Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

As Bill Clinton heads to Haiti to participate in the second day of meetings of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the exclusion of Haitian and civil society input should be on top of the agenda. Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported yesterday, “Almost nine months after a battered Haiti approved a U.S.-backed blueprint for its recovery, small nongovernmental and grassroots community organizations essential to the country’s long-term reconstruction are being left behind in the nearly $2 billion in reconstruction projects that have been approved.” But not only are they missing out on the funding, they are being overlooked in the decision making process as well.

In December the 12 Haitian members of the IHRC wrote a formal letter outlining their marginalization within the IHRC. They wrote:

The twelve Haitian members present here feel completely disconnected from the activities of the IHRC. There is a critical communication and information shortage at the TIC [Information and Communication Technology] on the part of the Executive Secretary and even more from the Executive Committee. In spite of our role in the governance structure of the institution, we have so far received no follow-up on the IHRC activities.

In general, contact is only established one day before the board meetings. Board members have time neither to read, nor analyze, nor understand–and much less to respond intelligently–to projects submitted at the last minute, despite all the complaints expressed and promises made on this subject.

The letter adds that, “In reality, Haitians members of the board have one role: to endorse the decisions made by the Director and Executive Committee.”

The IHRC originally had a mandate of 18 months, which would expire in October, however yesterday members discussed an extension of the mandate. Meanwhile, a group of Haitian civil society organizations have called for the IHRC’s dissolution. The organizations cite the overall lack of progress and marginalization of grassroots groups and the Haitian state:

A year after the promises of reconstruction with billions of U.S. dollars, we find that nothing of significance has really been undertaken. There has been no break with the approaches and practices that have, over the years, impoverished and rendered the Republic of Haiti so vulnerable. On the contrary, we are witnessing an acceleration of all the phenomena reflecting collective decline and regression. The millions of people affected directly or indirectly by the earthquake continue to face the consequences of this decline in a state of destitution and without accompaniment. The extraordinary movement of inter-Haitian solidarity that emerged forcefully in the aftermath of the earthquake has been completely marginalized by the dominant forces.

We call for the disappearance of the IHRC whose existence is an affront to our collective dignity. Budgets for specific projects for the rehabilitation and development of new infrastructure should be managed by the competent organs of the state in each of the areas concerned. We must put an end to the creation of parallel bodies that accelerate the destruction of the state. We call preferably for the introduction of new and effective mechanisms of social control to ensure the participation of the sectors that make up the country’s majority in decision-making and strategic directions.

A new analysis by the UN Special Envoy for Haiti shows that just 37 percent of the $4.6 billion in funding pledged at the donor conference one year ago has been disbursed.  While many, including the U.S., are waiting until the new government takes office to distribute the pledges, the situation on the ground has not improved. As the official start of the rainy season has now passed, organizations are already noticing an uptick in the number of cholera cases. Also, despite high-level statements touting the decrease in camp population as a success, the fact is that most were forced to leave because of illegal evictions and lack of services. Many have left the camps for housing that was severely damaged in the earthquake and has yet to be repaired. As the rains increase and hurricane season approaches, those living in damaged housing may face just as grave dangers as do those in the camps. Yet the IHRC has not been able to address the fundamental housing needs and human rights of Haitians.

As part of the UN Universal Periodic Review, set to take place in October, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti as well as numerous other Haitian and international NGOs, submitted a report on housing rights that discusses the IHRC at length. The report notes that:

In September 2010, the IHRC put forth a draft Neighborhood Return and Housing Reconstruction Framework that it created in consultation with the Government of Haiti and the UN’s Shelter Cluster. The Framework purports to “meet the needs of the families affected by the earthquake and help restore the basis of peoples’ social and economic lives.”[39] It does not adequately reflect international guidelines on durable solutions for IDPs that ensure protection of their human rights, however.[40] For example, the Framework does not provide sufficient protection for renters, those with informal living arrangements, or those who have a right to occupy disputed land under domestic or international law, which make up the vast majority of those displaced by the earthquake.[41]

The report continues:

While the Government of Haiti has the primary role to respect, protect and fulfill the right to housing, the IHRC plays a central role in deciding the direction of Haiti’s reconstruction and as such, has a responsibility to implement a human rights based approach throughout its activities, which includes capacity building, participation, transparency and accountability.[42] The IHRC has not engaged meaningfully with Haitian stakeholders to ensure their participation in decision-making on housing policy.  The IHRC lacked a consultation mechanism that would allow IDPs, the primary stakeholders in the Framework, the opportunity to provide input on design and to ensure necessary modifications to the projects to maximize the realization of human rights.  Drafts of the Framework have not been made available in Creole, the only language spoken by a majority of the population.  The lack of transparency and participation is inconsistent with a human rights based approach, and has resulted in little ownership of the plan by the Government and affected communities. At the time of this submission, the Government has yet to adopt this or any other return and resettlement policy, exposing IDPs to continued vulnerability and lack of access to sustainable housing solutions.

As Bill Clinton heads to Haiti to participate in the second day of meetings of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the exclusion of Haitian and civil society input should be on top of the agenda. Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported yesterday, “Almost nine months after a battered Haiti approved a U.S.-backed blueprint for its recovery, small nongovernmental and grassroots community organizations essential to the country’s long-term reconstruction are being left behind in the nearly $2 billion in reconstruction projects that have been approved.” But not only are they missing out on the funding, they are being overlooked in the decision making process as well.

In December the 12 Haitian members of the IHRC wrote a formal letter outlining their marginalization within the IHRC. They wrote:

The twelve Haitian members present here feel completely disconnected from the activities of the IHRC. There is a critical communication and information shortage at the TIC [Information and Communication Technology] on the part of the Executive Secretary and even more from the Executive Committee. In spite of our role in the governance structure of the institution, we have so far received no follow-up on the IHRC activities.

In general, contact is only established one day before the board meetings. Board members have time neither to read, nor analyze, nor understand–and much less to respond intelligently–to projects submitted at the last minute, despite all the complaints expressed and promises made on this subject.

