After years of delays, legislative elections have gone ahead on the Caribbean island of Haiti, despite some reports of irregularities. A second round is due in October on the same day as voters choose a new president.
The parliamentary poll was held in order to fill two-thirds of the 30-member Senate and the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies. Roughly 5.8 million people registered to vote to choose the deputies and 20 senators from 1,855 candidates registered from 128 political parties.
Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul said the government was satisfied with the handling of the elections "despite the incidents that we would like to firmly condemn."
Elena Valenciano, head of the European Union's observation mission said, "Although there have been incidents in some polling centers, these problems have generally been corrected."
Some people had to wait for ballots which had failed to arrive in time for the 6 a.m. (1000 UTC) scheduled start for the poll. Some people in the capital found their names were missing from the official voting lists in the capital Port-au-Prince. Voting was extended for two hours at certain polling stations.
Individual voting posts were closed following reports of ballot papers being torn up and of people trying to vote more than once. Reported attempts to stuff ballot boxes also led to closures. Fights broke out and rocks were thrown before police shot into the air to restore order.
The spokesman for Haiti's national police, Frantz Lerebours, said that 26 of the 1,508 voting centers suspended operations due to disturbances.
Parliament was dissolved in January after scheduled legislative elections in 2011 and 2014 had been canceled. The 119-member Chamber of Deputies has been sitting empty. The Senate, with only 10 of its 30 members, has failed to field a quorum.
President Michel Martelly has been ruling by decree since January. He took office in May 2011 and is in the final year of a five-year term.
Results from Sunday's poll are not expected for about a week. Runoff elections are set for October 25, the same day as the first round for presidential voting.
Martelly is not eligible to stand again for the presidency but dozens of candidates stood in Sunday's elections throughout the country under the Haitian Tet Kale (Bald Headed) Party (PHTK) named for Martelly's lack of hair. He downplayed the problems on Sunday: "We have some little gaps, and we hope to fix those gaps for the presidential election," Martelly said.
Sandra Honoré, special representative of the United Nations secretary general in Haiti, said, "Credible, inclusive, translucent and fair elections are key to long-term stability in Haiti."
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. Its situation was made even worse in 2010 when an earthquake killed at least 100,000 people and more than half a million homes and commercial buildings were destroyed.
jm/gsw (AFP, AP, Reuters)