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On Friday, March 4, 2016 representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS) and State Department joined two visiting Haitian human rights leaders and two U.S.-based academics in a discussion on Haiti’s current electoral crisis. Organized by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) and sponsored by Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the discussion focused on the causes of the postponement of the electoral crisis, the selection of Provisional President Jocelerme Privert and efforts to move the electoral process forward.

The five panelists made opening remarks and then moderator, Dr. Robert Maguire of the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, directed an open discussion among the speakers.

The event, in its entirety, can be viewed here. Following are excerpts from the panelists’ opening remarks and the subsequent discussion.

Professor Robert Fatton, University of Virginia

Professor Fatton opened the discussion by providing some useful background on the current situation, noting that President Martelly agreeing to step down on February 7 when his term ended and the subsequent selection of Senate president Privert as provisional president had “temporarily eased political tensions.”

Fatton noted that the accord, signed by Martelly, Privert (as Senate president) and Chancy Cholzer, the president of the Chamber of Deputies had tasked Privert with forming a new consensus government, reforming the electoral council and finally, implementing the recommendations of an evaluation commission formed in late December 2015.

“While Privert may succeed with the first two tasks, he will be hard pressed to accomplish the third,” Fatton argues. He explains further that the crisis stems from the “perceived illegitimacy of the whole electoral process,” and that without a verification commission – as has been demanded by many in Haitian civil society – “Haiti will not extricate itself from the current quagmire.”

In the clip below, Fatton makes these points and expounds further on sources of opposition to a further verification.

Believing that altering the results of the election or scrapping the process entirely will be politically untenable, Fatton instead puts forward an “extraconstitutional” approach that would see the second-round runoff opened up to the top four candidates. Privert will need the “Midas touch” to move Haiti out of the current political impasse.

Fatton ridiculed each side in Haiti for calling for the intervention of the international community when it serves their particular interests. But added that, on the other hand, the international community must “stop customary interferences and allow Haitians to devise their own history and make their own mistakes. Barring this Haiti will continue to be in a permanent state of crisis.”

Gerardo de Icaza, Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, OAS

Gerardo de Icaza, in his opening remarks, addressed criticism of the OAS and its role as an election observer in Haiti. “Without a doubt, don’t be surprised, you will be disappointed with what I say today. I know this. And I know you know it,” he opened. Icaza said that the OAS did see many irregularities during the election, but that they “were not a determining factor in the results that were presented.”

“What you expect from us is to come out and say there was a massive fraud, the results should not be accepted, everything should be scrapped and we should start from zero. Well, I cannot say that,” de Icaza continued.

De Icaza addressed the concerns around the issue of mandataires, political party representatives who have been recognized as one of the largest sources of fraud and irregularities during the election.

“Now, 900,000 mandataires. Who are registered by whom? By the political parties. Plural. By one political party? No. By many political parties. Plural.” Did they all vote and did they all vote only once, de Icaza asked rhetorically. “We do not know,” he answers, adding that OAS observers saw safeguards in place to prevent multiple voting.

“Did they all vote for the same candidate? I seriously doubt it. Because that would mean that there was a fraud that was so well orchestrated… that we would have detected that. And we did not see that.”

Kent Brokenshire, Deputy Haiti Special Coordinator, U.S. Department of State

As opposed to other panelists who focused on the current situation, Brokenshire used his opening remarks to harken back on his first tour in Haiti, during the early 90s. He discussed the connection he felt towards Haiti and how it has captivated so many others throughout the years.

Brokenshire pushed back on the idea that Haiti has not seen progress in recent decades, noting that while Haiti still is facing many political challenges, “the difference is beautiful.”

“These challenges are being addressed around tables, by politicians, by elected leaders. This was not the case before, you had people hanging on to raw power through military means.”

Pierre Esperance, Director, National Human Rights Defense Network of Haiti (RNDDH)

Esperance, who led a local electoral observation mission that was present in more than half of all polling centers in the country on election day, contrasted what the OAS observed with what his local group found and stressed the need for an independent verification commission before moving forward.

“Haiti needs the support of the international community…I think there needs to be a minimum respect for Haiti,” Esperance said. “When I say minimum respect, what do I mean by that? When we talk of democracy, what democracy are we speaking of? There should not be two levels of democracy – one for those that are advanced and one for those less advanced.”

Pointing to the high-level of violence, irregularities and “massive fraud,” Esperance noted that while the international community came to observe the election and make some recommendations, “they did not go to the lengths that we went.” But, Esperance added, “We are not the people who have the proof.”

The evidence of what Esperance alleges is, according to him, “sitting in the tabulation center and we are asking for that information to be verified.”

“If you put together an independent commission of evaluation, they will see that. The proofs are there. That is why we didn’t get a president elected on December 27 or January 24. So, when we ask for a commission of verification and evaluation, we don’t have in our head that a particular candidate will be expelled from the process. And it would be very difficult to put one particular candidate outside the process. And I don’t think that will change the results of the 4 or 5 at the top of the race but it will help us end impunity and corruption in the country. If you find the truth and seek the truth then we can organize acceptable elections,” Esperance explains.

Esperance, in a message to the international community, stated that “you cannot ask the Haitians to accept the unacceptable,” adding that “we are not seeking perfect elections, we want acceptable elections.”

Marie Frantz Joachim, Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA)

Marie Frantz opened by moving the discussion to a different aspect of the electoral process: the lack of women in parliament and how that happened.

Despite 23 Senate candidates and more than 120 Deputy candidates, Marie Frantz pointed out that there is “not a single woman inside parliament.”

She discussed the role that Martelly has played, particularly by publicly and verbally abusing a woman at a campaign rally last summer. “Basically, he said that women are just there to satisfy men sexually, therefore women do not have a role in parliament or politics.” Therefore, she added, it is “not surprising that today we don’t have a single woman in the parliament.”

Another cause was the “the corruption that existed within the electoral system.” According to Marie Frantz, many women candidates, who were expected to advance to the runoff, faced electoral contestations at the electoral courts. But, she continued, “the people that they were facing had more money and they paid and they went through.”

“The person with the most money is the person that gets elected.”

Marie Frantz then addressed the question of a verification commission, stating that “we need to know the truth.”

“It’s when we have that truth that we can truly say we have people that have been elected legitimately. We need people who are elected through credible elections so we can have peace in the country. We need to establish a sense of trust between the population and political authorities.”

Finally, Marie Frantz concluded, “without women there is no democracy.”

Panel Discussion

Dr. Maguire, the moderator of the event, opened up the panel discussion by asking about the proliferation of political parties in recent years, which contributed to the problems with mandataires on election day.

Esperance responded that while Haiti has already had many parties, it is “during the Martelly government that we see a surge in political parties.” The explanation, he continued, was that Martelly wanted additional parties to strengthen his negotiating position with the opposition.

Marie Frantz then added that according to the law on political parties that was passed in 2014, it only takes 20 people for a party to be officially recognized. She added that, “a lot of those political parties were selling their mandataires to other parties … it was strategically thought out.”

Esperance added that it was not just political parties who received accreditation passes for mandataires, but that observer groups also received these passes, sometimes up to 17,000 of them, which were then turned around and sold to political parties. “That’s what we saw and that’s what we said. That’s why the international community is not supporting a commission for verification and evaluation because that’s where the proof lies,” Esperance concluded.

De Icaza first responded to accusations that the OAS had a double standard when it came to elections in Haiti. “Without a doubt the OAS does not have a double standard. No. We have 34 different standards. Not one, not two, 34 different standards.” That is because there is no one recipe for what makes an election free and fair, adding that that is “why the work with national observers is so important.”  

De Icaza clarified that the OAS has “never asked the Haitian people to accept these results,” but has only “stated our position and what we’ve seen.” “We have said, over and over, that whatever the solution is, it has to be a democratic solution and it has to be a Haitian solution. We have not gone any further than that,” he said.

“The problem that we have, for a certain sector of the population, no result unless we reach the cancelation of the results, will be acceptable.”

Fatton fired back, noting that there was a “fetishism” of elections in Haiti. “Every election that is fraudulent is acceptable, so at the end of the day, fraud becomes the new norm. And when fraud is the new norm, there is a breakdown in the electoral process, this is inevitable.”

Fatton discussed the recent history of “ad-hoc” electoral solutions in the 2006 and 2010 elections, and noted the current disagreement between local and international observers. “Let us not try and be nice and diplomatic, there is a fundamental breakdown of trust between the international community and Haitian civil society organizations.”