The letter adds that, “In reality, Haitians members of the board have one role: to endorse the decisions made by the Director and Executive Committee.”

The IHRC originally had a mandate of 18 months, which would expire in October, however yesterday members discussed an extension of the mandate. Meanwhile, a group of Haitian civil society organizations have called for the IHRC’s dissolution. The organizations cite the overall lack of progress and marginalization of grassroots groups and the Haitian state:

A year after the promises of reconstruction with billions of U.S. dollars, we find that nothing of significance has really been undertaken. There has been no break with the approaches and practices that have, over the years, impoverished and rendered the Republic of Haiti so vulnerable. On the contrary, we are witnessing an acceleration of all the phenomena reflecting collective decline and regression. The millions of people affected directly or indirectly by the earthquake continue to face the consequences of this decline in a state of destitution and without accompaniment. The extraordinary movement of inter-Haitian solidarity that emerged forcefully in the aftermath of the earthquake has been completely marginalized by the dominant forces.

We call for the disappearance of the IHRC whose existence is an affront to our collective dignity. Budgets for specific projects for the rehabilitation and development of new infrastructure should be managed by the competent organs of the state in each of the areas concerned. We must put an end to the creation of parallel bodies that accelerate the destruction of the state. We call preferably for the introduction of new and effective mechanisms of social control to ensure the participation of the sectors that make up the country’s majority in decision-making and strategic directions.

A new analysis by the UN Special Envoy for Haiti shows that just 37 percent of the $4.6 billion in funding pledged at the donor conference one year ago has been disbursed.  While many, including the U.S., are waiting until the new government takes office to distribute the pledges, the situation on the ground has not improved. As the official start of the rainy season has now passed, organizations are already noticing an uptick in the number of cholera cases. Also, despite high-level statements touting the decrease in camp population as a success, the fact is that most were forced to leave because of illegal evictions and lack of services. Many have left the camps for housing that was severely damaged in the earthquake and has yet to be repaired. As the rains increase and hurricane season approaches, those living in damaged housing may face just as grave dangers as do those in the camps. Yet the IHRC has not been able to address the fundamental housing needs and human rights of Haitians.

As part of the UN Universal Periodic Review, set to take place in October, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti as well as numerous other Haitian and international NGOs, submitted a report on housing rights that discusses the IHRC at length. The report notes that:

In September 2010, the IHRC put forth a draft Neighborhood Return and Housing Reconstruction Framework that it created in consultation with the Government of Haiti and the UN’s Shelter Cluster. The Framework purports to “meet the needs of the families affected by the earthquake and help restore the basis of peoples’ social and economic lives.”[39] It does not adequately reflect international guidelines on durable solutions for IDPs that ensure protection of their human rights, however.[40] For example, the Framework does not provide sufficient protection for renters, those with informal living arrangements, or those who have a right to occupy disputed land under domestic or international law, which make up the vast majority of those displaced by the earthquake.[41]

The report continues:

While the Government of Haiti has the primary role to respect, protect and fulfill the right to housing, the IHRC plays a central role in deciding the direction of Haiti’s reconstruction and as such, has a responsibility to implement a human rights based approach throughout its activities, which includes capacity building, participation, transparency and accountability.[42] The IHRC has not engaged meaningfully with Haitian stakeholders to ensure their participation in decision-making on housing policy.  The IHRC lacked a consultation mechanism that would allow IDPs, the primary stakeholders in the Framework, the opportunity to provide input on design and to ensure necessary modifications to the projects to maximize the realization of human rights.  Drafts of the Framework have not been made available in Creole, the only language spoken by a majority of the population.  The lack of transparency and participation is inconsistent with a human rights based approach, and has resulted in little ownership of the plan by the Government and affected communities. At the time of this submission, the Government has yet to adopt this or any other return and resettlement policy, exposing IDPs to continued vulnerability and lack of access to sustainable housing solutions.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos chaired a UN Security Council meeting today, reportedly attended by representatives of 14 countries (including the foreign ministers of MINUSTAH members Argentina and Chile) and UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, that focused on Haiti. According to Colombia Reports, Santos said:

“Think of what we could achieve if instead of having a high percentage of military personnel, the mission had more civilian personnel and more engineers to assist the removal of debris, a task which is starting to show significant progress thanks to the efforts of the Haitian authorities,” the president said.

And

“If we have a United Nations operation in Haiti, why don’t we use it to serve their immediate needs and begin to cement its transition towards development?” Santos continued.

“Today, the proliferation of organizations operating on this island without any coordination between themselves or the Haitian authorities, undermines any effort to strengthen the institutions of the country and they affect the ability to undertake long-term initiatives which means that their efforts do not lead to anything concrete.”

“It does not help Haiti if the international community does not take into account the vision of the Haitians about their own problems. For this reason if the Haitian people accept the renewed support of the international community, we propose that it be based on a foundation that guarantees the effectiveness of our joint action,” Santos added.

Colombia Reports reported that Santos “referred to the specific issues of housing, health, infrastructure, agriculture, education. road construction, water infrastructure and the strengthening of security institutions in Haiti as being the most pressing concerns.”

Santos’ remarks were echoed by Haitian President René Préval, who, according to the AP

told the council Wednesday that in 2006 he emphasized the need for U.N. tanks and soldiers to give way to bulldozers, engineers, more police instructors and judicial experts. But he said unfortunately he was not heard.

Preval urged the council to consider the effectiveness of its interventions that have led to a nearly 11-year military presence in Haiti, “a country that has no war.”

Santos and Preval’s comments on MINUSTAH’s priorities follow signs of increasing support in Latin America for the mission’s closure, and the news that the Defense Council of South America (CDS), under the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), has decided to form a commission to decide MINUSTAH’s future, with the goal of formulating a resolution to be submitted to the UN by mid-June.

Presumptive president-elect Michel Martelly has spoken in favor of seeing the UN mission replaced by a reconstituted Haitian army, despite the army’s historic record of grave human rights abuses.

