PORT-AU-PRINCE — Polls closed on schedule around Haiti at 4 p.m. Sunday amid chaos, confusion and isolated instances of violence. Hours earlier, a dozen of the 19 presidential candidates called for “peaceful protests” against “massive fraud” in the country’s presidential and legislative elections.
The call came midday after unconfirmed reports that some ballot boxes were prestuffed, voting bureaus were closed prematurely because of violence and vandalism, and voters complained they could not find their names on the election list.
It’s unclear whether the position will push Haiti into another crisis, where the country, already volatile, could fall deeper into catastrophe.
The Provisional Electoral Council said the vote will continue and denied that there was massive fraud.
“The election is ruined. It needs to be canceled,” said former prime minister and presidential candidate Jacques-Edouard Alexis. “Our history has always shown that it’s the people who give the power.”
Alexis said although he’s always been against a transition government in Haiti, one is needed to organized elections because his former boss, President René Préval has shown “he cannot organize good elections.”
“President Préval said by all means he would have elections,” Alexis said.
Alexis was the presumed heir-apparent to Préval until he was passed over by Preval for former government road building chief, Jude Celéstin.
Celéstin, who voted at a high school in Petionville, experienced first hand the disorganization of the voting process. When a poll worker looked up his photo on the voter list to verify his identify, it didn’t match. He had to vote by provisional ballot.
Not everyone had a problem. Ferdoz Sydney, 32, who voted hours earlier at the same bureau said everything went smoothly.
“There is no influence,” he said. But he acknowledged he had to go to the Internet to find his voting bureau.
International observers acknowledged that the vote was marred by late opening of polls, confusion with electoral lists and organizational issues, but they were not prepared to say there was “massive fraud.”
Reports of violence surfaced around the country. In Desdunes, a town in the Artibonite, three people were killed near a voting center, a United Nations spokesman said. Local radio reported rock throwing and shootings in the town.
One woman who spent the night in Desdunes was fleeing late Sunday morning because of the violence.
“I’m obligated to leave — I’m afraid,” Guerline Pierre, 39, said on the side of the highway as she tried to find a ride to Saint Marc, a port city to the south. “They’re shooting.”
At one voting bureau in Tabarre, a group of about 30 young men stormed the school, went into classrooms serving at polling stations, and dumped the ballots in the streets. “If we had proper security, this would not have happened,” said Renevie Peteckson Renevie, 23, a supervisor at the voting bureau.
He said only two police officers were assigned to the voting bureau and they were out maneuvered by the group. By the time back up police officers arrived, the gravel school yard was littered with empty and folded ballots, tossed about and unsecured.
About 300 people were in line at the time the incident happened, forcing the vote to end.
Meanwhile, would be voters at polls throughout Gonaives were turned away because their names did not appear on voter lists or were told to go to other polls — only to find themselves not