“One says it was a farce and the other says, well, it wasn’t that bad, it was acceptable. And the problem is the more you accept elections that are fraudulent, the more the system literally decomposes and that’s what is happening in Haiti.”

Fatton concludes: “But I guarantee you that if you have another election, a runoff between two candidates, whoever they may be,  without the commission on verification, an independent one, the new government elected will be in deep trouble a few months afterwards because it will have very limited legitimacy … this is a recipe for another crisis.”

Esperance then addressed the OAS representative, de Icaza, noting that while the situation in each country is different, their work in Haiti is based on what is contained in the electoral law. “There are many people who voted many times, particularly the observers and political representatives. That’s fraud. Help us construct democracy, help us end impunity and corruption.”

Kent Brokenshire, the State Department representative, who remained relatively quiet throughout the panel, then chimed in to underscore that “this is a Haitian process” and the U.S. doesn’t “favor any candidate at all, what we favor is democracy.” Though not directly addressing the calls for a verification commission, Brokenshire expressed the U.S.’ desire to “see Haiti move through the electoral cycle now and have a truly elected president to represent the will of the Haitian people, have a democratically elected head of state with whom we would be able to deal country to country.”

Pushing back on other panelists comments about the unlikelihood of elections being held in April, as the political accord had called for, Brokenshire added that: “In this accord they targeted April 14 [it’s actually April 24] as the day for elections, they gave the provisional president 120 days to complete that. So, they basically set out the rules for that and this is something that was done among Haitians, there was no whispering in ears there. This is something done among Haitians and something that we respect.”

Esperance responded that the accord did not involve the entire Haitian society and that the timeframe they put forward was “impossible.” “There is not even a 1% chance that a president will be installed on May 14, even in June it’s impossible. So what do we want? First, there will be a new CEP. There will be a commission for evaluation and verification. And I guarantee you that commission must happen otherwise there will be no election.” Even if the results do not change, we need to seek the truth, he added.

De Icaza then indicated that if Haitian leaders decide that a verification commission is needed to move the process forward, then “that’s perfect and the OAS will probably accompany this process.” But, he continued, it will issue a report that will show what we already know, that there were many irregularities. “Will they be able to put a number on those irregularities? I don’t know if they can do that scientifically, to tell you the truth.”

“For us, the difference between first, second and third is so clear that it would be difficult for those things to change. But if that’s what is needed and that is the Haitian solution, that’s wonderful,” he stated. De Icaza pointed out, however, that if a verification commission was formed, it would need clear timelines and rules to ensure its acceptance and success.

Marie Frantz responded by referencing the lack of trust between international actors and the Haitian people, but noted that these institutions, including the OAS, “have a great deal to gain by working hand in hand with Haitian society to put together this commission.”

“The lack of trust that exists between the population and these institutions…work to reestablish trust is work that is extremely important and I hope that the reflections we are having today will allow us…to reestablish trust.”

The following has been cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog. The agreement itself can be found at the original source. 

Update: Jocelerme Privert has been elected provisional president by the National Assembly.

President Michel Martelly managed to reach a political accord with the heads of Haiti’s parliament on the creation of a transitional government, averting a potentially dangerous political vacuum. In keeping with the deal, Martelly stepped down on February 7, meeting a major demand of his opponents. But the accord also gives a great deal of power to a contested Parliament and fixes a time frame for the transition that would appear to rule out any real investigation of fraud in the previous rounds of elections. With pro-Martelly members of Haiti’s disbanded military (FAdH) on the march, the spectre of another, more violent round of political unrest hangs over the agreement. Given the accord’s many ambiguities and contradictions, Haiti’s electoral crisis has yet to be solved.

The deal’s text, entitled “Political Accord for institutional continuity upon the end of the term of office of the President of the Republic and in the absence of a President-elect and for the continuation of the 2015 electoral process,” was finalized at 1am on Friday night, after 28 meetings between various actors. President Martelly, Senate President Jocelerme Privert and Chamber of Deputies President Chancy Cholzer signed at the National Palace on Saturday, February 6. The solution found by the Executive and the lawmakers was “inspired by constitutional dispositions” rather than directly derived from the Haitian Constitution, because the Constitution did not clearly indicate what was supposed to happen when a president’s term ended without an elected successor in place.

The political accord confirmed Martelly’s departure on the constitutionally mandated end of his term on February 7 and provided a roadmap for the establishment of a provisional government. A provisional president will be elected by the National Assembly (a joint body of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate) within five days of the signing of the accord, while executive power will be exercised in the interim by current Prime Minister Evans Paul and the Council of Ministers. Parliament has already established a bicameral committee to receive and vet applications for the post, and if all goes well, a provisional president will be sworn in on February 14. The mandate of the provisional president is limited to a maximum of 120 days, starting from the day they assume office.

The provisional president is tasked with “redynamizing” the currently “dysfunctional” CEP and finding a “consensus” Prime Minister. To do so, the political accord gives the provisional president the responsibility to establish a broad consultation process with Haitian society and the two Chambers of parliament mandate is find a consensus Prime Minister, who will then form a government and be confirmed by Parliament. Although not stated in the accord’s text, the New York Times reported that Martelly had made “an important concession” during the negotiations, agreeing to allow a member of an opposition party to be selected as interim president.

The provisional president is also called on to convoke the various social sectors to delegate new representatives (or confirm existing ones) to the CEP. At present, the CEP has only three of nine members, meaning it lacks the necessary two-third quorum for publishing electoral results. Just as important, the credibility of the current CEP has been badly eroded by corruption scandals and its complicity in Martelly’s efforts to ram through fraudulent elections despite strong opposition.

Once in place, the “redynamized” CEP will ensure the “continuation of the electoral process initiated during 2015,” according the agreement. The steps to be taken include the implementation of the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission and the finalization of municipal election results, followed by the organization of “second round of presidential elections, partial legislative elections, and local elections.” The accord fixes April 24 as the date for these elections, with final results proclaimed on May 6 and an elected president installed on May 14. Many commentators, including Senate President Privert, have pointed out that this calendar is only tentative, since only the CEP has the authority to officially set election dates.

Although the political accord’s signatories claimed to be “seeking a broad consensus of all vital forces of the nation,” support for the agreement was not unanimous. Almost immediately after it was signed, the deal was denounced in the streets by opposition protesters. The Group of Eight (G-8) characterized the agreement as “anti-popular and anti-democratic” and the Front du Refus et de la Résistance Patriotique, a grouping of political and civil society leaders, which called the deal “stillborn.” The G-30, another grouping of presidential candidates, announced that it will challenge the political accord’s legality. These critics charged that the deal did not taken into account a sufficiently wide range of perspectives. Senate President Jocelerme Privert admitted that some opposition lawmakers disagreed with the accord reached by Martelly and legislators, but Privert said they would have to accept the majority's decision. “This is the democratic way,” he said. Some pro-Martelly legislators have also expressed discontent with the deal.

Months before the August legislative elections last year, a small scandal erupted in the electoral bureau of Haiti’s Artibonite department. Nine months later Haiti remains mired in a political crisis, but how this came to be has faded from the headlines.

Tracing the election’s flaws from the beginning, in the Artibonite Valley, reveals just how corrupt the electoral process has been and how the politics of power and money have subverted the democratic will of the Haitian people and the elections’ credibility from day one.

In April, Louis Frantz Dort replaced Ralph Ederson Dieuconserve in the departmental electoral bureau of the Artibonite. “This suspicious change is evidence that an electoral coup is being prepared for the Parti Haitien Tet Kale (PHTK) in the Artibonite,” political activist, Délice Jacques, told the local press. The PHTK is the party of current president Michel Martelly, whom human rights organizations, religious leaders and the political opposition have accused of manipulating the elections for his own benefit and that of his allies. But in the Artibonite, this takes on a unique dynamic.

The PHTK openly allied with a number of political parties, but “then you have the local potentates,” explained an official with an international election observation mission, who requested anonymity since the process is ongoing. “It’s lord logic. They may not be part of PHTK, but the local leader wants to maintain control of his area for himself, not just for the party.” For the better part of the last decade, Haiti’s second-largest department, the Artibonite, has increasingly been controlled by Youri Latortue — a former senator and nephew of former Prime Minister Gerard Latortue — and his political party, Haiti in Action (AAA).