Clinton, meanwhile, was much more upbeat in his remarks at today’s meeting, praising the recent elections as a “cause of celebration,” saying that “Haiti is a small miracle of human nature,” and praising “Preval for helping the ‘remarkable’ progress since the magnitude-8 earthquake killed more than 230,000 people and left more than 1 million people homeless,” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

DPA noted that

The international community in March 2010 pledged about 5 billion dollars for short-term reconstruction goals in Haiti. Clinton said 37 per cent of that amount had been disbursed. An interim commission for the reconstruction of Haiti has been handling financial matters.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which Clinton co-chairs, has been criticized by numerous Haitian and foreign NGO’s, grassroots groups, and others, for, among other things, “not engag[ing] meaningfully with Haitian stakeholders to ensure their participation in decision-making on housing policy,” and its slow progress on reconstruction. In December, Haitian members of the Commission openly protested what they described as their marginalization and lack of a “functional relationship” “between the Executive Secretary and the Haitian side of the council.”

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos chaired a UN Security Council meeting today, reportedly attended by representatives of 14 countries (including the foreign ministers of MINUSTAH members Argentina and Chile) and UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, that focused on Haiti. According to Colombia Reports, Santos said:

“Think of what we could achieve if instead of having a high percentage of military personnel, the mission had more civilian personnel and more engineers to assist the removal of debris, a task which is starting to show significant progress thanks to the efforts of the Haitian authorities,” the president said.

And

“If we have a United Nations operation in Haiti, why don’t we use it to serve their immediate needs and begin to cement its transition towards development?” Santos continued.

“Today, the proliferation of organizations operating on this island without any coordination between themselves or the Haitian authorities, undermines any effort to strengthen the institutions of the country and they affect the ability to undertake long-term initiatives which means that their efforts do not lead to anything concrete.”

“It does not help Haiti if the international community does not take into account the vision of the Haitians about their own problems. For this reason if the Haitian people accept the renewed support of the international community, we propose that it be based on a foundation that guarantees the effectiveness of our joint action,” Santos added.

Colombia Reports reported that Santos “referred to the specific issues of housing, health, infrastructure, agriculture, education. road construction, water infrastructure and the strengthening of security institutions in Haiti as being the most pressing concerns.”

Santos’ remarks were echoed by Haitian President René Préval, who, according to the AP

told the council Wednesday that in 2006 he emphasized the need for U.N. tanks and soldiers to give way to bulldozers, engineers, more police instructors and judicial experts. But he said unfortunately he was not heard.

Preval urged the council to consider the effectiveness of its interventions that have led to a nearly 11-year military presence in Haiti, “a country that has no war.”

Santos and Preval’s comments on MINUSTAH’s priorities follow signs of increasing support in Latin America for the mission’s closure, and the news that the Defense Council of South America (CDS), under the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), has decided to form a commission to decide MINUSTAH’s future, with the goal of formulating a resolution to be submitted to the UN by mid-June.

Presumptive president-elect Michel Martelly has spoken in favor of seeing the UN mission replaced by a reconstituted Haitian army, despite the army’s historic record of grave human rights abuses.

Clinton, meanwhile, was much more upbeat in his remarks at today’s meeting, praising the recent elections as a “cause of celebration,” saying that “Haiti is a small miracle of human nature,” and praising “Preval for helping the ‘remarkable’ progress since the magnitude-8 earthquake killed more than 230,000 people and left more than 1 million people homeless,” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

DPA noted that

The international community in March 2010 pledged about 5 billion dollars for short-term reconstruction goals in Haiti. Clinton said 37 per cent of that amount had been disbursed. An interim commission for the reconstruction of Haiti has been handling financial matters.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which Clinton co-chairs, has been criticized by numerous Haitian and foreign NGO’s, grassroots groups, and others, for, among other things, “not engag[ing] meaningfully with Haitian stakeholders to ensure their participation in decision-making on housing policy,” and its slow progress on reconstruction. In December, Haitian members of the Commission openly protested what they described as their marginalization and lack of a “functional relationship” “between the Executive Secretary and the Haitian side of the council.”

Preliminary results announced by the CEP last night showed Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly with 67.6 percent of the vote, while Mirlande Manigat received 31.5 percent. While news headlines focus on the “landslide” victory for Martelly, he actually received the support of only 16.7 percent of registered voters — far from a strong mandate — as early reports show Martelly with just 716,986 votes to Manigat’s 336,747. Reports indicate that turnout was even lower than in the first round, when it was a historically low 22.8 percent, and Martelly’s percent of votes (as well as Manigat’s) would have been even smaller were it not for the use of new electoral lists which removed some 400,000 people from the rolls.

Nevertheless, media reports have largely ignored the issue of turnout. AOL’s Emily Troutman reported last night that, “Martelly’s 67 percent of the vote is nearly unprecedented in Haiti and a clear mandate for his leadership”. Not only is the 67 percent number misleading in terms of his overall support, it is also far from unprecedented (as other reporters have also stated). In 1990 Aristide was elected with 67 percent of the vote, but with significantly higher turnout. Aristide received over one million votes in 1990 even though there were over one million fewer registered voters at the time. In 1995, Preval was elected with over 87 percent of the vote. In 2000, Aristide received over 3.5 times as many votes as Martelly did in the runoff elections last month. Even Preval’s most recent term began with a greater mandate than Martelly’s; in 2006 he received nearly one million votes with 700,000 fewer registered voters.

It is also worth noting that the electoral process has been deeply flawed from the beginning. Despite an aggressive and expensive get-out-the-vote campaign from the UN and U.S., the second round suffered from many of the same problems as the first: low turnout and a high number of irregularities. The legality of the second round remains in doubt given that a majority of the CEP’s members appear never to have verified the first round results.

There were also widespread irregularities in the March 20 elections. Although the US issued a statement last night saying that irregularities “were isolated and reduced”, some 15 percent of the tally sheets were quarantined from preliminary results due to fraud or other irregularities. This is a greater portion excluded than in the first round, and represents over 100,000 votes.

