Port-au-Prince (AFP) – International observers and Haitian human rights groups on Tuesday sharply criticized the country’s violence-marred legislative elections as poorly policed and organized.
At least two people were killed during voting Sunday that was disrupted by attacks and other problems that forced the early closure of at least 26 polling centers.
Pierre Esperance, executive director of a national network of human rights groups, said the disruptions were a blow to democracy in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
“The rights of the Haitian people have been trampled,” he said.
The elections, which were four-and-a-half years overdue in a country still struggling from the effects of a devastating 2010 earthquake, were to choose the Chamber of Deputies and two thirds of the Senate.
Haiti’s 5.8 million registered voters had to make their selections from a field of more than 1,800 candidates from 128 parties.
Esperance accused the police of being passive accomplices to the violence.
“With the complicity of the police and the Haitian justice, individuals entered the voting centers with automatic weapons to keep citizens from voting,” he charged.
After the polls closed Sunday, the head of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, Pierre-Louis Opont, said that about four percent of voting centers had been hit by acts of violence. But he said he was satisfied with the outcome overall.
Elena Valenciano, the head of a European Union observer mission, said ramshackle logistics and poor infrastructure was also an impediment to free elections.
Some voting centers were so small that voters had little privacy when casting their ballots from behind flimsy cardboard partitions, sometimes sharing the same table with officials checking election rolls.
“The country has many infrastructure problems,” Valenciano said, noting that many voting centers destroyed in the 2010 earthquake five years ago had never been rebuilt.
“In many of the locations that we visited on Sunday it would be very difficult for people to vote freely and in secret,” she said.
“It’s enough for a single Haitian not to have been able to cast a ballot for it to be a concern for us,” she told AFP.