Haitian citizens went to the polls on Sunday to elect a president, 11 senators and 99 deputies. There were 19 candidates alone for the post of president. The polls closed at the over 11,000 polling places at 4 p.m. local time, and counting began. Caribworld News is quoting the head of the Provisional Electoral Council as stating that they are “comfortable with the vote.” The special representative to Haiti from the United Nations, Edmond Mulet, called the elections a rendezvous for Haitian citizens with their future.
Meanwhile, protests broke out in several locations around the capital, Port-au-Prince. A group consisting of 12 of the 19 candidates for president appeared and issued a joint statement calling on the electoral council to void the elections due to “massive fraud.” The Unity Party of current President René Préval is alleged to have been buying votes and stuffing ballot boxes for their candidate, Jude Celestin.
Much of the disorganization in the voting process can be traced to the aftereffects of the Jan. 12 earthquake. 1.3 million Haitians still live in over 1,350 refugee camps. Many lost everything, including the national identification card necessary to vote. News media were able to find many Haitians who had been turned away from voting due to not having a card or their name not appearing on a voting list. At least one polling place was destroyed by rioters.
Reports indicate at least two election-related deaths. The Miami Herald describes rioting in the northern Haitian community of Desdunes. The Herald reports the national election disorder even affected the attempt of Unity Party candidate Jude Celestin to vote. His photo did not match one on file and he voted by provisional ballot.
The cholera epidemic continues unabated in Haiti. The Haitian government reported 1,648 deaths and 72,017 hospitalizations due to the disease at the end of last week. Cuba has announced an increase to its medical brigade in Haiti of about 300, bringing the Cuban total to around 1,200. The United Kingdom will send 115 doctors as part of a 1,000-person mission to Haiti to aid in the epidemic.
The vote will take nearly a month to count. If no presidential candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff in January. The large number of candidates for the office of president, many suggest, will assure that there will have to be a runoff election.