It is clear that a candidate that won only 4.6 percent of the electorate in the first round and 16.7 percent in the second round does not have a strong mandate to rule.  In such a context, one would hope that Martelly would seek to work with civil society and with his political opponents, especially those that were arbitrarily excluded from the elections, as Fanmi Lavalas and several other parties were.

Ever since the earthquake, Haitians have reached across political lines to join each other in the urgent tasks of helping their neighbors to rebuild their communities, and their nation. The continued political marginalization of parties and groups that are supported by a majority of people can only detract from the critical tasks at hand.

Preliminary results announced by the CEP last night showed Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly with 67.6 percent of the vote, while Mirlande Manigat received 31.5 percent. While news headlines focus on the “landslide” victory for Martelly, he actually received the support of only 16.7 percent of registered voters — far from a strong mandate — as early reports show Martelly with just 716,986 votes to Manigat’s 336,747. Reports indicate that turnout was even lower than in the first round, when it was a historically low 22.8 percent, and Martelly’s percent of votes (as well as Manigat’s) would have been even smaller were it not for the use of new electoral lists which removed some 400,000 people from the rolls.

Nevertheless, media reports have largely ignored the issue of turnout. AOL’s Emily Troutman reported last night that, “Martelly’s 67 percent of the vote is nearly unprecedented in Haiti and a clear mandate for his leadership”. Not only is the 67 percent number misleading in terms of his overall support, it is also far from unprecedented (as other reporters have also stated). In 1990 Aristide was elected with 67 percent of the vote, but with significantly higher turnout. Aristide received over one million votes in 1990 even though there were over one million fewer registered voters at the time. In 1995, Preval was elected with over 87 percent of the vote. In 2000, Aristide received over 3.5 times as many votes as Martelly did in the runoff elections last month. Even Preval’s most recent term began with a greater mandate than Martelly’s; in 2006 he received nearly one million votes with 700,000 fewer registered voters.

It is also worth noting that the electoral process has been deeply flawed from the beginning. Despite an aggressive and expensive get-out-the-vote campaign from the UN and U.S., the second round suffered from many of the same problems as the first: low turnout and a high number of irregularities. The legality of the second round remains in doubt given that a majority of the CEP’s members appear never to have verified the first round results.

There were also widespread irregularities in the March 20 elections. Although the US issued a statement last night saying that irregularities “were isolated and reduced”, some 15 percent of the tally sheets were quarantined from preliminary results due to fraud or other irregularities. This is a greater portion excluded than in the first round, and represents over 100,000 votes.

It is clear that a candidate that won only 4.6 percent of the electorate in the first round and 16.7 percent in the second round does not have a strong mandate to rule.  In such a context, one would hope that Martelly would seek to work with civil society and with his political opponents, especially those that were arbitrarily excluded from the elections, as Fanmi Lavalas and several other parties were.

Ever since the earthquake, Haitians have reached across political lines to join each other in the urgent tasks of helping their neighbors to rebuild their communities, and their nation. The continued political marginalization of parties and groups that are supported by a majority of people can only detract from the critical tasks at hand.

“[T]he second round of the presidential and legislative elections was quite an improvement in many ways on the first round,” according to the joint OAS-CARICOM observation mission. Yet reports are now emerging that a high number of tally sheets (PVs) have been excluded due to fraud or irregularities. Le Nouvelliste and Radio Kiskeya both reported that 18 percent of the tally sheets that have been counted thus far have been quarantined. Le Nouvelliste added, however, that many of these are subject to continuing analysis that could allow them to eventually be counted. The problems associated with the excluded sheets include missing signatures of polling station members, ballot stuffing, and missing voter identification numbers, among other problems.

Radio Kiskeya reports that 4,427 tally sheets have been counted, out of a total of 11,182 and that of those, 18.7 percent (830), have been excluded for fraud or other irregularities. In the first round of the election, the CEP quarantined just 312 tally sheets, while the OAS recommended excluding an additional 234. Since the CEP never actually published detailed final results, it is impossible to determine how many sheets were actually excluded. Either way, with just a fraction of the tally sheets having been counted, it appears the number of irregular tally sheets already greatly exceeds the number from the first round. If the current rate of exclusion holds, then over 2,000 tally sheets will be excluded. If the current rate of exclusion holds, then over 2000 tally sheets will be discarded. Given a similar turnout to the first round, this would equal roughly 200,000 votes.

The OAS-CARICOM mission also noted that, “The measures adopted by the Provisional Electoral Council to address the major organizational failings and shortcomings of the first round did have positive results.” Yet many of the areas with a high number of ballots excluded in the second round faced similar problems in the first round. Two of the areas mentioned by Le Nouvelliste are Verette in the Artibonite department and Grand Riviere du Nord in the North department. In the first round, in Verette, out of a total of 130 tally sheets, 71 were never reported, 28 were quarantined by the CEP, and another 13 were suggested for removal by the OAS. In total, 86 percent of the tally sheets in Verette were either missing or irregular. In Grand Riviere du Nord, 72 percent of tally sheets were missing or discarded in the first round.

Also worrying, as Radio Kiskeya reports, is the five percent of tally sheets that are missing. In the first round this number was even higher (10 percent), as violence and confusion on election day led to numerous voting centers closing. Never the less the five percent missing could have a significant impact. When we conducted the only independent review of all the tally sheets from the first round, we found that based on city-level estimates, if the 10 percent of tally sheets that were missing had been counted, Celestin would have been ahead of Martelly even after removing all the irregular tally sheets. This is because the missing sheets overwhelmingly came from proportionately more pro-Celestin areas of the country. This was a major factor in our determination that, “it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.” In private discussions, Fritz Scheuren, the lead statistical expert on the OAS verification commission, acknowledged that the OAS team conducted a similar analysis that reached the same conclusions, but did not include the analysis in their final report. This was one, of many, major flaws in the OAS report that, through intense U.S.-led international pressure, was used to exclude the government-backed candidate Jude Celestin from the run-off.

