PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Before polling stations were closed in Haiti’s presidential and legislative elections last Sunday, many presidential candidates were calling for the results to be declared null and void.
Twelve of the 19 presidential candidates urged voters to engage in peaceful protest against “massive fraud”, alleging that some ballot boxes had completed ballots inside before the voting began to benefit Jude Celestin, the candidate of the ruling Inite party.
The elections were also marred by late opening of polls, poor organization and incidents of violence that forced the closure of some voting bureaus.
One of the candidates, former Prime Minister Jacques-Édouard Alexis, said “the election is ruined” and should be called off.
On Sunday afternoon, presidential candidate Anne Marie Josette Bijou read a statement denouncing the voting as fraudulent and accused President René Préval and his government of using illegal means to maintain power. In a show of support, 11 of Bijou’s opponents flanked her as she read her statement.
The statement prompted some voters to erupt into cheers of “Arête Préval!” (Arrest Préval). Thousands of voters protested the elections on Sunday night, supporting the calls for the election to be declared null and void.
Officials from the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) acknowledged there had been irregularities at approximately 56 voting centres and said an investigation would be held. However, the CEP insisted that the voting go on.
Meanwhile, Préval expressed confidence in the CEP. After emerging from a polling station, he told reporters it was not unusual to have difficulties on Election Day.
“We have good elections,” he said. “We usually have election problems in other countries. I just came to vote and I’m sure that we’re going to have another round and I will come back to vote.”
In addition to the 19 candidates vying for president, a total of 96 candidates ran for 11 seats in the Senate and over 800 people contended for 99 seats in the lower house.
Preliminary results are not expected until later this week.