An advisor to President Martelly, Latortue was described by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson in a 2007 cable published by WikiLeaks, as “the poster boy for political corruption in Haiti.” The former head of the United Nations in Haiti referred to him as a “drug dealer.” A year prior, after speaking with a close colleague of Latortue, Sanderson cabled that Latortue “may well be the most brazenly corrupt of leading Haitian politicians,” adding that “The Latortue family is crawling all over Haitian politics.”


Haiti remained on edge in the lead-up to the August election. After the terms of the entire Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the Senate expired in January 2015, Martelly ruled the country without legislative oversight. Without elections, local officials had, years earlier, been replaced by political appointees. Despite pledges from the national electoral council (CEP) and positive assessments from international observers, the vote on August 9 was plagued by widespread violence, intimidation and outright fraud. It was, arguably, the worst in the Artibonite.

Votes from more than 30 percent of ballot boxes across the department were never counted, as voting was shut down by armed gangs. In other cases, ballots disappeared en route to the tabulation center. The Artibonite was the only one of Haiti’s 10 departments that failed to reach the threshold of 70-percent-of-votes-counted, an arbitrary and after-the-fact benchmark instituted by the CEP. When the CEP announced preliminary results on August 17, it declared that the entire Senate election in the Artibonite was to be done over and in addition, in eight districts where fewer than 70 percent of votes were counted, races would also have to be rerun. In five areas, the vote was so marred that not a single vote was counted.

Later, the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) election monitoring division, Gerardo de Icaza, said that the number of missing votes in August would have been "enough to void" the results had they been in a national race. But De Icaza suggested that because the August vote was for local races, problems could be handled at the local level by rerunning the races. In reality, many of the problems were never addressed, setting the electoral process off course from the beginning and undermining the legitimacy of the incoming legislature that was partially sworn in last month.

The CEP, in an attempt to assuage concerns over the August violence, sanctioned 16 candidates, excluding them from the electoral process. It also issued a communiqué, warning political parties involved in “ransacking voting centers” and “removing electoral materials” that further acts would lead to harsher sanctions. But it stopped short of any direct action against parties.

In the Artibonite, the CEP warned five groups: the ruling-party’s PHTK; Latortue’s AAA; the Prime Minister’s KID party; a smaller party, REPAREN, closely linked to Latortue; and the Bouclier party. This latter party was created by Calixte Valentine, an accused murderer and a close advisor to President Martelly. Its presidential candidate’s chief of staff was another Martelly advisor. The party was so controversial that in the days after the August 9 vote, a campaign advisor to the PHTK, Roudy Choute, seeking to distance his party from Bouclier, described them as “the party with the worst drug connections.” 

Less than three percent of Haitians would have voted in the planned January 24 election, according to a new survey. As political leaders and international officials meet and discuss a way out of Haiti’s current political crisis, the survey sheds light on what the Haitian people would like to see happen.

Released today by the Brazilian Igarape Institute, the report, co-authored by Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah, shows a tremendous lack of faith in the current electoral process, but indicates that it could be restored if certain actions are taken. Three quarters of all respondents said they would vote if they believed elections were free and fair. Getting there will be the tough part.

“Haitian citizens need to be informed of the process behind every key decision made for the resulting actions to have a chance of being viewed as legitimate,” the authors write. “And ordinary Haitian people need to be confident that their needs, opinions, and votes are driving the democratic process.”

After violent and fraud marred legislative elections in August, many voters were wary about going to the polls in the October presidential elections. 41 percent of respondents indicated they stayed home due to fraud or security concerns. Many also said that there was no point in voting and candidates didn’t care about people like them.

These concerns only increased in anticipation of the planned January 24 election. Only three percent intended to vote, with 68 percent citing “election fraud” as the reason why they would stay home. The election was officially cancelled due to security concerns, but it was this lack of faith in the process that had doomed the election.

Looking forward, respondents identified clear actions that could be taken to restore trust in the electoral process. Asked what needed to be done to restore confidence, the most popular answers involved conducting an independent investigation into fraud and intimidation in previous elections before moving forward. “Respondents, overall, preferred options that excluded Jovenel Moïse from automatic participation in a second round election,” the authors conclude.

With less than a week left in Haitian President Michel Martelly’s term, and no elected successor to take office, Haiti remains mired in political uncertainty. As negotiations take place over what comes next, one key issue will be whether to go back and investigate the first round results before moving forward.

Many within the international community and the Haitian government are seeking to move forward as quickly as possible with the same two candidates that were scheduled to participate in the January 24 runoff. On the other hand, protesters and many within civil society are advocating a further investigation and verification of the vote.  The Organization of American States (OAS) dispatched a special mission to Haiti yesterday to facilitate dialogue on next steps.

The main argument against further verification has relied on the “quick count” conducted by the OAS on election day that was based on a sample of tally sheets observed from polling centers throughout the country.

The OAS count has been used by others to argue that fraud allegations are overblown. During an OAS council meeting last week on the situation in Haiti, Gerardo de Icaza, the head of the OAS electoral observation department, said the “results published by the CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] agreed with the OAS statistical sample,” and that the organization had conducted three other statistical tests that all showed the same top four candidates.

During an interview in December, State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten told me that there had not been credible proof of fraud and the U.S. “understanding is that both the U.N. and OAS think the results were close to the quick count.”

Telegraphing why this matters in the current context, the European Union representative, speaking at the same OAS meeting last week, stated the EU’s desire to see the electoral process move forward, “considering the results of the process so far.” In other words, this means moving forward without any verification of the first round results.

But the OAS’s quick count does not mean what they want you to think it means. There are serious concerns about what percentage of the votes cast were legitimate votes but the OAS count sheds no light on this crucial issue.

Second-round presidential and legislative runoffs, scheduled for Sunday January 24, were abruptly cancelled on Friday, less than 48 hours before polls were to open. Ruling-party backed Jovenel Moise was set to face off against Jude Celestin, who had pledged to boycott the race. Protests against the election increased throughout the week, culminating in a massive demonstration that made its way to the headquarters of the electoral council (CEP) on Friday morning.

“Jan. 24 is no longer opportune for having elections considering the threats against the electoral infrastructure and on the population who would have to go vote,” said CEP president Pierre Louis Opont in cancelling the election.

But if the threat of violence provided the necessary pretext, the writing was already on the wall. Since fraud and irregularity-marred first-round presidential elections in October (and really, since the violent August legislative elections), a growing chorus of Haitian civil society had spoken out against the continuation of the electoral process as is. An evaluation commission, created by the president, found that only eight percent of tally sheets were free from irregularities or manipulation.

“It is crazy to see that it was contemplated to hold a round in these conditions,” on January 24, said a western official working on election-related matters.

The nine-member electoral council had already seen two members resign and two more suspend their activities (one due to corruption allegations). But on Friday, as calls for the election’s cancellation increased and officials frantically rushed to reach a deal, another CEP member threatened to resign. It would have left the institution without a quorum, rendering it unable to legally sign off on election results.

Haiti’s government, opposition leaders and private sector groups were in negotiations late Wednesday night, seeking an end to the impasse over Haiti’s coming presidential runoff. On the table is a deal that would delay this Sunday’s elections until March and provide assurances on how to move forward.  But speaking on local radio Thursday morning, current president Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from running again, said everything was ready for the election Sunday and criticized groups who he said wanted to seize power by delaying elections.   

Less than 72 hours before polls are scheduled to open, it remains unclear if elections will take place or if a deal to re-schedule them can still be reached. Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the vote, alleging government interference and massive fraud in the October first round.

On the line now is not just the next president of Haiti, but how and if president Martelly will leave office and whether he will peacefully transfer power to his successor. Also at stake is the credibility of the international community that has backed the process with diplomatic support and millions of dollars.

An international official closely involved in the electoral process, who requested anonymity, said that moving forward with elections on January 24th would “ignore all improvements and lessons we have learnt … and will undermine once again the legitimacy of the president elect.” “More to the point, it is going to look bad for the international community.”

Yesterday the Haitian senate passed a non-binding resolution calling for the electoral process to be halted immediately. Senator Evalière Beauplan, who authored the resolution, told the Miami Herald that there was a broad recognition that “elections won’t work on Sunday. The actors are not ready, and there is too much turbulence.”

