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, the CEP published the final list of approved presidential candidates for the upcoming election scheduled to take place October 25, 2015. Of an initial 70 candidates, the CEP accepted 58. Among those excluded from the race was former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe as well as former government ministers Thierry Mayard Paul and Josefina Gauthier. Among the 12 excluded candidates, 9 were excluded for lacking the proper discharge certificate. Radio Kiskeya provides a brief biographical description of each of the 58 candidates, while Le Nouvelliste provides a description of what they describe as the 12 leading candidates. Both Le National and Le Nouvelliste discuss the potential for political alliances in the run-up to elections. Le National points out that the “Lavalas movement is well represented” by a number of candidates but risks splitting the vote if they do not reach some sort of alliance.
The “Core Group” released a statement on Friday welcoming the CEP’s publication of the list of presidential candidates. The statement reads in part: “The publication of the list of presidential candidates constitutes an important step in the implementation of the electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ reiterates its full support to the work of the Council and the ongoing organization of elections. The Group invites all stakeholders to continue to participate constructively in the 2015 electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ salutes the efforts of the Government of the Republic towards the continued strengthening of democracy in Haiti. The members of the Core Group emphasize the importance of building on the current momentum and supporting the CEP, the Government and people of Haiti, including the political parties, in the conduct of fair, transparent and inclusive elections in a climate of serenity.”
Many political parties are still questioning the electoral schedule provided by the CEP, reports Alterpresse. Legislative elections scheduled for August 9, despite assurances from the CEP that they will be held on time, are being questioned by leaders of Fusion, OPL and MOPOD among others. Secretary General of Fusion, Ramon Pradel, told Alterpresse that, “we do not believe that the elections will take place on that date," due to logistical questions that have yet to be worked out. Fusion and OPL have 97 and 93 candidates in the legislative race respectively, while MOPOD has 23. A key issue has been a significant funding shortfall in the electoral budget, but U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams stated over the weekend that the U.S. would increase their financial contribution. Adams has previously publically expressed his opinion that the August election should be delayed and incorporated into the October 25 presidential election as a way to save money, a position which is supported by many political parties in Haiti.
Following his exclusion from the race, former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has continued an international campaign to build support for his inclusion. Lamothe released a statement on Friday saying: “this list clearly shows that the CEP is transforming the 2015 elections into an unfair selection based on political motives, with the goal of provoking social strife and instability in the country.” Lamothe had announced a press conference for this morning with fellow excluded candidates Edwin Zenny and Anthony “Ti Tony” Bennet, however neither Bennet nor Lamothe showed up. Lamothe’s advisors have previously pledged to use “popular power” to ensure his inclusion in the race. After the publication of the final list, however, CEP president Pierre Louis Opont declared that there would be no changes made.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio stepped into the electoral fray after introducing an amendment to the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act which would require the State Department to report on Haiti’s elections and if any candidates are excluded for “political reasons.” An e-mailed statement reads, in part: Senator Rubio “believes that it is important that the Haitian people have the opportunity to freely and fairly choose their leaders…The Senator is pleased that the State Department will now be required to continue to update Congress on the status of Haiti’s elections to help ensure that the Haitian government is responsive to the needs of its citizens.” The amendment was promoted on social media by Lamothe’s campaign in the run up to the CEP’s final decision, but an advisor told the Miami Herald that while they supported the amendment, they did not lobby for it. The advisor, Damian Merlo, told the Herald that the State Department “cannot just stand on the sidelines and claim this is a ‘Haitian issue.’ Free and fair elections do not seem to be shaping up in Haiti if Lamothe is left out of race, and U.S. interests are also at stake.”