dimanche 9 août 2015

Miamiherald.om: Balloting suspended in dozens of centers as Haitians elect new parliament.-


Dozens of voting centers were forced to suspend balloting Sunday as the country’s long-awaited legislative elections were marred by irregularities, ranging from the absence of materials to violence to accusations that parties close to President Michel Martelly were trying to steal votes.

Despite the problems, observers say it is still too early to say whether the process is valid. But Haitian authorities, however, played down the incidents, saying that less than 100 of the 1,508 voting centers countrywide were forced to close and police responded to problems wherever they occurred.  

Pierre-Louis Opont, president of the Provisional Electoral Council, known by its French acronym, CEP, acknowledged that voting centers had been vandalized and that workers had been threatened. He could not, however, detail the extent of the problem.

“Globally, the CEP is satisfied,” Opont said, noting there were a lot of places where people were voting “in mass.”

“Since this morning, elections personnel have been in place, centers have been opened, the police have been on patrol and the people out,” he said.

Police said they seized seven arms, and arrested 56 people nationwide. A spokesman also confirmed that at least one police officer had been shot.

“Our mission is to serve the people,” Prime Minister Evans Paul said at a news conference. “A lot of people spent two, three hours in line, walking. We have to respect that. If you’re a democrat, you have to respect that.”

Speaking two hours before the 4 p.m. local time closing of the polls, Paul appealed to Haitians to vote. 

“The day will continue. Operation Election will continue, the people will decide freely the person they want to govern them,” he said, adding that “it’s fundamental for these elections to finish well.”

But the day was messy and riddled with organizational problems even before polls opened at 6 a.m. Four days before the vote, for example, there were electoral lists without the name of voters. The problems became apparent Sunday as voters complained about their names missing from voters lists attached to the centers.

“The planning is bad,” said Rony Pierre, 37, who arrived at Building 2004 at 7 a.m. to vote only to discover his name was nowhere to be found. “They said there was a list that was missing, but it’s too late.”

Moments earlier, someone had taken one of the ballot boxes and ran with it, while people across the street began pelting rocks. Both police and United Nations reinforcements were called.

But the biggest problem, which fueled tensions at voting centers around the county, was the political parties’ electoral observers.  

Late Saturday, the CEP issued a communique saying that technical difficulties prevented the printing of passes for political party monitors. They were asked to report to the closest departmental elections bureau to get accredited. But on Sunday, many complained that they were not allowed to either observe the process or vote at the center where they were assigned.

Upset, many shut down voting centers with the help of equally frustrated voters. They also accused election workers of fraud.

“They are whispering in people’s ear to vote for the Bouclier candidate,” Jean Paul Bastien, a monitor for the Alternative Party, said at Petionville Lycee.

Moments later, police were forced to stand between an angry crowd and election workers, as the crowd screamed, “There will be no elections here,” and threatened to shut down the voting.

“We told them to do one election on Oct. 25, to give them time to prepare,” Bastien said.

At Ecole Nationale Isidore Boisrond, it became so tense that Haitian National Police officers were forced to fire shots in the air after partisans of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide accused Martelly’s PHTK supporters of trying to stuff ballots. Many ballots were later torn up and thrown on the ground. The center soon shut down.

At the voting center at Rue Vaillant, fled in fear as the supervisor locked himself in a classroom after the crowd overpowered police and went inside. Voters said election workers were preventing opposition monitors from observing the process.

At Ecole Nationale Hermann Heraux, election workers had not started voting two hours after polls opened.

“The Chimeres are preventing us from working,” assistant elections supervisor Sophonie Augustin said inside an empty classroom. “The police can’t handle the situation.”

Four Haitian National Police officers assigned to the center stood in the doorway preventing the men from gaining access. “This voting center is shut down,” one screamed.

“Voting has been eliminated for the day,” another said.

Herbie Josne, 29, accused Augustin of only allowing supporters of the political party Bouclier, which is close to Martelly, to work the center.

“In the seminars, they said, you shouldn’t be a member of the political party,” he said. “She’s only allowing people from Bouclier and those with pink bracelets work. That’s not right.”

Augustin said only those who are on a list are allowed to work the center.

Franz Lerebours, a spokesman for the Haitian National Police, said early in the day that 26 voting centers had to be closed. But others tracking the incidents, told the Miami Herald that the number was closer to 42 and that more than 1,000 incidents occurred around the country.

“We are very concerned about the violence,” said Karl Jean-Louis, former chief of cabinet to Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who is running an organization that tracked incidents in five of Haiti’s departments, including the capital.

Jean-Louis said his group received more than 1,600 text messages about incidents at voting centers in five departments. He does not yet have a picture of turnout, he said.

Turnout at voting centers was small, even at those in the hills above Port-au-Prince where police reported things were going smoothly during a visit.

Meanwhile, late set-ups at many voting centers prevented some from receiving voters at the 6 a.m. start time. Meanwhile, Haitians didn’t seem in a rush to vote. No long lines, and at some centers, especially those where violence had occurred, no voters.

The international community, which is helping to finance Haiti’s $74 million elections price tag for three elections this year, has urged Haitians to vote. But concerns about violence is helping fuel a climate of apathy. The lack of election fever could been seen around the country, where many voters wondered about police ability to take control of the country’s elections.

Some 7,000 Haitian police officers have been deployed across Haiti to provide security for the elections with help from the United Nations. On Saturday, police officers in Grand’Anse prevented the burning of a departmental elections bureau after political party supporters protested. A few hours later, local radio reported that all of the voting in the region’s main city, Jeremie, had been canceled because of violence and intimidation.

"You can fool some people sometimes, 
But you can't fool all the people all the time."
Vous pouvez tromper quelques personnes, parfois, 
Mais vous ne pouvez pas tromper tout le monde tout le temps.
) dixit Abraham Lincoln.

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