Although the high number of quarantined tally sheets is worrisome, it is a positive development that the CEP is applying stricter standards. In our analysis of the first round, in addition to those sheets excluded by the CEP, we found that another 7.6 percent (852) of the tally sheets contained results expected to occur less than 1 percent of the time.

Update 1:26 PM: Adding to the problems of the election, the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles recently tweeted, “”Preliminary #Haiti #elections results now delayed til April 4th.” They had been set to be released this Thursday, March 31st.

“[T]he second round of the presidential and legislative elections was quite an improvement in many ways on the first round,” according to the joint OAS-CARICOM observation mission. Yet reports are now emerging that a high number of tally sheets (PVs) have been excluded due to fraud or irregularities. Le Nouvelliste and Radio Kiskeya both reported that 18 percent of the tally sheets that have been counted thus far have been quarantined. Le Nouvelliste added, however, that many of these are subject to continuing analysis that could allow them to eventually be counted. The problems associated with the excluded sheets include missing signatures of polling station members, ballot stuffing, and missing voter identification numbers, among other problems.

Radio Kiskeya reports that 4,427 tally sheets have been counted, out of a total of 11,182 and that of those, 18.7 percent (830), have been excluded for fraud or other irregularities. In the first round of the election, the CEP quarantined just 312 tally sheets, while the OAS recommended excluding an additional 234. Since the CEP never actually published detailed final results, it is impossible to determine how many sheets were actually excluded. Either way, with just a fraction of the tally sheets having been counted, it appears the number of irregular tally sheets already greatly exceeds the number from the first round. If the current rate of exclusion holds, then over 2,000 tally sheets will be excluded. If the current rate of exclusion holds, then over 2000 tally sheets will be discarded. Given a similar turnout to the first round, this would equal roughly 200,000 votes.

The OAS-CARICOM mission also noted that, “The measures adopted by the Provisional Electoral Council to address the major organizational failings and shortcomings of the first round did have positive results.” Yet many of the areas with a high number of ballots excluded in the second round faced similar problems in the first round. Two of the areas mentioned by Le Nouvelliste are Verette in the Artibonite department and Grand Riviere du Nord in the North department. In the first round, in Verette, out of a total of 130 tally sheets, 71 were never reported, 28 were quarantined by the CEP, and another 13 were suggested for removal by the OAS. In total, 86 percent of the tally sheets in Verette were either missing or irregular. In Grand Riviere du Nord, 72 percent of tally sheets were missing or discarded in the first round.

Also worrying, as Radio Kiskeya reports, is the five percent of tally sheets that are missing. In the first round this number was even higher (10 percent), as violence and confusion on election day led to numerous voting centers closing. Never the less the five percent missing could have a significant impact. When we conducted the only independent review of all the tally sheets from the first round, we found that based on city-level estimates, if the 10 percent of tally sheets that were missing had been counted, Celestin would have been ahead of Martelly even after removing all the irregular tally sheets. This is because the missing sheets overwhelmingly came from proportionately more pro-Celestin areas of the country. This was a major factor in our determination that, “it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.” In private discussions, Fritz Scheuren, the lead statistical expert on the OAS verification commission, acknowledged that the OAS team conducted a similar analysis that reached the same conclusions, but did not include the analysis in their final report. This was one, of many, major flaws in the OAS report that, through intense U.S.-led international pressure, was used to exclude the government-backed candidate Jude Celestin from the run-off.

Although the high number of quarantined tally sheets is worrisome, it is a positive development that the CEP is applying stricter standards. In our analysis of the first round, in addition to those sheets excluded by the CEP, we found that another 7.6 percent (852) of the tally sheets contained results expected to occur less than 1 percent of the time.

Update 1:26 PM: Adding to the problems of the election, the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles recently tweeted, “”Preliminary #Haiti #elections results now delayed til April 4th.” They had been set to be released this Thursday, March 31st.

Given the immense problems with the relief effort, many of which were discussed yesterday, it is encouraging to see the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” making its way through the US Congress. The bill (H.R. 1016), citing the level of devastation, the slow pace of reconstruction and the massive amount of money pledged, requests that:

Not later than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President, in consultation with the heads of all relevant agencies, including the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shall transmit to Congress a report on the status of post-earthquake humanitarian, reconstruction, and development efforts in Haiti, including efforts to prevent the spread of cholera and treat persons infected with the disease.

The report “shall include a description, analysis, and evaluation” of the overall relief efforts, specific USG projects, projects to “protect vulnerable populations, such as internally displaced persons, children, women and girls, and persons with disabilities” and projects in health, sanitation and water. The report would also require the government to measure the “extent to which United States and international efforts are in line with the priorities of the Government of Haiti and are actively engaging and working through Haitian ministries and local authorities.”

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee [D-CA] and has 13 cosponsors, has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The full text of the bill can be read here.

Given the immense problems with the relief effort, many of which were discussed yesterday, it is encouraging to see the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” making its way through the US Congress. The bill (H.R. 1016), citing the level of devastation, the slow pace of reconstruction and the massive amount of money pledged, requests that:

Not later than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President, in consultation with the heads of all relevant agencies, including the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shall transmit to Congress a report on the status of post-earthquake humanitarian, reconstruction, and development efforts in Haiti, including efforts to prevent the spread of cholera and treat persons infected with the disease.

The report “shall include a description, analysis, and evaluation” of the overall relief efforts, specific USG projects, projects to “protect vulnerable populations, such as internally displaced persons, children, women and girls, and persons with disabilities” and projects in health, sanitation and water. The report would also require the government to measure the “extent to which United States and international efforts are in line with the priorities of the Government of Haiti and are actively engaging and working through Haitian ministries and local authorities.”