The move followed days of protests against the election.  A regular occurrence since the beginning of the electoral process in August, they have increased in size and intensity in the run up to the vote. Police have dispersed protesters with tear gas and a video showing officers beating and harassing detainees has been widely shared on social media.  Opposition groups have called for more protests in the coming days and denounced the police brutality. But in its address this morning, the government said protests would not be allowed ahead of Sunday’s election.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Sunday 3 January, the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission released its report on the 25 October presidential elections. Appointed on 22 December by President Martelly in response to demands for an independent investigation, the Evaluation Commission met over the holidays with electoral council members, government officials, election observers, candidates and other concerned groups, and conducted a verification of 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets. 

The report concluded that the October 25 vote was indeed marked by “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.”

The testimonies gathered were unanimous in recognizing that the 25 October 2015 elections were tainted by irregularities, and that several candidates benefitted, through their representatives at polling stations,from these irregularities comparable to fraud. (p. 10)

The sample of tally sheets examined by the Evaluation Commission painted a picture of a deeply flawed electoral process. 92% of the 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets examined by the commission had at least one “serious irregularity” and 54.1% had three or more serious irregularities. According to statistics compiled by the Commission, 56.7% of tally sheets showed evidence of erasure and modification ("rature avec modification"), while 28.3% of tally sheets had not been plasticised, a measure meant to prevent post-vote alterations.

The Commission also found that that many votes had been cast without the proper documentation. 57.1% of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8% of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid CIN number, 30.6% of tally sheets had votes that lacked a CIN number altogether. The scale of these irregularities are potentially massive. Commission member Rosny Desroches stated in a radio interview with Radio Vision 2000 that at one polling station in La Saline, 200 people voted without providing CIN numbers, while only 25 voted with a voting card.

The report confirmed the accusations of a number of observer groups that the system ofmandataires (political party representatives) was systematically exploited to cast fraudulent votes on election day:

The mobilization of an exaggerated number of mandataires (more than 900,000) who were able to vote outside of their polling stations ... was the cause of many irregularities or fairly serious problems during the electoral activities of 25 October 2015. This led, above all in polling stations in urban areas, to themanipulation of votes and the purchasing of accreditation cards by political parties having the financial means. Many mandataires, benefiting from the complicity or negligence of polling station workers, voted at multiple polling stations. (p. 6)

The impact of these fraudulent votes cast by mandataires and other “off-list” voters was potentially quite large. In over a quarter (27.2%) of the tally sheets in the Commission's sample, off-list votes accounted for more than 15% of total votes.

Due to the short timeframe of its operations, many questions were left unanswered by the Commission. The Commission, for instance, could not dispel the “rumours” concerning UNOPS' alleged role in manipulating or destroying tally sheets that it was tasked with transporting: “The commission would need more time to examine this question and to uncover the whole truth concerning this point.” (p. 6) The UN contracting agency was tasked with organizing election logistics on 25 October and Sylvain Coté, one of its employees, was accused by a PHTK deputy candidate of involvement in a massive operation of fraud.

Unfortunately, the Commission shied away from evaluating the full scope of the problems on 25 October in its report. The report never clearly establishes the degree to which the presidential election results were compromised by such “irregularities akin to fraud.” Nor does the report ever identify the candidates that benefitted the most from these irregularities, only timidly noting that political parties in general revealed themselves to be “potential sources of irregularities, fraud and corruption in electoral competition.” (p. 6) The Commission’s report was often ambiguous about whether the widespread and serious irregularities it found actually constituted “fraud.” The Commission said its findings from the analysis of tally sheets, for instance, “could be attributable to the incompetence or lack of training of polling station workers or to serious attempts of fraud.” (p. 9)

The Commission concluded that these irregularities required a response from the nation’s authorities, while carefully limiting the scope of its recommendations. “Corrective and dissuasive measures are therefore necessary for the continuation of the electoral process, knowing that there are no perfect solutions in the present circumstances.” (p. 10) The report recommended the resignation of CEP members who have lost credibility due to accusations of corruption, and the creation of political dialogue between all concerned actors to find a way out of the impasse. The report also called for polling station workers to receive better training in the second round, and eventually to be made permanent employees of the electoral council rather than temporary staff selected on a political basis.

The electoral body admits that more than 60% of voting bureau members were not able to accomplish correctly the work required. ... Many irregularities that resulted in the quarantining of numerous tally sheets were due to their carelessness and their lack of general and specific training. (p. 5)

The Commission thinks that polling station workers must no longer be temporary personnel subject to the relentless influence of certain political actors. (p. 12)

The Commission also recommended reviewing accusations of corruption in the electoral complaints process related to the legislative races. Although it was not tasked with evaluating the legislative elections, the Commission received more than 50 cases of “complaints, contestations, accusations of fraud that were not properly dealt with”:

During the entire time the Commission was sitting, it received a significant number of complaints and denunciations from candidates during the last legislative elections about the injustices they claim to have suffered. There were even public disturbances related to some of these cases. The electoral institution cannot tolerate injustices committed through the BCED or the BCEN, whose judges have been so heavily criticized. There has even been talk of corruption. The Commission recommends a re-evaluation and an in-depth examination of these dossiers. (p. 11)

The report included in its recommendation an ambiguous call for “a more in-depth examination on the technical level of the responsibility of the electoral apparatus for irregularities often described as massive fraud.” (p.12) Its recommendations, however, avoided calling for a full recount of the vote or the rerunning of elections, an omission that prompted Commissioner Gédéon Jean of RNDDH to refuse to sign the final document.

Since early November, the Group of Eight (G-8) candidates, civil society organizations, religious groups and countless demonstrators have demanded an Investigative Commission to look into allegations of fraud on October 25. Instead of a full investigation of electoral fraud, the opposition got something more akin to a Guarantees Commission, an idea floated by OCID’s Rosny Desroches in early December that was roundly rejected by the G-8 but embraced by the U.S. and other Core Group embassies. The restrictive way in which the Evaluation Commission interpreted its mandate and the modest recommendations it limited itself to means that its report has not satisfied these sectors, many of which have issued denunciations of the report and its recommendations and called for mobilizations against electoral fraud to continue.

The Evaluation Commission noted in its report that the preponderant role of foreign powers had damaged Haitians’ confidence in the electoral process. “The perception of meddling by international actors in the major decisions of the nation causes confusion and discredits the country's established authorities.” (p. 2) The Commission’s report, and Desroches’ obvious influence on its outlook, will only make it harder to dispel such perceptions. Desroches, who became the Commission’s spokesman, has long enjoyed close relations with the international community; his organization OCID received the lion’s share of a $4 million grant from the U.S. and Canada to monitor the elections.

Overall, the report is a contradictory document will likely deepen rather than resolve the electoral crisis. The Commission itself is clear about what going forward without correcting the results of previous elections means: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.” (p. 1) Yet beyond a general statement that violations of the electoral law should be punished, the Commission makes no recommendations for rectifying the presidential elections, even while admitting that 25 October was marred by serious irregularities.

Full text of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission (in French) is available here.

After increasing pressure from opposition politicians, human rights organizations, religious leaders and diaspora organizations, Haitian president Michel Martelly has issued a decree forming a commission to evaluate the recent first-round presidential elections, held in October. Backed by the international community, the move is a last-ditch effort to save the December 27 run-off election.

Consisting of five individuals who were named in the presidential decree, the body will have three days to carry out its work and make recommendations to the electoral council and government. The election, set to be held next weekend, is expected to be delayed until January 2016, though no formal announcement has been made.

Contacted by HRRW, Rosny Desroches, a leader of a local observation group funded by the U.S. and Canada and a member of the commission, said that the exact terms of reference were still being debated and the commission likely wouldn’t get started until Friday or Saturday. Specifically, there was still debate about the time frame, as three days seemed too short, he said. “The main idea is to improve the process so that what happened on the 25th [of October] will not be repeated,” Desroches added.

The October election, in which 70 percent of registered voters stayed home, was plagued by widespread fraud and other irregularities according to local and international observer groups. Following the election, a group of eight presidential candidates, known as the G8, questioned the legitimacy of the results and demanded an independent verification commission to analyze the votes.  

Martelly has been ruling by decree since January 2015, when the terms of most of the legislative branch expired. On Wednesday, the 10 remaining Senators wrote to Martelly and the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) requesting a suspension of the electoral process and the formation of a verification commission. Shortly after midnight, Prime Minister Evans Paul sent a letter to Martelly requesting a commission with a more limited scope, setting the stage for this morning’s announcement.

