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.
Moïse, the government-backed candidate, came in first in official results, but a previous Igarape Institute survey found that only a small fraction of respondents said they had voted for him. The most recent survey confirms this finding and indicates a deeper level of fraud impacting the results of the October election.
Only four percent of respondents said they would vote for Moïse if free and fair elections were held today. More than 40 percent said they would vote for Jude Celestin, who came in second according to official results. Jovenel Moïse was also behind both Moïse Jean Charles and Maryse Narcisse, opposition presidential candidates that are contesting the results, the survey showed.
Interestingly, the survey found that far fewer Haitians had participated in the October election than the official results indicated. While participation was reported as 26.6 percent, only 19.5 percent of registered voters responded that they had voted. One possible explanation is the repeat voting from political party monitors, recognized as one of the biggest sources of fraud in the election.
More than 900,000 accreditation passes were distributed to these monitors, in many cases allowing them to vote multiple times as safeguards were not always implemented. The impact of these votes is one of the most pressing outstanding questions from the October vote and, based on survey responses, what Haitians want to see answered before moving forward.
Presented with different possible solutions to the current impasse, respondents overwhelming indicated they wanted to see Martelly step down on February 7, as the constitution requires. The plans with the most support generally included re-doing the first round of the presidential elections and establishing an independent committee to monitor and prevent fraud.