PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–Haiti’s first round of presidential and legislative voting was marred by fraud, as opposition forces have charged, an independent panel said in its report released Sunday. In the Oct, 25, 2015 first round to choose a successor to President Michel Martelly, the candidate he backed — Jovenel Moise — drew 32.8 percent of the vote against 25.3 percent for Jude Celestin. A runoff had been due to go ahead on Dec. 27 but was canceled after fraud allegations.
The first round and the subsequent lengthy and delayed vote count was marked by street protests alleging official corruption. Celestin refused to campaign until an independent electoral commission was set up. The commission said in its report that work by the government’s electoral board was sloppy, and led to many irregularities. When the independent commission spoke with members of the board, they said that 60 percent of polling station staffers were unable to do their work properly, the report said. “There were also votes crossed out, as well as math or tallying problems,” it added. Additional woes were found in voter ID inspection. That likely meant “votes were not cast by some voters even though they were eligible to do so,” the report stressed. The October presidential election was the latest attempt in the Americas’ poorest country to shed chronic political instability and work toward development. Haiti is still struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation’s infrastructure. After being mired for years in a political crisis that kept any elections from being held, Haiti has been on an electoral marathon this year, holding presidential, legislative and now finally these municipal elections. Since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has been jolted by coups and contested elections that have further undermined the fragile economy.