Haiti holds legislative election after long time

Haiti demands funds from international community for long-delayed two election rounds in country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

After years of false starts and blown deadlines, Haitians are set to vote in the first legislative elections in more than three years on August 9 in a test of stability for the country, an impoverished Caribbean nation with a history of coups.

More than 1,800 candidates from dozens of parties are running, and preliminary results are expected in six to 10 days. Runoffs are scheduled for Oct. 25, the same day as the first round of presidential voting.

Mosler Georges, executive director at electoral body CEP [Provisional Electoral Council]; told media that the country will call on the international community for more funds to hold a possible second-round vote.

"Right now we have $38.5 million in the basket fund. Therefore, we don't have problems for this coming election on Sunday [August 09] that cost around $35 million. As you know CEP President Aupont Pierre-Louis, Prime Minister Evans Paul and Madame Honere of the Minustha went to New York to meet with the authorities in order to get more funds for the second round of this election that will be held on October 27 this year," he said.

Haiti's parliament dissolved on January 12, coincidently the five-year anniversary of an earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people.

Since then, the 119-member Chamber of Deputies has sat empty, and the Senate, with only 10 of its 30 members, has failed to field a quorum.

President Michel Martelly, who cannot run for re-election, has ruled by decree.

George's said this weekend's vote needs to happen this week following years of setbacks.

"I don't think that the Haitian government can afford not to have this election take place on Sunday [August 09] after all that money spent. So, they paid us to have this election without any worry on Sunday [August 09], the election will happen and all measures have been in place," he added.

The vote is also a test for the Haitian National Police, which will take full control of security during election season, because the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti has slashed its forces. As of July 1, there are 2,370 blue-helmeted soldiers and 2,601 UN police in Haiti, down from the peak of 13,300 soldiers and police.

Violence has disrupted the campaigns. A supporter of the Verite party was killed in Carrefour, a city bordering Port-au-Prince, and a mayoral candidate from the Fusion party in the southern town of Marigot was killed last month.

"As for security, the National Police have given all guarantees that every voting poll will be covered. Again, I am calling everyone to go out and vote so that this election can be legitimate," said Georges.

The previous elections, which began in 2010 and carried over into 2011, were marred by low turnout, violence and a delayed, disputed runoff.

The elections come as Haiti's currency, the gourde, depreciates, the government is running a high deficit, and the drawdown of UN troops has weakened the economy, which received less than $100 million of foreign investment in 2014, economist Kesner Pharel said.