As momentum built over the previous week, even those close to the government acknowledged that something would have to be done. “You can’t stop a runaway train,” an advisor to President Martelly quipped, “It’s inevitable.”

But asked if this commission satisfied the request of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert, one of the 10 who remain, wrote curtly, “No way.” And already, there has been pushback to the commission from within the G8.

In a statement this morning, Renmen Ayiti, whose presidential candidate Jean Henry Céant is part of the G8, denounced the commission as “contrary to the request” of the G8. The party also called on one of its members, Euvonie Georges Auguste, who had been placed on the commission, to not participate.

Other commission members are Patrick Aris of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti; former Port-au-Prince Mayor Joseph Emmanuel Charlemagne; and Anthony Pascal, a journalist and TV personality.

Moïse Jean Charles, another member of the G8 who finished third according to official results, also expressed concerns over the new commission. It “doesn’t look to be shaping up like what we’ve been asking for,” he said. “What we demand is an independent commission that won’t be biased toward anyone,” he added, pointing out that it appeared some commission members were close associates of Martelly.

But key among the group is Jude Célestin, who placed second according to official results behind Jovenel Moïse of the ruling party. Despite increasing pressure from the international community, he has held firm on conditioning his participation in the second round on the formation of a verification commission.  

Célestin ran for the presidency in 2010 but was removed from the race after an internationally backed verification mission suggested he really came in third. That decision, which was accepted only after the revocation of visas and other pressure from the U.S., paved the way for Martelly’s ascension to the presidency.

Now, the international community finds itself on the other side of the equation, needing Célestin to participate in order for the election to have legitimacy. U.S. State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten, who was the U.S. Ambassador during the 2010 election, was dispatched to Haiti in early December to meet with the stakeholders and reach a deal that would allow Célestin to participate and the process to continue on schedule.

This past weekend, the editorial boards of both the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about the current electoral crisis in Haiti, though the solutions recommended differ greatly. Unlike the Times, which backed calls from Haitian civil society and political parties for further verification of the vote, the Post editorial pushes a line decidedly in tune with the U.S. State Department.

Both the Times and the Post acknowledge that “the balloting, which featured 54 candidates, was marked by fraud, vote-buying and repeat voting,” as the Post wrote. The Post editorial continues:

With the runoff to elect a president set for Dec. 27, significant parts of Haitian civil society, including human rights organizations and the clergy, have called for a postponement to recount and verify the first-round results. So has the second-place finisher, Jude Celestin, who says he will not take part in the runoff without an independent review of the first-round results.

But while the Post concedes that the concerns are “partly justified,” the editorial authors conclude that actually having a verification of the vote could lead to the process starting from scratch or delaying the December 27 vote. This would be a “recipe for ongoing upheaval and more violence,” the Post writes. Rather, the Post suggests a “better way out of the impasse is to proceed with the runoff with guarantees of enhanced scrutiny by international election observers from the Organization of American States [OAS] and elsewhere, including the United States.”

Of course, both the OAS and the United States have hailed the vote as successful, and have yet to denounce the fraud and other irregularities that took place, according to Haitian and U.S. observers. Last week, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti Kenneth Merten traveled to Haiti to seek a solution to the crisis. The route forward that the U.S. is pushing is remarkably similar to what the Post suggests. Rather than a verification commission, the U.S. and other actors in the international community are instead recommending a “warranty” commission that will work to ensure the next election is better than the first.

On the other hand, the New York Times, after diagnosing many of the problems with the previous election, backs calls from Haitian civil society and political leaders, calling for the U.S. to “instead be pressing for an independent, Haitian-led inquiry to examine the October vote.” The U.S. “should know that it’s impossible to build a legitimate government on a rotten foundation,” the editorial states. It concludes:

But anyone who cares about democracy in a country whose fate is so closely tied to the wandering and sometimes malign attentions of the United States and the rest of the world should pay attention. Haitians deserve better than this.

So, with similar acknowledgements of the magnitude of the problems, why such divergent suggestions from these two leading newspapers?

The following is written by Beatrice Lindstrom, Staff Attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and has been cross-posted from Medium.

“It is with great sadness that I write you this letter to remind you that human rights are something that all people must respect no matter how powerful you are.”

So reads the opening line of a letter from Viengeméne Ulisse, one of over 2,000 cholera victims who have handwritten letters to the UN Security Council to demand that the world body take action and provide justice and reparations for the suffering they have experienced due to cholera introduced by UN peacekeepers in 2010.

Viengeméne lives in Thomazeau, Haiti. In May of 2011, he suddenly fell ill with cholera and was hospitalized for eight days. “I learned that it was MINUSTAH that brought this disease to my country. In this sense, I ask the president of the United Nations and all of its allies to compensate us and bring justice and reparations,” he writes.

UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti in 2010 by discharging untreated human waste into Haiti’s largest river. Haiti now has the world’s worst cholera epidemic — over 9,000 people have died and over 760,000 have sought hospital care.

The victims are delivering their letters in connection with Human Rights Day. The UN celebrates Human Rights Day every December 10th, the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Using slogans like “rights for all,” it is an opportunity for the UN draw attention to the universality and equality that underpin the modern human rights system.

But to Haitians who have been employing every advocacy tool in the book to enforce their rights against the UN itself — including holding press conferences, demonstrating, filing lawsuits, and now, writing letters —  these UN campaigns ring hollow.

“How does the UN have the moral standing to promote respect for human rights and dignity in Haiti when it is violating cholera victims’ rights?” asks Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who has been championing the victims fight for justice for over four years.

A new survey from the Brazilian Igarape Institute, released today, indicates that official results from Haiti’s October 25 presidential election may not reflect the will of the voters. In the wake of the election, local observers and political leaders have denounced what they claim was massive fraud in favor of the governing party’s candidate, Jovenel Moïse, who came in first place with 32.8 percent of the vote according to the preliminary results. In second place was Jude Célestin with 25.3 percent and in third and fourth respectively were Moïse Jean Charles with 14.3 percent and Dr. Maryse Narcisse with 7 percent. Final results are expected this week.

But the survey, which is based on interviews with over 1,800 voters from 135 voting centers throughout all of Haiti’s ten departments, reveals a vastly different voting pattern than the official results. 37.5 percent of respondents indicated they had voted for Célestin while 30.6 percent voted for Jean Charles and 19.4 percent for Narcisse. The governing party’s Jovenel Moïse was the choice of just 6.3 percent of survey respondents. (See an AP story about the survey here.)

The official results have set up a potential runoff between Jovenel Moïse and Célestin on December 27, but Célestin has so far refused to recognize the results or accept his second-place position ahead of the second round of the elections. A coalition of eight candidates has labeled the results “unacceptable” and called on the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to form an independent commission to audit the results and investigate allegations of fraud. After a meeting on Monday between the CEP and the G8, as the opposition coalition is known, the CEP formally rejected the proposition, claiming that the electoral decree did not allow it. Opposition groups responded by pledging to continue a growing protest movement that has seen many thousands take the streets since results were announced, threatening to derail the costly and internationally backed electoral process.

A large protest was broken up by police on Wednesday near the CEP headquarters. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets and Steven Benoit, one of the opposition presidential candidates challenging the results, suffered injuries to his head. Moïse Jean Charles, who was riding on horseback, was also reportedly injured, and yet another presidential candidate, Jean Henry Céant, was reportedly detained and threatened with arrest.  

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On November 5, the CEP released preliminary results for the first-round presidential election held on October 25, which prescribed a presidential run-off between PHTK's Jovenel Moïse and LAPEH's Jude Celestin on December 27. The November 8 release of results for the second-round legislative elections, also held on October 25, occurred with much less fanfare. While most attention has been fixed on the contested presidential results, the legislative results may be even more significant for the political future of Haiti.

Presidential Race

According to the CEP's results, PHTK's Jovenel Moise (32.81%) and LAPEH's Jude Celestin (25.27%) were the top two finishers, while Moise Jean-Charles of Pitit Dessalines finished third (14.27%) and Fanmi Lavalas' Maryse Narcisse came in fourth (7.05%). 

