Like others, the Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council’s announcement of preliminary results from the November 28 national elections that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council (CNO), which had more than 5,500 observers and observed the vote count in 1,600 voting centers nationwide, election-day observations by official U.S. observers accredited by the CEP, and vote counts observed around the country by numerous domestic and international observers.The National Election Observation Council, whose observations from election day can be seen here, announced their own preliminary results yesterday. According to the CNO, based on a sample of 15 percent of polling stations, Manigat and Martelly would reach the second round, with Celestin falling short.
Demonstrations have been ongoing since the announcement last night, and many news reports have been focusing on the election day fraud and apparent manipulation of results by the CEP, however few have noted that these elections were not free nor fair even before election day. Writing in the New York Daily News, Beatrice Lindstrom notes that:
The Election Day irregularities are just the latest in a long line of actions by the CEP to maximize the ruling party's electoral success by excluding popular opponents and reducing voter participation. The CEP rejected 15 political parties from participating in the election's parliamentary races, and efforts to re-register displaced voters were inconsistent.One of the main points of Sen. Richard Lugar, as well as others, was the credibility gap of the current CEP, for reasons that now should be obvious to all. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti noted in a report (PDF) over the summer that:
In light of these problems, political parties, human rights groups and Haitian voters warned that these elections would be a sham. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 44 other members of Congress expressed grave concern, and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) warned that the "absence of democratically elected successors could potentially plunge the country into chaos."
Haitian voters deserve better. It is not too late for the Joint Mission to condemn the flawed process and call for new, fair elections. It is critical that it does so. Truly democratic elections are a prerequisite to ensuring peace and stability through the difficult rebuilding process that lies ahead.
The CEP suffers a credibility crisis because a) the CEP was established through a process not recognized by the Haitian Constitution; b) a predecessor CEP, including a majority of the current members, improperly excluded all candidates presented by Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, from 2009 Senatorial elections; and c) before the elections scheduled for February 2009 were postponed, the CEP announced the exclusion of 14 political parties from the elections.The USAID funded International Foundation for Electoral Systems perhaps put it best in their report on the feasibility of holding elections, when it noted that:
giving the mandate of organizing the upcoming elections to the current CEP would mean that the electoral process will be considered flawed and questionable from the beginning.The numerous irregularities that occurred on election day may be dominating the headlines, but the long standing issues that have marred the entire electoral process are what ensured this would not be a free and fair election.