On 9 August, Haiti staged the first round of a legislative election that had originally been scheduled for 2011, but was suspended several times due to disagreement on voting modalities between the government and the opposition. By almost any standard, the organisation of the voting process was deeply flawed. On election day, 26 out of 1,508 polling stations had to be closed after incidents of looting and vandalism, mostly in the capital Port-au-Prince. Moreover, at least three people died and many others were injured in confrontations between pro- and anti-government partisans. Lastly, the political fatigue of the population was clearly illustrated by the voter turnout, which was below 20%. In terms of results, it is too early to draw conclusions, given that only 8 out of 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected in the first round. The rest of the seats will be allocated during the second round, scheduled to be held on 25 October.
Impact on country risk
Despite the violent incidents and the low voter turnout, the fact that the election was held at all constitutes positive news. If the second round of voting – to be held simultaneously with presidential and local elections – is conducted successfully, this may herald a gradual political normalization in Haiti. Crucially, it could pave the way for parliament to become operative again after it was dissolved in January 2015, when lawmakers' terms expired. President Michel Martelly has been ruling by decree since then. That being said, it should be stressed that this positive scenario is subject to significant downside risk, and that the political situation in Haiti is still very dire. Indeed, the organisation of the second round could still be disrupted by outburst of violence as in late 2014 and early 2015. Furthermore, if voter turnout remains dismal in the second round or if the election outcome is severely challenged by one or more parties, then this could undermine the legitimacy of the election and in turn spark violence.
Analyst: Sebastian Vanderlinden, email@example.com