Broken down by region, Jovenel Moise's strongest showing was in the north of the country; his share of the vote in the Nord Est, Nord Ouest and Nord departments was 62.6%, 54.6% and 48.6%, respectively. His worst results came from the Sud Est, where he received only 14.9% of the vote. For runner-up Jude Celestin, his popularity was highest in the Sud Est, where he won 46.7% of the vote while in the Nord it was lowest at 9.9%. Celestin's share of the vote in this department was likely squeezed by the strong appeal of Jovenel Moïse and Moïse Jean-Charles. Pitit Dessalines' Jean-Charles finished third and scored highest in the Artibonite (17.1%) and the Nord (29.1%), which Jean-Charles represented as a Senator for many years. Prior to that, under the Aristide government, Jean-Charles was the mayor of Milot, just outside the capital of the Nord, Cap-Haïtien. Fourth-place finisher Maryse Narcisse did the best in the Ouest (14.7%) and the Sud (11.8%).

The presidential tallies released by the CEP cannot necessarily be taken at face value. While OAS, EU observers and the Core Group have endorsed the results, Haitian civil society groups have denounced the massive fraud they claim occurred on October 25 and called for an independent investigation. Seven presidential candidates have added their voice to this call, including Celestin and third- and fourth-place finishers Moïse Jean-Charles and Maryse Narcisse. Accusations that political party mandataires were able to vote multiple times, ballot-box stuffing, and manipulation of results at the Tabulation Center have undermined many Haitians' confidence in the announced results. Haiti appears to be on the cusp of a post-electoral crisis, whose outcome is far from determined.

If the preliminary results are allowed to stand, Haiti's next president will possess an extremely weak mandate to govern. According to the CEP's figures, over 73% of registered Haitian voters deciding to stay home on October 25, a percentage which may in reality be higher if multiple voting by mandataires was as widespread as many suspect. Repeating the pattern of the August 9 vote, the turnout for October 25's presidential race was again lowest in the Ouest department at 20.3%. Turnout was highest in the Nord Est (38.8%) and Nippes (37.2%) departments. Jovenel Moise was thus able to finish first with the support of only 8.7% of registered voters, while Jude Celestin came in second with only 6.7% of registered voters backing him. In the second round scheduled for December 27, Haitians could be asked to choose between two candidates who were the first choice of less than 16% of registered voters.

The proportion of tally sheets (procès verbaux) not recuperated by the CEP after October 25 was 2.2%. Overall, tally sheets from 296 polling stations were not received by the CEP. This is much lower than after the first round vote in August, when nearly 18% of tally sheets never arrived at the Tabulation Center. Undoubtedly, this was due in large part to violence and disorder occurring on a much smaller scale during the presidential balloting. In only two places - Borgne (Nord) and Cotes-des-Fer (Sud Est)- was voting severely disrupted. Limonade was another constituency where a high proportion of tally sheets (38%) were not counted.At the regional level, most departments had only 1-2% of presidential tally sheets go missing. However, one region - the Sud Est - stands out, with 9.4% of tally sheets not received. This is also the department where Jude Celestin got the highest proportion of the vote. 

The higher proportion of recuperated tally sheets may also be due to improvements in election day logistics. On both August 9 and October 25, UNOPS was responsible for picking up tally sheets and others sensitive electoral materials collected at the Bureau Electoral Departementaux (BEDs) and transporting it to the Tabulation Center. Members of the CEP, however, have accused UNOPS of poor disorganization and a lack of planning on August 9, resulting in numerous tally sheets being lost. UNOPS reportedly received increased funding from international donors and made several improvements prior to the October 25 vote. On the other hand, PHTK candidate Antoine Rodon Bien Aimé recently accused UNOPS of orchestrating a massive fraud on October 25, involving real tally sheets being switched for counterfeit ones during transportation.

The CEP also excluded from the presidential vote totals 490 tally sheets, amounting to 3.6% of the total, either due to fraud, tampering or clerical errors. Intriguingly, the two regions where PHTK's Moïse received the most support are also those that recorded the highest number of quarantined tally sheets: the Nord Est (9.8%) and the Nord Ouest (6.4%). It is difficult to know, however, where the biggest problems were on October 25 since the CEP has not provided any breakdown of reasons why the tally sheets were quarantined.

This lack of transparency concerning decisions made at the Tabulation Center has been a major criticism of Haitian observer groups, who have demanded more information about the decision-making procedures used to quarantine tally sheets. Given that far fewer tally sheets were quarantined during the 2010 elections (312), which the U.S. alleged were plagued by fraud, greater clarity on this issue seems like an eminently reasonable demand.

Legislative Races

With all eyes fixed on the outcome of the presidential races, far less attention has been given to what is perhaps the most significant story told by the preliminary results: Haiti's next legislature will feature a formidable pro-Martelly bloc, regardless of who becomes president.

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced preliminary results from the October 25 presidential elections yesterday evening, showing the government-backed Jovenel Moïse and former state construction company director Jude Célestin in the top two places, paving the way for a face-off between the two candidates in the second round of the elections scheduled for December 27.

Of the roughly 1.6 million Haitians who voted (roughly 26 percent of registered voters), Moïse received 32.8 percent of the vote while Célestin received 25.3 percent, according to the preliminary results announced by the CEP. Moïse Jean-Charles, an opposition leader, received 14.3 percent to finish in third while Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party of twice-ousted Jean Bertrand Aristide came in fourth with just over 7 percent of the vote.

After violence and fraud plagued first-round legislative elections in August, more than 73 percent of registered voters stayed home on election day this time - a similar rate as what was seen in the flawed 2010 presidential elections, but far below turnout in previous presidential elections such as in 2000 and 2006, which was closer to 60 percent.

Nearly as soon as the CEP press conference ended, many leading candidates, including Jude Célestin, denounced the results and pledged to mobilize supporters in the coming days against what they allege was massive fraud in favor of the government. Small protests erupted around the capital and one supporter of Jean-Charles was killed outside of his party’s headquarters. The party has blamed the Haitian police for the death.

On Friday, all of the top four candidates held morning press conferences to state their position on the results. Jovenel Moïse, of the ruling PHTK party, was the only one not to question the results announced by the CEP. Célestin, together with seven other presidential candidates, had sent a letter to the CEP days before results were announced, denouncing massive fraud in the elections and calling for an independent commission to investigate. “We are working on this with all the candidates because we are all saying the same thing: 'This is not the people's vote and they are trying to steal the vote of the population,’” the Associated Press reported Célestin as saying at this morning’s press conference. Afterwards, supporters of his party, LAPEH, began protesting throughout the capital.

Followers of Jean-Charles’ Pitit Dessalines platform and Narcisse’s Fanmi Lavalas party also took to the streets. Haitian police have responded with tear gas to break up the protests, which are expected to continue over the coming days.

The fraud allegations have been wide-ranging but many have focused on the problem with political party monitors; some 900,000 accreditation passes were distributed before the election which may have allowed monitors to place fraudulent votes. Local observers and party representatives have denounced a black market that developed for the passes in the days leading up to the vote, with passes going for as much as $30, and as little as $2 on election day. In the West department, where over 40 percent of registered voters live, these monitors accounted for upwards of 50 percent of voters, according to observer groups.

The day before results were announced, a local observer group noted that a lack of transparency and other problems at the tabulation center where votes are counted, “helped create a general atmosphere of suspicion and generate legitimate fears that the reality of the ballot boxes or the expression of the will of the people are being altered, in whole or in part.”

In a statement released today, the group of presidential candidates termed the announced results “unacceptable,” and again called for an independent commission to investigate fraud. The announced results only reinforce the perception that “those who vote decide nothing,” the candidates said in the statement. The group characterized the current process as a “dangerous return to the past” when dictators organized elections and warned that it “threatens the stability of the country.”

On Monday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that the preliminary results of the October 25 presidential and legislative elections, expected to be announced today, would be delayed until Thursday. The delay has been attributed to the formation of a committee by the CEP to investigate allegations of fraud coming from political parties and local observer groups. The committee consists of five members of the electoral council. Of the 162 complaints received, the committee says 43 are being followed up on, though few are placing their trust in the process. 

The elections were praised after there were only a few sporadic outbursts of violence, leading many in the international community to quickly conclude that there were few problems. Just as it had done in August, the Organization of American States (OAS) proclaimed the day after the vote that any problems “did not affect the overall course of the election.” After violence shut down nearly one out of every six voting centers in the August legislative elections, this was apparently the new standard by which to judge the elections.

At least a half-dozen leading presidential candidates have come out before results are even announced to denounce widespread fraud in favor of the government’s candidate, Jovenèl Moïse. The allegations have been wide ranging: replacement of ballot boxes with fakes distributed by ambulances, mass ballot box stuffing, and burning of ballots for opposition candidates. Little proof has been provided to back up these claims. But the most blatant example was there for everyone to see on election day, and was in fact anticipated by electoral officials and international observers.

