Voting complication may cause low turnout in Haiti election

Published on by Joseph Guyler Delva (author)

President of the Haitian Electoral Council, Pierre Louis Opont (photo: )
President of the Haitian Electoral Council, Pierre Louis Opont

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- The multitude of candidates and political parties and other technical problems, involved with Haiti's upcoming elections, are likely to trigger a very low turnout during the balloting that is crucial for the Caribbean country's democratic future.

Voters will have to elect 119 deputies (members of the Lower Chamber) out of 1,622 candidates and 232 competitors are running to fill 20 senate seats during the first round of the long-overdue legislative elections which is scheduled to take place on August 9.

There are nearly 200 political parties, of which 120 were authorized to present candidates at different levels.

"People are going to have a lot of difficulty to choose from all those candidates and this situation will cause a very low turnout," Sociologist Fritz Dorviliers told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN).

"You imagine a ballot with 25, 35 or 55 candidates and voters will have in their hands several ballots with that many candidates to choose from," Dorviliers said. "This is crazy!" he exclaimed.

Nearly 6 million of the more than 10 million Haitians have registered to cast a ballot in 13,725 voting booths throughout the country while some 12,000 police officers will be mobilized on election day.

However, many have been complaining that at less than 48 hours from Sunday's election they have not been able to identify the location of their voting booth.

The electoral council, tasked with organizing the vote, failed to publish and post voting lists on the walls of electoral facilities 30 days before the election, as required by the decree governing the organization of the ballot.

Election authorities informed that voters may go on the electoral council's website or they could dial a toll-free telephone number to find information about their voting location. However, many say the service often works poorly.

"One can predict the frustration voters will have when they will go to an electoral bureau and be told their names are not on the list," said Dorviliers who has a doctorate in Sociology.

"I believe there will be a chaotic situation in the voting booths that are usually exiguous and where tens of observers, party delegates, electoral staff and voters are expected to cohabitate," said Dorviliers predicting serious logistical problems. "This may give birth to an explosive situation," he said.

Besides the legislative race, a presidential ballot is scheduled to take place on October 25, to elect Michel Martelly's successor who should take office in Feb. 2016. 55 candidates have approved to be on the presidential ballot.

The runoff election for the legislative race will take place at the same time as the first round of the presidential ballot, while the runoff for the presidential (if need be) is set for December this year.

Analysts believe the low illiteracy rate and the complication of the vote will certainly hurt voters' turnout. "Imagine an analphabet holding ballots with so many names and pictures of candidates and emblems of political parties," said Meschak Joseph, a university academic. "He (or she) is going to take an eternity to vote," Joseph explained.

However, elections and government authorities have launched an aggressive civic education campaign to inform people about the electoral process and incite them to turn out to vote.

"We are doing all we can to ensure the holding of free, fair, inclusive and democratic elections," said the president of the electoral council, Pierre Louis Opont. "We are motivating the population and everything is ready," he stated.

Voting booths will open at 6 AM on Sunday and will close at 4 in the afternoon.

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