Latin America & Caribbean

Haiti election: Violence mars voting in delayed poll

People argue at a voting station in Haiti Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There was tension at some polling stations which opened late

Haitians have been voting in long-delayed parliamentary elections, but the vote has been marred by sporadic violence and lengthy delays.

Three polling stations in the capital Port-au-Prince had to close after fights broke out.

Voters at other stations grew frustrated after they opened late.

The elections had been repeatedly postponed since 2011, with President Michel Martelly ruling by decree since January.

The opposition accuse Mr Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from running again, of abusing his powers.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Martelly has voted, although he is not eligible to run again

Nearly six million eligible voters are choosing 119 deputies and 20 senators from more than 1,800 candidates registered from different political parties.

An unidentified gang threw bottles and stones at one polling station in Port-au-Prince, forcing the suspension of voting. Local media reported on other closures across the country.

After casting his vote, Mr Martelly was quoted as saying by the Associated Press: "I hope that the election officials are better organised for the presidential elections in October."

Polls were due to close at 16:00 local time (20:00 GMT).

A run-off round will be held on 25 October - the same day as the presidential election.

Several people have been killed in the run up to Sunday's poll.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The vote is seen as a key test of October's presidential election

Haiti's police have been helped by UN police and peacekeepers to ensure safety during the voting.

"These elections will be a major test for October," said Pierre Esperance, who heads the National Human Rights Defence Network.

Haiti's parliament was dissolved in January over its failure to hold elections, leaving Haiti without a functioning government.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and is still struggling with the legacy of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

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