Today, Haiti heads to the polls and CEPR's Alex Main, who has been in Haiti all week with delegates from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica Forum, and other organizations, will be providing reports throughout the day. The delegates are observing events surrounding the elections, including the police and UN response to any protests, possible voter boycotts, voter access and participation levels. This space will be updated throughout the day with on the ground reports so please check back frequently, or follow Relief and Reconstruction Watch on Twitter.
UPDATE 11:07 PM: The Los Angeles Times' Joe Mozingo reports:
The electoral observation mission headed by the Organization of American States and Caribbean Community postponed a news conference it had scheduled in the afternoon. Colin Granderson, the chief of the observer mission, said it was still analyzing information from observers and would make a statement Monday.
One OAS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, said observers were called back in the middle of the day due to security concerns.
UPDATE 10:52 PM: AP is reporting signs of concern from the international community:
The United Nations said that it "and the international community expressed their deep concern at the numerous incidents that marred the elections." The chief OAS/Caribbean Community observer, Colin Granderson, added that observers were "in the process of evaluating and analyzing the information gathered on the conduct of the vote."
UPDATE 10:49 PM: Deutsche Presse Agentur reports:
It was not clear how many of the 4.7 million eligible voters were able to cast their ballots, given that many hadn't received their identification cards, which were lost in the earthquake.
'These are the worst elections I have ever seen,' an international observer told dpa.
DPA also reports:
One foreign journalist said he saw the head of a polling station open ballots before placing them in the ballot box in the Cite Soleil neighbourhood.
If the ballot was not in favour of the party preferred by the woman, she tore it up, the journalist claimed.
UPDATE 9:13 PM: The Globe and Mail reports on the political conflict between the 12 presidential candidates and thousands of frustrated Haitians, on the one hand, and the CEP, on the other:
“The CEP is comfortable with the vote,” council president Gaillot Dorsainvil said, deepening the standoff between the government and its opposition, a rivalry that was magnified in the streets of the capital.
The Globe and Mail also quotes IJDH's Brian Concannon on what could be done to rectify the situation:
“They could appoint a new electoral council, reopen registration for candidates and hold another election in four or five months,” Mr. Concannon said. “It would be expensive but we are essentially financing this election and we want it to be a good election.”
UPDATE 6:44 PM: The Financial Times' Benedict Mander has a new article citing Alex on an incident of a voting center trashing in Carrefour, and on voter turn-out. The article, headlined "Haiti poll denounced as ‘massive fraud’", also includes this comment from the OAS:
“We’re looking at the best elections possible under the circumstances,” Albert Ramdin, Organisation of American States assistant secretary-general, who is in Haiti to monitor the elections, told The Associated Press. “We know that the [voter] list is not complete. We know that the list is inflated. We know that much more needed to be done to be on time in terms of training of polling station workers.”
UPDATE 6:25 PM: Don't go to USAID's Twitter page if you're looking for information on any of the numerous and widely reported irregularities, protests, or violence today, or the exclusion of political parties, or calls for election cancellation by 12 of the presidential candidates. If, however, you want to see photos of what appears to be a well-organized, orderly, and calm process, USAID has that, as well as information on how USAID "is spending $14 million to support elections in Haiti today."
UPDATE 5:43 PM: Reuters' Joseph Guyler Delva and Pascal Fletcher are reporting that at least two people were killed in election-related violence today, and a polling station "trashed" by would-be voters who did not find their names on the voter lists. Reuters:
Voters' frustration at not being able to cast their ballots due to organizational problems at many polling stations in the capital Port-au-Prince boiled over into street protests.
One protest of several thousand people in the Petionville district was led by Martelly, joined by Haitian-American hip-hop star Wyclef Jean, who was barred from standing in the presidential race by electoral officials in August.
Presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker also joined Martelly and Wyclef in the march - see a photo here.
UPDATE 4:55 PM: The New York Times' latest - Damien Cave and Randal C. Archibold report:
Citing what they said was an effort by the party of President Rene Preval to stuff ballot boxes and turn away voters who did not support Mr. Preval’s chosen candidate, the [presidential] candidates called for protests if the election was not canceled.
“This is an earthquake of an election,” said Leslie Voltaire, one of the candidates. “This will divide the country, not unite it.”
UPDATE 3:41 PM: AP's Jonathan Katz and Ben Fox have more details on the presidential candidates' press conference today, video of which is available here. AP reports:
Nearly all the major candidates in Haiti's presidential election called for Sunday's election to be voided amid allegations of fraud and reports that large numbers of voters were turned away from polling stations throughout the quake-stricken country.
Twelve of the 19 candidates endorsed a joint statement denouncing the voting as fraudulent and calling on their supporters to show their anger with demonstrations against the government and the country's Provisional Electoral Council.
The statement included all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President Rene Preval.
UPDATE 2:16 PM: Reuters reports that "twelve out of the 18 presidential candidates in Haiti’s elections on Sunday demanded the vote be canceled, alleging widespread fraud." Reuters notes that this is a "serious blow to the credibility of the United Nations-supported elections."
UPDATE 1:54 PM: [Alex had reported to us just before 2:00pm] Waney 93, Carrefour: cops swinging pistols around in front of center as we arrive. Very tense atmosphere. People out in front tell us that a group of unidentified thugs entered the center and kicked and crushed ballot boxes and wreaked general havoc. They appear to have left but the police think there may still be some thugs inside and prevent us from entering.
UPDATE 1:28 PM: CBC is reporting more details on the presidential candidates' press conference this afternoon "to denounce 'massive fraud happening all over the country,' according to the Martelly camp." Along with Michel Joseph Martelly, Mirlande Manigat, Charles-Henri Baker and Jean Henry Ceant are expected to take part. CBC reports:
Most polls opened an hour or more after their 6 a.m. start time. Confusion reigned at many: Observers from dozens of parties crowded voting areas and furious voters were turned away from stations where poll workers could not find their names on lists.
