Technical, logistical problems may cause chaos during Haiti election
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Serious technical and logistical problems, still tainting Haiti's electoral process, were likely to create chaos at voting booths during the first round of crucial legislative elections set for Sunday in the impoverished Caribbean country, where several political actors have even called for a postponement of the ballot to avoid the worst.
On Saturday evening, just a few hours before the opening of voting booths at 6 am on Sunday, a great majority of leaders of participating political parties had not yet received thousands of credentials for their representatives at voting facilities where they are expected to observe voting operations on behalf of their parties.
"With only hours left before election day, we have not yet received the credentials and the election is not possible without our representatives at the voting booths," André Michel, a leading figure of the Justice Platform, told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) on Saturday.
"The presence of our delegates at voting facilities is crucial in order to prevent fraud and I believe that one reason why the authorities have refused to give us the credentials is because they are preparing massive frauds," said Michel, a fierce opponent of President Michel Martelly's government.
Several opponents of the government claim that credentials have been distributed only to the governing party and its allies while most parties (more than 100 of them) have been constantly turned down.
"I don't see how these elections can take place fairly when we have not received the credentials for our delegates," said Edmonde Beauzile.
"And even thousand they had given them to us now, we would not have been able to distribute them to our representatives throughout the country because election day is Sunday," explained Beauzile, president and presidential candidate for the Social democrat Fusion party.
A group of angry political militants from several parties rushed on Saturday before midday to Haitian popular station Radio Caraibes FM in a move to get airtime to denounce election authorities.
"We want to denounce the fraud that is being prepared and we'll block the election by any means necessary, if the delegates of our party are not allowed to enter voting booths," said Carl Morel, who presented himself as a supporter of the participating Justice Platform.
Many people who hold a voting card do not know as of Saturday night where to go to vote.
Several political leaders claim that many names submitted to electoral authorities to be put on the list of parties' representatives to voting booths have been arbitrarily changed and replaced by delegates of rival parties, which is seen as a move to facilitate manipulation and fraud.
Representatives of the ruling Haitian Tèt Kale party, known as PHTK, have rejected any intent or actions to orchestrate frauds during the election, and they said election authorities -- who were picked, in a widely-approved process, by different civil society organizations and other institutions -- are less likely to favour candidates having ties with the government.
Several political actors on Saturday called on the nine-member electoral council, tasked with organizing the ballot, to postpone the vote to avoid the anticipated chaos and uproar.
"The electoral council is not ready to organize credible elections on Sunday because of all the problems that are obvious," said Steven Benoit, leader of the Conviction political party, which he will represent in the presidential election set for October.
Voters will have to elect 119 deputies (members of the Lower Chamber) out of 1,622 candidates and 232 competitors are running to fill 20 senate seats during the first round of the long-overdue legislative elections which is scheduled to take place on August 9.
There are nearly 200 political parties, of which 120 were authorized to present candidates at different levels.
Polling stations were due to open from 6 am to 4 pm on Sunday and the first results of the vote will be known in the course of the coming week, according to election officials.
By Joseph Guyler C. Delva
Photo: Pierre Louis Opont, president of Haiti's electoral council