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee [D-CA] and has 13 cosponsors, has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The full text of the bill can be read here.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) latest “Humanitarian Bulletin” provides some insight into just how much the relief efforts have struggled to provide results over the last year. Despite grandiose aid pledges, complete with the customary sound bites, the situation on the ground has not greatly improved. A few days after the earthquake President Obama stated:

“To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you.”

That reality that is described by OCHA is one where the greatest needs of Haitians have, in fact, been forgotten. Although world leaders pledged over $5 billion dollars last April, and private donations from Americans alone topped $1 billion, OCHA reports that:

A Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) and CCCM Cluster analysis reveals that most of the funding to partners to support sanitation, water trucking activities and camp management will be exhausted by June 2011. As a result, it is expected that the number of humanitarian actors able to continue activities will be drastically reduced, which in turn will have serious consequences on the living conditions of camps residents. Their level of vulnerability will be particularly high due to the rain and hurricane season.

But how much worse can the “living conditions” of those in the camps really get? The same OCHA bulletin notes that only 29% of the camps have waste removal, only 43% of the camps have water tanks or trucks bringing water in, and less than 30% of those in the camps have received chlorination tablets in the last month. For a more independent analysis of the situation in the camps, see Mark Schuller’s report, “Foreign Responsibility in the Failure to Protect Against Cholera and Other Man-Made Disasters”. In addition, over 230,000 people have either been evicted, or are threatened by eviction, and the “eviction rate is increasing,” according to OCHA. The report discusses the evictions in the context of the reduction in the IDP population, a subject covered at length last week.

OCHA also notes that there are many residents still at serious risk in the case of heavy rains or hurricanes. OCHA notes that, “It is predicted that one or two hurricanes will affect Haiti,” this year. Camp residents who had to endure the rainy season and hurricane season last year will have to face it again, as only a small fraction have left the camps because of better alternatives. OCHA estimates that at least 300,000 people are at risk, including over 100,000 in the Artibonite department. As AlertNet reported today:

Yet for those families who have yet to move into adequate housing more than a year after the earthquake, it takes very little – just a bout of heavy rain or strong winds – to tip their lives back into crisis.

Student Mislene Valius, 22, lives 30 metres from a canal in Vallé de Bourdon in the Haitian capital. “When it rains, I have to go up on the roof or the hill to avoid being struck by disaster,” she says. “My worries are growing more and more because my country can’t take care of this situation.”

Dorvil Sonson, a 47-year-old carpenter, says his family no longer gets visitors since the quake forced them to move to a tent city above a ravine in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince.

“I live in a tent with my wife and three children, and you know it’s a risk living here, because if there’s a landslide we’ll be among the victims,” he says.

The full OCHA report, which also discusses the negative effect of rising food prices, the current “lean” season where food stocks are at their low point, and the ongoing response to the cholera epidemic (also under funded), is available here (PDF).

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) latest “Humanitarian Bulletin” provides some insight into just how much the relief efforts have struggled to provide results over the last year. Despite grandiose aid pledges, complete with the customary sound bites, the situation on the ground has not greatly improved. A few days after the earthquake President Obama stated:

“To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you.”

That reality that is described by OCHA is one where the greatest needs of Haitians have, in fact, been forgotten. Although world leaders pledged over $5 billion dollars last April, and private donations from Americans alone topped $1 billion, OCHA reports that:

A Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) and CCCM Cluster analysis reveals that most of the funding to partners to support sanitation, water trucking activities and camp management will be exhausted by June 2011. As a result, it is expected that the number of humanitarian actors able to continue activities will be drastically reduced, which in turn will have serious consequences on the living conditions of camps residents. Their level of vulnerability will be particularly high due to the rain and hurricane season.

But how much worse can the “living conditions” of those in the camps really get? The same OCHA bulletin notes that only 29% of the camps have waste removal, only 43% of the camps have water tanks or trucks bringing water in, and less than 30% of those in the camps have received chlorination tablets in the last month. For a more independent analysis of the situation in the camps, see Mark Schuller’s report, “Foreign Responsibility in the Failure to Protect Against Cholera and Other Man-Made Disasters”. In addition, over 230,000 people have either been evicted, or are threatened by eviction, and the “eviction rate is increasing,” according to OCHA. The report discusses the evictions in the context of the reduction in the IDP population, a subject covered at length last week.

OCHA also notes that there are many residents still at serious risk in the case of heavy rains or hurricanes. OCHA notes that, “It is predicted that one or two hurricanes will affect Haiti,” this year. Camp residents who had to endure the rainy season and hurricane season last year will have to face it again, as only a small fraction have left the camps because of better alternatives. OCHA estimates that at least 300,000 people are at risk, including over 100,000 in the Artibonite department. As AlertNet reported today:

Yet for those families who have yet to move into adequate housing more than a year after the earthquake, it takes very little – just a bout of heavy rain or strong winds – to tip their lives back into crisis.

Student Mislene Valius, 22, lives 30 metres from a canal in Vallé de Bourdon in the Haitian capital. “When it rains, I have to go up on the roof or the hill to avoid being struck by disaster,” she says. “My worries are growing more and more because my country can’t take care of this situation.”

Dorvil Sonson, a 47-year-old carpenter, says his family no longer gets visitors since the quake forced them to move to a tent city above a ravine in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince.

“I live in a tent with my wife and three children, and you know it’s a risk living here, because if there’s a landslide we’ll be among the victims,” he says.

The full OCHA report, which also discusses the negative effect of rising food prices, the current “lean” season where food stocks are at their low point, and the ongoing response to the cholera epidemic (also under funded), is available here (PDF).

Georgianne Nienaber has an extremely important article on the housing crisis that will confront whoever is the next president. As Nienaber writes, “The bottom line is that half a million Haitians will be living in “tent” (tarp) cities at least through 2012.” The article focuses on a new report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that dispels the myth that a reduction in camp population is necessarily a good thing. The day before the one year anniversary of the earthquake, the IOM released a statement that read, “A significant drop in the number of Haitians living in displacement camps one year on after the devastating earthquake is a welcome sign of progress in recovery efforts” and that, “It is also the first time that the camp population in Haiti has dropped to well below one million.” To be fair, the IOM was not all positive, with the spokesperson saying:

“At first sight, these figures are a positive development,” said Pandya. “People are leaving the camps because they are moving into transitional shelters or permanent homes or damaged homes that have now been repaired or because they have received other forms of assistance. Or, it is also because of storms, evictions, fear of evictions or the cholera outbreak that is forcing them to leave.”

