By Vania Andre
PORT-AU- PRINCE – Voting was off to a slow start on Sunday, with some polling sites opening nearly four hours after their anticipated start time. At the Ruelle Vaillant polling station, lines with dozens of people were wrapped around the infamous voting site, where several journalists were killed during the 1987 elections.
Tensions escalated quickly at the Elie Dubois High School polling station in downtown as lines grew, and voters became frustrated with the lack of organization and communication from election officials.
“I’ve been here since six in the morning,” Clerjens Resner said. “Now it’s almost ten and they still haven’t let anyone in to vote. Now when the people get out of hand and the police can’t control them, bullets are going to go flying from police.”
The delay caused several in the crowd to speculate that fraudulent activities were already taking place.
“They know what they’re doing,” Resner said. “There’s not going to be an election.”
By 10 a.m. several hundred people were gathered outside of the Elie Dubois polling site – an impromptu voting location after the Toussaint Louverture High School station was closed.
“It’s chaotic with lines spilling over into the streets,” Roaen, a voter who wished to only give his first name said. “It should be an easy process to vote, one without long lines and crowds standing under the hot sun.
“There shouldn’t be these long lines like this,” he said. “If I can’t vote soon, I’m going home.”
Electoral personnel opened the gates shortly after 10 a.m. to allow people to vote.
The city’s streets were a stark contrast to that of Friday’s, which was the last day to campaign. All over Port-au-Prince, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic, bringing the city to a virtual standstill as candidates and volunteers made their rounds in their last attempt to grab voters’ attentions.
As the sun started to set over the mountains, campaign trucks could be heard, before they were seen, going up and down the winding roads, blasting music and echoing pleas to vote. Down in Champ de Mars, the scene was festive, where hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean accompanied Jude Celestin to address the public.
In contrast to Friday’s Carnival-like atmosphere, Sunday’s streets were eerily empty and quiet, in anticipation of election violence. But there were few reports of serious violent incidents.
Polls closed at 4:00 p.m. with no reports of violence; however by mid-day 73 people had been arrested, many for voting more than once. In one instance, a voter was arrested after he was found with 14 voter cards.
Other problems include isolated incidents of rock throwing in Delmas, voters in Canaan having difficulty accessing polling stations and names missing from voter lists in Cite Soleil. There were also reports of voter buying taking place at a voting station on Christophe Avenue.
Nearly 6 million registered voters picked from 54 presidential and 41,000 local and mayoral candidates, from 128 political parties. The presidential front-runners include Michel Martelly-backed Jovenel Moise, Jude Celestin of the Lapeh (peace) party, and Moise Jean-Charles of Pitit Dessalines.
Today’s vote is crucial considering the long delay for elections to take place. Parliamentary elections were initially supposed to occur in 2011. Intense attention has also been placed on today’s electoral process and the Haitian National Police after violence and accusations of fraud marred the Aug. 9 elections.
“I would say that the record of the Election Day is satisfactory,” Prime Minister Evans Paul said on Sunday.
The budget for Haiti’s election was $74 million, with the U.S. contributing $30 million to the electoral budget.
Partial results will be announced on Nov. 3, the Provisional Electoral Council, which goes by the French acronym CEP, said, with final results expected at the end of November.