UPDATE 1:11 PM: In Carrefour, close to epicenter of earthquake, at voting center located at Ecole Nationale de Merger. Everything is calm here though we are told that participation is fairly low. No big complaints from any of the political party election witnesses. Talk to group that's sitting in the shade and they say that they've voted. But they know many people who came to vote but didn't find their names on the official list and headed back home. I ask a young man why he's decided to vote and, like many other voters I talk to, he says: so that things change. Back in car we hear that some of the presidential candidates are about to hold a press conf and announce that, because of massive fraud, elections need to be annulled.
UPDATE 12:59 PM: Jacqueline Charles, of the Miami Herald, just Tweeted that presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat is calling for the elections to be annulled.
UPDATE 12:58 PM: Agence France Presse reports on MINUSTAH head Edmund Mulet’s rosy view of the elections so far:
"In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful," Mulet, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH which is helping to police the elections, told AFP.
"I see a great passion of citizens and from citizens for democracy in this country. MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It's an electoral celebration," Mulet said.
"The decision of the people will be respected. There are some small administrative problems, but no big problem that is going to reduce participation."
AFP reports, however, that
Mulet said there had been some "minor incidents" in the northern city of Desdunes.
The mayor there, Wesner Archelus, a member of an opposition party, described a hostage-taking incident which left several people injured and caused him to take refuge in a police station.
"There was shooting all night. Clashes erupted in a voting station where an election monitor from the ruling party was briefly taken hostage," he told AFP.
And the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles just Tweeted: “At least one person killed, maybe 3 so far in #haiti #election day violence.”
News articles report widespread voter ID card problems, late openings of polling stations, and other challenges similar to what we’ve already posted today. The New York Times’ Randal C. Archibold writes:
People waited in long lines on Saturday to pick up new or replacement identification cards, and many people said they had already endured a confusing odyssey to apply for them.
As one office in the Pétionville neighborhood closed at the designated hour, people still in line screamed in anger and disbelief. Workers tossed away several receipts that had been turned in to pick up the cards and carted away boxes of cards they had failed to give out.
The Times also noted that the U.S. Ambassador admitted some serious problems with the electoral process yesterday:
“You have people who are registered to vote in their old neighborhoods but living somewhere else,” the ambassador, Kenneth H. Merten, said in an interview on Saturday. “I’m not sure that all of them know where they have to go. We will see tomorrow.”
“They have been doing what they can, but I am not sure that it is enough,” Mr. Merten said of the government.
Reuters reported this morning:
At the Alexandre Petion high school in Port-au-Prince, electoral workers were still arranging the desks and urns half an hour after polls were officially due to open at 6 a.m. . The voters list and ballot papers had not yet arrived, the workers said.
At another station without electricity guarded by Brazilian U.N. peacekeepers beside the Champs de Mars earthquake survivors’ camp in the city center, poll officials had used their mobile phone lights as they rushed to prepare the center in the early morning darkness.
Long past the official opening time, a small group of young voters waited patiently outside, far outnumbered by electoral officials, party observers and U.N. troops.
And the Miami Herald’s Charles described incidents yesterday including:
In the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, government workers walked out at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, leaving dozens of disgruntled voters at the window with no cards.
Earlier in the day, frustrated voters took to the streets in Cap-Haitien, marching from the local Office of National Identification to the mayor's office after they were unable to get their cards.
UPDATE 12:12 PM: Ecole nationale de Thor in Kafou: fairly quiet. 50 or so ballots in boxes except one that appears to be stuffed. Some folks who aren't on lists.
UPDATE 11:45 AM: Just visited Licee Henri Christophe in Dikuini 63: again big groups of disgruntled voters that aren't on the lists and waiting, it seems, for CEP to announce measure allowing them to vote. Also, another phenomenon: big group of mandataires that say they're not on lists in this center but should be allowed to vote in bureau where they are observing. Most seem to be from Ansamn Nou Fo and a "leader" has provided many of them with meals (spaghetti) and beverages. They are also just waiting outside (rather than observing bureaux). In most bureaux there is no voter activity and people who couldn't find names on lists just waiting in front.
UPDATE 11:30 AM: Partners relaying reports of early morning violence in Desdunes in Artibonite Valley. Shots fired in the air to disperse lines of voters; some were injured including the mayor after confrontations between parties.
UPDATE 11:07 AM: Greeted by group of potential voters as we enter Alta Kindergarten but it turns out they are not on the lists. INITE controls the polling center and witnesses from other parties complain that they have been unable to vote and accuse INITE witnesses of voting several times. Big argument breaks out in front of a polling station where an apparently illiterate voter is "helped" in filling out ballot by a member of the bureau. The police intervene.
UPDATE 10:50 AM: Just left Ecole George Washington. There was a big fight going on in front. Some said it was INITE vs. Cean supporters; others said it was INITE vs. everyone else. Eventually the cops showed up and cocked their shotguns; people started running, cops arressted a guy and took him away. The fighting continues and many folks outside say they're not on the voter lists. I Managed to get inside eventually, but there were hardly any voters. Mandataires [party witnesses] tell us that there's been major fraud and that bureaux [polling location] should be closed. We are told that militants from INITE have been showing up with fake mandataire cards in order to take place of mandataires from other parties and that the police have arrested four false mandataires here.
UPDATE 10:45 AM: Numerous reports of people not being able to vote because they were not on voting lists. In Corail, voting was stopped. Many people wanted to vote, but only 39 people were registered.