In Haiti’s elections, political party monitors, called mandataires, are allowed inside voting areas in order to ensure the impartiality of electoral officials and to sign off on the count at the end of the day. In August’s first-round legislative election, these party monitors cried foul, as not enough accreditation passes were printed and only some were allowed in during the vote.

In response, the CEP flooded the parties with passes. In total, over 916,000 were distributed according to the organization’s president, Pierre Louis Opont. Unlike average voters, whose identification must be checked with the electoral list at the polling center where they are registered, monitors are allowed to vote wherever they are present. This became, in many ways, an election of mandataires.

International and local observers have estimated turnout at between 25 and 30 percent, meaning there were roughly 1.6 million voters. With over 900,000 accreditation passes for monitors, and thousands more for observation groups (whose members are subject to the same open voting rules), it means over 50 percent of votes could come from these groups.

All 54 candidates vying for the presidency received more than 13,700 passes, enough to be present at each voting booth in the country. Few, however, had the capacity or the money to actually use them. The result was that parties sold them to the highest bidder in the days leading up to the vote. Local observers said passes were going for as much as $30. By Sunday, they were going for as little as a few dollars.

The system for monitoring the vote had turned into a black market for vote buying, where those with the most money were most able to take advantage. And it was entirely predictable.

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston is in Haiti observing the electoral process. To keep up with the latest news from Sunday's election, check out the Haiti Elections Blog. Johnston filed this story for VICE News today

After violence and fraud marred legislative elections in August, voting was significantly smoother throughout the country as Haitians went to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday. A total of 142 mayoral positions were also up for grabs, and second round elections were held for deputy and senate seats where the vote had not been cancelled in August.

"Decisions were taken to increase the security," which led to a decrease in violent incidents, said the head of the Organization of American States observation mission, Celso Amorim, expressing his satisfaction with the process thus far. Heavily armed, masked police officers were visible throughout the day in Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities.

Of 119 races for deputy, 25 had to be re-run after voting centers were ransacked or votes were thrown out due to fraud in the chaotic August vote. In three of Haiti's ten departments, final senate results were postponed pending the outcome of the electoral reruns. But on Sunday, only 8 centers were closed, according to the government.

Haiti has had no parliament since a political crisis sparked its dissolution last January, meaning the legislative vote is crucial. Haitians are also hoping the new president can bring an end to the poverty and chaos that has plagued the country.

Prime Minister Evans Paul took to the radio in the afternoon to congratulate the police on the improvements. Criticized for passivity during the last election, the police took an active roll in maintaining order in polling centers.

Around 15,000 officers and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers were on duty, reported the BBC. The UN said 224 arrests were made, including a candidate for the lower chamber of Deputies and two Haiti National Police officers. In Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, an individual was arrested with 73 voter ID cards.

The head of the electoral council, Pierre Louis Opont, thanked the police for learning from August's experience. "Today the police were up to the task," he said. Opont called on political parties to remain calm and show patience while the votes were tallied.

Bruny Watson, a voter in the Cite-Soleil neighborhood, said he didn't vote in August "because there was too much violence," but he was determined to cast his ballot for president on Sunday. Turnout was a paltry 18 percent in the first-round election legislative election, but Amorim cited reports from observer teams throughout the country that indicated a significantly higher turnout this time around.

US congressional representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) were also in Haiti to observe the vote. The US has contributed $30 million to an electoral process that is expected to cost more than $70 million.

The three were among 61 members of congress to write to Secretary of State John Kerry to "send a clear message to the Haitian government underscoring the need to guarantee the security of voters."

"What I saw today filled me with optimism about the future of Haiti," Rep. Conyers told VICE News. The youth of Haiti had filled the polling booths, both as workers and voters, he said, adding that the majority "approached the process with seriousness and goodwill to support the democratic process.?"

Still, problems cropped up throughout the day. Many centers were late to open and in some areas Haitians were unable to find their names on voter lists. In some cases, there simply was nowhere to vote.

In Wharf Jeremie, one of the largest polling centers in August was simply gone, leaving residents unsure of where they were supposed to vote. Building 2004, another large voting center, was also non-existent on Sunday.

In Canaan, a sprawling hillside slum home to hundreds of thousands of people, including many of those displaced from the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti nearly six years ago, voters sometimes had to travel miles to the nearest voting center.

Once again, political party monitors were a source of tension and possible fraud. At 6am a long line had already formed outside the Horace Etheard voting center in the Solino neighborhood. In Haitian elections, political parties' representatives, called mandataires, are allowed to monitor the vote inside polling centers. More than 100 were in line jockeying for position before the doors even opened.

One monitor was arrested at the Dumersais Estime voting center. Police caught him with two passes from two different political parties. Monitors were also witnessed exchanging passes outside centers, hoping to have multiple people vote with the same pass.

In another center, a monitor was kicked out after voting three times, according to poll workers. Some were not there to monitor at all. "They paid me to be a mandataire," one monitor from the Fusion party commented, "but I'm voting Fanmi Lavalas today," he said, while milling about outside a voting center.

Unlike in August when the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) failed to distribute enough accreditation passes to every party and allegations of favoritism were heard throughout the day, on Sunday, monitors from a plurality of parties were present and appeared to outnumber voters at many centers in the capital, occasionally overwhelming poll workers.

Because of the additional police forces expected to be present, many observers were optimistic that election day itself would be improved from August, yet pointed out that that is not the end of the process.

"It was better than August 9, but at the same time we must be very careful when it comes to the counting of votes and what happens at the tabulation center over the coming weeks," said Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNNDDH). RNDDH is part of a coalition of civil society groups that had more than 1,800 observers present throughout the country.

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Date on which first round presidential, second round legislative and mayoral elections will be held: October 25, 2015

Number of candidates for president: 54

Number of registered political parties: 128

Number of candidates for local and mayoral races: 41,000

Year in which terms expired and mayors were replaced by political appointees: 2012

Earliest date on which preliminary results are expected: November 3, 2015

Date on which presidential run-off, legislative reruns and local races will be held: December 27, 2015

Date that first-round legislative elections were held: August 9, 2015

Number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, respectively that were up for grabs in the first-round: 119 and 20

Number of candidates who were elected in the first round in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, respectively: 8 and 2

Participation rate during the first-round: 18%

Participation in the West department, home to over 40% of registered voters: 9.8%

Percent of 13,725 voting booths where no votes were counted during first-round Senate elections due to irregularities: 24.3

Number of electoral districts where first-round deputy races must be held: 25

Number of candidates sanctioned for their role in electoral disturbances: 16

Of Haiti’s 10 departments, number that did not announce first-round Senate results due to irregularities: 3

Number of departments where President Martelly’s PHTK party was involved in electoral irregularities, according to the CEP: 6

Total electoral budget: $74 million

United States contribution to electoral budget: $30 million

Amount spent on electoral campaign by Presidential candidate Eric Jean Baptiste, who is not considered a front-runner: $5 million

Maximum amount a presidential candidate is allowed to spend on the campaign, according to Haiti’s electoral decree: $2 million

Number of polling centers across the country: 1,508

Number of polling booths: 13,725

Average number of polling stations per voting center: 9.1

Accreditation badges distributed to political party monitors: 13,725

Date on which terms expired for the entire chamber of deputy’s a third of the Senate: January 12, 2015

Total registered voters: 5,871,450

Number of poll workers in October 25 elections: 41,175

Number of police deployed for October 25 elections: 10,000

Number of U.N. troops and police present: 2,502

Number of OAS observers deployed on October 25: 125

Number of observers deployed by civil society groups RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE, on October 25: 1,800

Sources: Miami Herald, Le National, Provisional Electoral Council, Haiti:Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Haiti Elections Blog

Recently released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveal new details of how U.S. officials worked closely with the Haitian private sector as they forced Haitian authorities to change the results of the first round presidential elections in late 2010. The e-mails documenting these “behind the doors actions” were made public as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Preliminary results from the deeply flawed 2010 presidential and legislative elections were announced on December 7, 2010, showing René Préval’s hand-picked successor Jude Célestin and university professor Mirlande Manigat advancing to a second-round runoff. The same day, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti released a statement questioning the legitimacy of the announced results.

