PORT-AU-PRINCE- Despite the fact that journalists and peacekeepers seem to outnumber voters last week, several people were wounded and voting was disrupted by violence in Haiti on Sunday during a Senate election.
After polls closed, observers estimated that fewer than 10 percent of potential voters went to the polls.
The Lavalas Family Party, the Caribbean country’s biggest political party widely backed by Haiti’s poor, had urged an election boycott after its candidates were knocked off the ballot in a dispute over filing requirements.
One man, according to an unconfirmed report, was attacked with machetes and then burned alive by residents of the village of Liancourt in Haiti’s northern Artibonite region.
Several other people were wounded during clashes between supporters of rival candidates.
Haitian police and U.N. forces exchanged fire with civilian gunmen in the northern town of Marchand Dessalines. One member of the security forces was wounded, according to local election officials, who did not provide further details.
Other violent confrontations, as well as massive frauds, in the Central Plateau area prompted election authorities to cancel the ballot in the whole region.
Elections will likely not be known for more than a week despite the low turnout, an election official said Monday.
Voting for 11 vacant seats in the 30-member Senate took place across the country Sunday after a year and a half of delays caused by political infighting, riots and damaging storms.
It will take at least eight days to count ballots trucked in from the countryside and determine winners, said Jean-Marc Baudot, a Canadian consultant serving as logistics coordinator for the provisional electoral council’s computation center.
Baudot said that officials have not been able to gauge the turnout yet, but it appeared to be low, based on the observations of balloting observers and reporters covering the elections.
Ballots are being counted at polling places and tabulated at a warehouse computer center guarded by armed U.N. peacekeepers in an industrial park in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Turnout appeared to be extremely low in the capital, where voter apathy and fear of election-day violence were more common than political interest. President Rene Preval declined to comment on the turnout Sunday until official results are calculated.
U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson, who toured the tabulation center Monday, remarked that “Historically, off-year elections in the United States as well as in other countries tend not to be as well-attended as presidential elections. We’ll have to see.”
The international community gave at least $12.5 million, including $3.9 million from the United States, to help carry out the election.
Supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide — whose still-popular Fanmi Lavalas party was prohibited from running by electoral officials — had also encouraged citizens to stay away from the polls.
The party took credit for the apparently low turnout Sunday.
Voting for a 12th seat from the rural Central Department was halted by Haiti’s provisional electoral council after demonstrators ransacked polling places and a poll supervisor was shot in the plateau town of Mirebalais. That race will be rescheduled.
On Monday, Haitian workers guarded by Chinese police in blue U.N. berets examined, scanned and tabulated the results reported by polling places across the country. The original ballots are archived elsewhere.
Since the Port-au-Prince facility is the only place where results are being tabulated, voters will have to wait for ballots to make hours-long journeys over Haiti’s washed-out, dilapidated mountain roads and to be brought in by boat from surrounding minor islands.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission issued a statement Monday expressing its hope that the Haitian people and political parties will “await calmly the publication of results … and that any dispute will be pursued through legal channels.”
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