Organizations were quick to point out that it was more likely the latter, a point made on this blog as well. Now, as Nienaber reports:

Those who have fled the camp crime, including the euphemistically labeled “gender-based violence” (think brutal rapes), filth, and leaking tarps have moved to housing that is no better. Some have taken over abandoned housing in damaged shantytowns, set up tents on rubble-strewn family property, or gone to live with relatives. Meanwhile, cholera is set to make a return with the coming rainy season, and basic infrastructure needs of clean water and sanitation remain unaddressed. Already vulnerable families face eviction from landowners who have seen property values increase due to scarcity of buildable land. Preliminary findings from a sample survey of 1,033 heads of households who have left IDP sites over the past months indicate that about 50 percent of them have moved from camp settings to precarious housing situations.

Looking a little deeper at the report shows just how little the “moving into transitional shelters or permanent homes or damaged homes that have now been repaired or because they have received other forms of assistance” has actually helped reduce the camp population. The study shows that only 7 percent cited “Assistance package was provided” (2.0%), “my home was repaired” (4.7%) or “transitional shelter was provided” (0.3%) as reasons for leaving IDP sites. On the other hand, “Poor conditions in the IDP site”, “eviction”, “high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site”, and “rain/hurricane” were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents.

As Nienaber points out, those who are leaving the camps are going to even more insecure housing. 30 percent have moved back into damaged housing and 25 percent have moved into a tent or other makeshift shelter somewhere else.

Especially concerning is the high number of evictions. The IOM report also noted that between June 2010 and March 2011, some 230,000 people were evicted. A study on IDP intentions also revealed that 41 percent of those surveyed had been threatened with eviction. In November, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights directed the Haitian government to declare a moratorium on evictions. As Nicole Phillips, from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti pointed out:

“We want the hundreds of thousands of Haitians threatened with forced evictions to know that these evictions violate Haitian and International law and that they are entitled to human rights protections,” said Nicole Phillips, IDJH Staff Attorney and Assistant Director for Haiti Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. “We hope that the International Community will also respect these recommendations and assure that their actions do not directly or indirectly support unlawful evictions.”

The problems are only being compounded by the upcoming rainy season (which officially begins next week) and the fact that “Most agencies involved in managing the camps in Port-au-Prince and nearby towns have indicated they will withdraw from their activities between April and July, largely due to a lack of funding, according to the IOM.”

A lack of funding. You read that correctly. The international community has pledged billions of dollars, yet only 30 percent has been disbursed. Meanwhile some of the largest NGOs, such as the Red Cross, have spent only about 50 percent of the money they raised specifically for Haiti. Not only does the crisis need the urgent commitment of the international community, but as Nienaber concludes:

The new president of Haiti would be well advised to read the full report. Housing, like clean water, is a human right — and both are in short supply despite the demand. Perhaps both candidates, Martelly and Manigat, should meet and discuss this issue while Haiti awaits the election results. Whoever wins will need as much help, cooperation, and advice as she/he can muster.

For more information on the conditions in the camps, and the issue of forced evictions, please see “Foreign Responsibility in the Failure to Protect Against Cholera and Other Man-Made Disasters” by Mark Schuller and International Action Ties’, “We Became Garbage to Them: Inaction and Complicity in IDP Expulsions.”

 

Georgianne Nienaber has an extremely important article on the housing crisis that will confront whoever is the next president. As Nienaber writes, “The bottom line is that half a million Haitians will be living in “tent” (tarp) cities at least through 2012.” The article focuses on a new report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that dispels the myth that a reduction in camp population is necessarily a good thing. The day before the one year anniversary of the earthquake, the IOM released a statement that read, “A significant drop in the number of Haitians living in displacement camps one year on after the devastating earthquake is a welcome sign of progress in recovery efforts” and that, “It is also the first time that the camp population in Haiti has dropped to well below one million.” To be fair, the IOM was not all positive, with the spokesperson saying:

“At first sight, these figures are a positive development,” said Pandya. “People are leaving the camps because they are moving into transitional shelters or permanent homes or damaged homes that have now been repaired or because they have received other forms of assistance. Or, it is also because of storms, evictions, fear of evictions or the cholera outbreak that is forcing them to leave.”

Organizations were quick to point out that it was more likely the latter, a point made on this blog as well. Now, as Nienaber reports:

Those who have fled the camp crime, including the euphemistically labeled “gender-based violence” (think brutal rapes), filth, and leaking tarps have moved to housing that is no better. Some have taken over abandoned housing in damaged shantytowns, set up tents on rubble-strewn family property, or gone to live with relatives. Meanwhile, cholera is set to make a return with the coming rainy season, and basic infrastructure needs of clean water and sanitation remain unaddressed. Already vulnerable families face eviction from landowners who have seen property values increase due to scarcity of buildable land. Preliminary findings from a sample survey of 1,033 heads of households who have left IDP sites over the past months indicate that about 50 percent of them have moved from camp settings to precarious housing situations.

Looking a little deeper at the report shows just how little the “moving into transitional shelters or permanent homes or damaged homes that have now been repaired or because they have received other forms of assistance” has actually helped reduce the camp population. The study shows that only 7 percent cited “Assistance package was provided” (2.0%), “my home was repaired” (4.7%) or “transitional shelter was provided” (0.3%) as reasons for leaving IDP sites. On the other hand, “Poor conditions in the IDP site”, “eviction”, “high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site”, and “rain/hurricane” were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents.

As Nienaber points out, those who are leaving the camps are going to even more insecure housing. 30 percent have moved back into damaged housing and 25 percent have moved into a tent or other makeshift shelter somewhere else.

