Jonas Saint-Lys sat in the bare bones elections office with the cracking paint, no electricity and voters’ lists plastered on the exterior walls, waiting for the cell to ring.
“We are moving along,” he said, “even if there are still things not yet clear for us.”
Days before Sunday’s critical vote, elections officials across Haiti were in a last-minute dash to train polling station workers and move millions of ballots and other voting materials into some of the most remote reaches of the country. Political parties, meanwhile, were scrambling Saturday to get IDs for their monitors to be able to witness the process inside after the Provisional Electoral Council failed to grant them on time.
But for many in Haiti, where elections have long been synonymous with violence, it is security on election day that is of concern. It is helping fuel a climate of apathy among voters, many of whom fear for their lives and don’t believe the vote is worth it.
“A lot of people in the population are scared, wondering if they go to vote will they be shot at,” said Saint-Lys, the only official inside the Marigot elections office with transportation, a motorcycle, in case something happens. “I believe if the [Provisional Electoral Council] and the police respect their word and give us security, the elections will go well.”
Delayed since 2012, the long-awaited legislative elections to fill 20 Senate and 119 Chamber of Deputies’ seats aren’t just about restoring a defunct parliament. They are also a vital and necessary exercise to see whether this crisis-plagued nation can hold elections that are not only fair and credible, but also secure.
“Violence is not in it,” Prime Minister Evans Paul told a crowd attending a Friday night rally in Port-au-Prince for President Michel Martelly’s PHTK party hours before the legislative campaigning closed at midnight. “We are determined to have clean elections.”
The international community, led by the U.N. Stabilization Mission, has been working to shore up the Haitian National Police’s ability to, for the first time, take the lead in providing security for the electoral cycle. There are close to 12,000 police officers for the population of 11 million.