Haitians Go To The Poll As 27 Presidential Candidates Scramble For Votes

By Ikenga Chronicles November 20, 2016

Haitians headed to the polls on Sunday to elect a president and members of the legislature in hopes of restoring constitutional order in the impoverished Caribbean country after more than a year of political crisis.

Nearly 6.2 million voters are eligible to cast ballots, choosing a president from a field of 27 presidential candidates.

Also up for grabs are 25 of the 109 seats in the lower house of Haiti’s bicameral legislature, and 16 of the 30 Senate seats.

An attempt to hold the long-delayed election in October 2015 was scrapped over claims of massive fraud and opposition protests.

The cancellation prevented President Michel Martelly, a popular singer elected in May 2011, from transferring power to a successor picked by popular vote, as required by the constitution.

The failure to do so created a power vacuum when Martelly’s mandate expired in February.

Parliament chose Senate chief Jocelerme Privert as interim head of state—initially for a mandate of three months — but new polls were delayed amid civil unrest and political infighting.

The first round of the presidential election was scheduled again for October 9, but was delayed after devastating Hurricane Matthew pummeled the country on October 4.

Tired of the electoral chaos, voters have shown little enthusiasm in participating in Sunday’s polls. In regions hit hard by the hurricane, people have been more concerned with finding food and water than picking the country’s next leaders.

First in line at the Petionville high school in the hills above Port-au-Prince, Rita Pierre held her national identification card tight in her hand.

“We need the elections to go well, for the people to wake up and decide to choose a quality person as head of state to change the country,” said Pierre, 37.

Coming three decades after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, Sunday’s delayed polls offers a chance to start building political institutions supported by the constitution.

But many challenges — poverty, civil unrest, corruption, the lingering effects of a shattering 2010 earthquake, a cholera epidemic and last month’s severe hurricane — cloud Haiti’s prospects.

Among the measures taken to limit potential fraud, voting booths were equipped with side panels for additional privacy and for the first time poll-watchers as well as voters are required to be identified with picture IDs.

Authorities sought to reassure voters, after a first round of elections in August 2015 was marred by violence that forced the cancellation of votes in nearly a quarter of districts.

“If we mess up these elections, we’re screwed,” national police inspector general Jean Saint-Fleur acknowledged.

“The police are determined to fight any crook or other individual trying to create trouble on election day.”

The authorities banned people from carrying weapons Sunday, and vehicles were not allowed within 100 meters (yards) of polling stations.

More than 9,400 members of the national police were mobilized throughout the country, backed by 1,400 officers from the United Nations mission in Haiti.

Preliminary results are not expected until December 1 due to logistical concerns with some of the more remote parts of the country.Following an appeal period for candidates, final results are due to be made public on December 29. Any candidate who wins more than half of the votes cast on Sunday will be the victor. Otherwise, a runoff is set for January 29. Though there is a long list of presidential hopefuls, only a handful has a chance of making it past the first round.

Write a comment

No Comments

No Comments Yet!

Let me tell You a sad story ! There are no comments yet, but You can be first one to comment this article.

Write a comment
View comments

Write a comment

<