PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — An international mission that monitored legislative elections in Haiti said Monday that there were scattered problems with violence and other disruptions during Sunday’s first round but not enough to disrupt the legitimacy of the overall vote.
The Organization of American States had 28 observers monitoring Sunday elections that saw Haitians choose lawmakers for the next Parliament in a contest that was delayed for nearly four years. They visited 171 of more than 1,500 voting centers across the country of 10 million people.
At a news conference in Haiti’s capital, Mission chief Enrique Castillo said observers found that delays and disorder at a number of voting centers were not “so generalized or so big as to be able to question the whole process.”
In a preliminary report, Castillo’s team praised Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council for trying to fix problems over the course of election day.
Sunday’s first round sought to fill two-thirds of the 30-member Senate and the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies in the nation still struggling to recover from a 2010 earthquake that devastated the capital and surrounding areas.
Haiti’s last legislature was dissolved about eight months ago because the terms of lawmakers expired before new elections could be held due to a political showdown between Haiti’s executive and opposition.
Pierre-Louis Opont, the head of the Provisional Electoral Council, said that 54 polling stations, roughly 5 percent of the total, were closed Sunday amid violence and other disruptions. He also disclosed that a council staffer stole some of the elections material and vanished, but declined to provide more specifics other than the police were looking for him.
Many polling stations across the Caribbean country of 10 million people had to wait for ballots a few hours after voting was supposed to start at 6:00 a.m. (1000 GMT).
A Haitian civil society group called the Citizens Observatory for Institutionalizing Democracy agreed that Sunday’s vote should stand despite instances of serious irregularities. They found that 9 percent of polling stations had violent incidents.
Final election results were not expected for days and a significant amount of work will be needed to get the next Parliament up and running after it is installed. Roughly 5.8 million people were registered to vote but there were no initial turnout estimates.
The first round of Haiti’s presidential election and the second round of local elections are set for Oct. 25.