can­di­dates are vy­ing for 139 slots.

Some lower house seats, par­tic­u­larly in the cap­i­tal Port-au-Prince, have as many as 30 can­di­dates.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Satur­day urged Haitians to cast their vote.

“These long-awaited elec­tions con­sti­tute a ma­jor mile­stone for de- moc­racy in Haiti,” he said through his spokesman.

But turnout is not ex­pected to top 15 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to pre-elec­tion sur­veys. In the sec­ond round of the 2011 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, it was un­der 25 per­cent.

“We’re hold­ing out hope to raise this par­tic­i­pa­tion rate. We hope to get to at least 20 per­cent,” said Jose En­rique Castillo Bar­rantes, mis­sion chief with the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS), which is mon­i­tor­ing the poll along with the Euro­pean Union.

‘Cli­mate of terror’

Cam­paign­ing was marred by par­ti­san vi­o­lence.

In a re­port last Wed­nes­day, the Na­tional Hu­man Rights De­fense Net­work (RNDDH) de­scribed a “cli­mate of terror.”

It recorded nine armed clashes, five mur­ders, two at­tempted mur­ders, seven peo­ple wounded by guns, two stab­bings, 17 in­jured from stones “and 10 cases of beat­ings.”

More than 7,000 po­lice have been de­ployed across the coun­try on polling day, sup­ported by 2,500 U.N. po­lice and 2,370 peace­keep­ers from the U.N. sta­bi­liza­tion mis­sion in Haiti, MINUSTAH.

AP

A mu­ral of Maryse Nar­cisse, right, who leads the Lavalas Fam­ily po­lit­i­cal party, cov­ers a wall along with Haiti’s for­mer Pres­i­dent Jean Ber­trand Aris­tide in Port-auPrince, Haiti, Thurs­day, Aug. 6.

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