Low Participation and Obstacles for the March 20th Election in Haiti

Midday Progress Report: Low Participation and Obstacles for the March 20th Election in Haiti

Compiled by Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica Forum. Observer teams include representatives from: Let Haiti Live, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties

The morning started off quietly  and was marked by low voter turn out in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on this second round election day. Teams visited polling places throughout downtown Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil, Petionville, Delmas, Carrefour, and the camps for internally displaced people (homeless earthquake survivors) at Corail and Kanaran.

Initial observations:
– Many voting bureaus opened several hours late or still have not opened now, at mid-day.
– Lack of materials (ink, ballot boxes, etc) was a major obstacle to voting.
– Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters.
– In many places where people did attempt to vote, they were thwarted by not finding their names on the electoral lists.
As the polls were supposed to open at 6am, a small group gathered outside the Lycee Cite Soleil. Inside the polling station was not yet ready to receive voters. The majority of people in the street seemed uninterested in elections, just passed by on their way to other things. Security was lighter than in November, but still a significant MINUSTAH presence in the street. Later at 7:45am the voting bureaus opened and there were no lines. Several would-be voters could not find their names on the electoral lists and were noisily complaining. In the street some partisans for Michel Martelly were telling people to vote for him. Cite Soleil has approximately 150,000 eligible voters but it appeared as though not more than 200 were participating during the first few hours of voting.
At the IDP Camp Kanaran (also know as Canaan) there was no voting bureau set up, the same situation as in November. Not far away at the Corail Camp, the only voting bureau for the camp of more than ten thousand had 40 registered voters, many of whom were poll workers/observers. At the time of our visit around 7am there was more security and foreign observers than voters. There were four UN vehicles and one armored personnel carrier as well as more than a dozen soldiers and police in bullet proof vests. A Canadian police officer noted rumors that voters from Kanaran were expected to come to the Corail voting bureau to attempt to vote.
In some voting stations in Port-au-Prince, poll workers had ballot boxes marked for senator even though there is no second round for senator in the west department. In some polling stations, such as the Lecole Municipale Dumarsais Estime, there were ballots for deputy but not for president. In other places the ballot boxes did not arrive labeled, leading to confusion. At the ONA at the Champ de Mars there were no materials to vote at 8am, and at the Lecole Fleurant in Christ Roi they lacked ballots and ink. At the Lycee Toussaint many people could not find their names on the voter lists.
At the Lycee Petionville many people attempted to vote and a long line led around the corner. The bureaus opened late and some materials were missing. Outside the bureau at about 9:30am MINUSTAH Mission Head Edmond Mulet spoke to the press while only a few steps away partisans of Michel Martelly campaigned for him, encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Tet Kale. The police did not intervene. At 11:25am there was still a large number of people attempting to vote at the Lycee and many were complaining because they couldn’t find their names on the electoral lists.
Although normally the streets are very empty on election day, today the roadside markets are functioning normally and women are selling all kinds of products throughout the city. One produce seller told our team, “Moun grangou pa al vote; Hungry people don’t go to vote.” Another remarked that the distance many voters were required to travel to vote discouraged them from participating.

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