The international community spent nearly $15 million to organize parliamentarian elections in last week, but few people turn out for the vote. Now the process will have to continue all over again because none of the candidates for Haiti’s Senate received the majority vote needed to win outright in balloting this month, leaving 11 vacant seats up for grabs in the runoff election.
The 30-seat Senate has been short-handed for 1 1/2 years as elections were delayed by hunger riots, devastating storms and political infighting.
Results released late Monday by Haiti’s provisional electoral council also showed 11 percent of eligible voters turned out for the April 19 election.
The vote was boycotted by supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose Fanmi Lavalas party’s candidates were disqualified because they failed to produce documents signed by the exiled party leader.
Nine of the 20 candidates advancing to the run-off are from President Rene Preval’s Lespwa party, and the party could win seats in each of Haiti’s administrative regions. Two other parties had multiple candidates advance.
Lespwa currently controls six of 18 seats in the Caribbean nation’s Senate. A Lespwa majority would help Preval win support for constitutional reforms to increase executive powers and build support for his economic programs.
Voting for one of 12 vacant seats in the rural Central Department was canceled on election day after protesters raided polling places and a poll supervisor was shot. He survived. That vote has not been rescheduled.
Some voters also had difficulty reaching the polls because authorities halted public transportation in Port-au-Prince to preserve order. Only about 44,000 ballots were cast in a capital region home to nearly 3 million people.
At least four senators have said the election should be invalidated because of the poor turnout and are threatening to vote against seating the winners, Radio Kiskeya reported.
The failed elections and now an eventual runoff is a blow to the international community and the Haitian government, which have been trying to jump start a democratic process since the ouster of Aristide a little more than four years ago. Despite a successful election in 2006 that ushered Preval back to the National Palace, there has been few good news for Haiti’s democratic experiment. Right before the Senatorial ballot, a flurry of high profile visitors- like former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon – descended upon the politically troubled nation to help draw attention to Haiti. Millions of dollars in aid were pledged.Still, people stayed at home, pessimistic about the outcome and disappointed that Lavalas Party candidates were unfairly barred.
No date for runoff elections has been set and it is estimated to cost millions of dollars to organize
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