Behind the scenes, key actors were already pushing for Célestin to withdraw from the race, according to the e-mails.  Just a day after preliminary results were announced, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten wrote to Cheryl Mills, Tom Adams and Daniel Restrepo, all key State Department Haiti staff. “Boulos + private sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw + they would support RP staying til 7 Feb.” “This is big,” the ambassador added.

HRC email merten

“Boulos” here refers to Reginald Boulos, one of the largest industrialists in Haiti and a member of the Private Sector Economic Forum. Importantly, Boulos also suggested they would support Préval staying in office through February 7, but with the election delayed due to the earthquake, a new president would not be able to take office by then. Many had advocated for Préval’s early departure, and during a meeting of international officials on election day, Préval was even threatened with being forced out of the country.

The e-mail also shows that Merten was in close contact with Michel Martelly’s campaign. Protests had already broken out across Port-au-Prince and in other cities throughout Haiti, with protesters alleging that their preferred candidate, Michel Martelly, should be in the runoff. Merten writes that he had personally contacted Martelly’s “camp” and told them that he needs to “get on radio telling people to not pillage. Peaceful demo OK: pillage is not.” Documents obtained through a separate FOIA request have shown that a key group behind the protests later received support from USAID and went on to play a role in the formation of Martelly’s political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale.

The following day, as per Merten’s suggestion in the e-mail, the U.S. Embassy released another statement calling for calm and urging political actors to “work through Haiti's electoral contestation process to address any electoral concerns.” As the e-mail reveals, however, efforts were underway to remove Célestin from the race before any contestation process could even begin.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Friday October 2, Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) member Nehemy Joseph submitted resignation letters (images below) to both President Martelly and his colleagues at the CEP, in a fresh blow to Haiti’s electoral process. Dogged by criticisms over the fraud and violence-plagued legislative elections on August 9, the CEP has suffered from a crisis of confidence as many political parties and civil society groups continue to demand the resignation of its president, Pierre Louis Opont and other changes before presidential elections October 25.

Joseph told president Martelly that he was “not comfortable” staying at the CEP any longer. In his letter to the CEP, Joseph cited his unsuccessful attempts to persuade his colleagues to correct what he perceived as errors and the public criticism of the institution as reasons for his departure. Joseph also singled out the United Nations Development Program’s control over the electoral budget as a factor impeding the work of the CEP.

"Today, I am increasingly convinced that completing my mandate would involve me in illegality. (I feel that my credibility will end up melting away like an ice block if I do not leave.) Indeed, the various unsuccessful efforts I made to persuade some of my colleagues to reconsider certain decisions made in error are, among others, factors that have deepened my concerns ... It is natural to make mistakes, but to persevere in error even while recognizing it as such can prove to be pathological," Joseph wrote. Nevertheless, Joseph concluded by stating that he hopes the electoral process will continue smoothly.

Political insiders had expected the announcement for at least a few days. Joseph is “someone not willing to go down in a sinking boat at whatever the cost,” one political adviser close to president Martelly said, requesting anonymity. The adviser expected the election to proceed as scheduled, though acknowledged he was less sure than prior to the resignation. The decision raises the prospect of other councilors following Joseph out the door, which could put the continuation of the electoral process in jeopardy.

The CEP and the Martelly government insist that elections will go ahead as planned. "This will not affect the work of the CEP," fellow council member Ricardo Augustin told the Haitian press in response to Joseph’s resignation. Jean Renel Sanon, a representative of the National Palace said that the government would be in communication with the Peasant/Vodou sector, which had nominated Joseph to the post, to find a replacement as soon as possible. The electoral decree passed in March stipulates that the CEP can continue to function so long as a quorum of 5 members is achieved.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul is in Washington D.C. to participate in a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) Annual Legislative Conference. According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office, Paul will also meet with Luis Almagro of the Organization of American States and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  The CBC panel will take place today (9/17) at 4:30 PM. Also speaking at the panel will be Pierre Louis Opont of the CEP, Brian Concannon from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Melinda Miles of Haiti SOIL as well as many others. More details can be found here.

The OAS as well as the Core Group issued statements this week expressing support for the electoral process and the holding of presidential elections on October 25. Gerardo de Icaza, the Director of the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation at the OAS traveled to Haiti on September 14 and, according to the release, “will hold high-level meetings with the electoral authority and political actors in Port-au-Prince in support of the holding of the upcoming elections.” The head of the OAS electoral observation mission, Celso Amorim, will make a preliminary visit to Haiti on September 21. The Core Group urged all actors to ensure a successful electoral cycle and “took note” of the CEP’s commitments to address problems from the first round.

The National Front, a grouping of various political parties, has continued its mobilization against the August 9 election. The group is calling for the resignation of the head of the CEP, Pierre Louis Opont and says the elections are not possible without a credible CEP. The group sent a letter to various civil society groupings which had designated members of the CEP urging them to have their representatives resign.

The CEP has called another meeting for Friday, September 18 with political party representatives to discuss the preparations for the scheduled October 25 election. A press release from the electoral council states that change to the electoral schedule will be up for discussion. After the previous meeting between parties and the CEP last Friday, various possibilities emerged, including postponing the second round legislative elections until December 27.

The U.N. Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, called for the CEP to clearly explain their rationale for removing Vérité’s presidential candidate, Jacky Lumarque from the race. “For the case of Jacky Lumarque, the CEP could either make public the arguments on which it relies to exclude him from the process, or re-enter his name on the list of presidential candidates for the next elections,” Gallón said. Last week Vérité announced its withdrawal from the electoral process unless significant changes to the CEP were made.

SOFA (Solidarite Fanm  Ayisyèn, Solidarity of Haitian Women) issued an official statement strongly condemning election-related violence and the low-level of female political representation.  In violation of the mandatory 30% female representation quota set by the Constitution and the Electoral Decree, only 23 women out of 232 senate candidates (9.9%) and 129 women out of 1621 depute candidates (8%) were able to register for August 9 elections.  SOFA’s report calls on the CEP to take all measures necessary to reach the quota, including addressing the economic discrepancies facing female candidates, adopting an education campaign to encourage women to become candidates, and addressing sexism in the mostly male parliament.  

Haiti’s internationally backed electoral process was thrown further into disarray yesterday as a leading political party announced its withdrawal from the electoral process. In a press statement, the Vérité platform, closely associated with former president René Préval, said it was pulling out of the elections because it was the primary victim of the August 9 “electoral mess,” and called for a “good” electoral council in order to “run a good election.”

Haiti’s August 9 election was characterized by extremely low voter turnout, with just 18 percent of registered voters going to the polls. Additionally, nearly one-quarter of all votes were never counted due to violence on election day, problems transporting ballots and other issues. In 25 of the 119 races for deputy, elections will need to be re-run due to the scale of irregularities. Over the last month, an increasingly large cadre of candidates has taken to the streets, leading protests against the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and a government who they claim has rigged the process.

Also yesterday, INITE, Préval’s former political movement, called on its representative, Ariel Henry to leave the “consensus” government that has run the country since the terms of parliament expired in January. To “remain part of a government that has undertaken and continues this electoral coup of August 9, would be contrary to our principles, our democratic ideals,” the party stated in its letter to President Martelly.

Preliminary results released last month showed Vérité candidates advancing to the second round in 30 of the 85 races that were counted and where no candidate won in the first round, second only to President Martelly’s PHTK. Vérité has mulled the decision to withdraw for some time, as the party’s presidential candidate, Jacky Lumarque, was excluded from participating after originally being accepted. The CEP, after announcing the final list of candidates, kicked Lumarque out of the race because he had been named to a presidential commission under former president Préval and therefore needed a discharge document. Despite a ruling from Haiti’s highest court in favor of Lumarque, the CEP has maintained the exclusion and Vérité has led regular protests for his reentry into the race.

While Vérité has consistently denounced flaws in the electoral process, it has been accused by opposition groups of being close to the governing party and being one of the main benefactors of the recent election. And it’s true; there may never have been an election without the support of Préval.

At least as early as November 2014, senior United States diplomats began to meet with the former president and others deemed to be in the more “moderate” opposition. At the time, with delayed elections still not scheduled and terms of sitting parliamentarians expiring in January, Haiti was engulfed by a growing protest movement calling for the departure of President Martelly and the holding of elections. There needed to be a compromise that would move Haiti toward elections and remove the instability from the streets; Préval, whom the U.S. described as “Haiti’s indispensable man” in a 2009 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, was the one to do it.