Especially concerning is the high number of evictions. The IOM report also noted that between June 2010 and March 2011, some 230,000 people were evicted. A study on IDP intentions also revealed that 41 percent of those surveyed had been threatened with eviction. In November, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights directed the Haitian government to declare a moratorium on evictions. As Nicole Phillips, from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti pointed out:

“We want the hundreds of thousands of Haitians threatened with forced evictions to know that these evictions violate Haitian and International law and that they are entitled to human rights protections,” said Nicole Phillips, IDJH Staff Attorney and Assistant Director for Haiti Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. “We hope that the International Community will also respect these recommendations and assure that their actions do not directly or indirectly support unlawful evictions.”

The problems are only being compounded by the upcoming rainy season (which officially begins next week) and the fact that “Most agencies involved in managing the camps in Port-au-Prince and nearby towns have indicated they will withdraw from their activities between April and July, largely due to a lack of funding, according to the IOM.”

A lack of funding. You read that correctly. The international community has pledged billions of dollars, yet only 30 percent has been disbursed. Meanwhile some of the largest NGOs, such as the Red Cross, have spent only about 50 percent of the money they raised specifically for Haiti. Not only does the crisis need the urgent commitment of the international community, but as Nienaber concludes:

The new president of Haiti would be well advised to read the full report. Housing, like clean water, is a human right — and both are in short supply despite the demand. Perhaps both candidates, Martelly and Manigat, should meet and discuss this issue while Haiti awaits the election results. Whoever wins will need as much help, cooperation, and advice as she/he can muster.

For more information on the conditions in the camps, and the issue of forced evictions, please see “Foreign Responsibility in the Failure to Protect Against Cholera and Other Man-Made Disasters” by Mark Schuller and International Action Ties’, “We Became Garbage to Them: Inaction and Complicity in IDP Expulsions.”

 

The elections have now passed, in what has generally been described as a more peaceful election day than the first round. There were still many problems however, and most reports from on the ground indicate that turnout was very low. It is important to keep in mind that the first round saw just a 23 percent turnout, with the two right-wing run-off candidates receiving a combined 11 percent of support from all registered voters. The exclusion of the largest party, Fanmi Lavalas, the inadequate efforts to allow those living in IDP camps to vote and massive irregularities contributed not only to the low turnout, but to 12 percent of tally sheets never even being counted. The preliminary results were then arbitrarily overturned due to pressure from the international community, especially the US. The second round then is based on an illegitimate electoral process and a deeply flawed first round. New, inclusive elections remain the only way to ascertain the true will of the Haitian people. Although the elections have passed, we will continue to update this space with the latest election related news and analysis.

Tuesday 5:35 PM: A nice bit of analysis, from The Economist:

 

The biggest difficulties could await after the outcome is announced. Whoever is proclaimed the victor may have trouble establishing their legitimacy. A few legal corners were cut during the horse-trading over Mr Martelly’s inclusion in the run-off: the first-round results were not published in the state’s official news outlet, as the constitution requires, and allegedly only four members of the electoral council, rather than a majority, have signed off on the result. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former president who returned to Haiti two days before the vote after spending seven years in exile, cast further doubt on the vote’s credibility by decrying the “exclusion” of his political party, Fanmi Lavalas. (Some diplomats say the party could have fielded a candidate but did not). And even if all these concerns can be brushed aside, turnout in the run-off was estimated at just a smidge higher than the 22% registered in the first round. Hopes for a Haitian government with a broad mandate still remain a long way from fruition.

 

Tuesday – Update 12:58 PM: Dan Caughlin has a nice piece in The Nation on Sunday’s election, which provides some of the critical background that has been lacking from most of the media coverage. Coughlin writes that, “Despite a massive UN mobilization, Haitians stayed away from controversial presidential elections in large numbers on March 20, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the new government now poised to take power.” Coughlin also speaks with Patrick Elie, who comments:

 

“But the victor of these elections will have very little popular legitimacy,” Elie said, arguing that the electoral process has been a farce. “And because of that the victor will be the puppet of the international community and will have no card to play and no real popular support.”

 

To read the entire article, click here.

Tuesday – Update 10:55 AM: The OAS has released their preliminary observations, and the Miami Herald provides a nice write-up, while pointing some of the things that have been stressed on this blog. It is good to see caution coming from the U.S. as well, with Mark Toner saying ,“We’ll wait for …the assessment of the monitoring teams’ full assessment,’’ before declaring the elections free and fair. After the first round, despite the debacle of election day, OAS observers said that the irregularities had not necessarily invalidated the results. This was taken as an endorsement of the first round and is one reason why it would be smart to wait until preliminary results are announced and full observations are released before making declarations as to the legitimacy of the vote. The Miami Herald also notes the ongoing debate over turnout:

One area that remained a debate was turnout. Both the heads of the Provisional Electoral Council and the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission told journalists Sunday that participation was high. But Granderson said while the participation appears to be slightly higher than for the first round — 22 percent nationwide — it doesn’t appear to coincide with the more than 1 million inquiries via telephone calls and text messages election officials received from voters wanting to locate their polling stations.

“The final numbers were a bit disappointing,’’ he said, adding that they will have to wait for preliminary results for the actual turnout figure.

 

It is important to point out though that assuming there actually was a lower number of polling stations that were destroyed or closed on election day, the registered turnout would be higher even if the same number of people came out to vote. In the first round nearly 12 percent of the tally sheets where either never counted or thrown out due to fraud; since these votes were not counted they did not go into the participation rate of 22.8 percent. In a report released after the first round, we estimated that this corresponds to about 160,000 voters. If the same number of people tried to vote as in the first round, and assuming the OAS is correct in saying that overall the election was improved, we would expect turnout to be roughly 26 percent. This would not, however, mean that more people tried to vote, only that a higher percent of the actual vote was counted. If the participation rate is at or below the first round, it is an indication that far fewer people actually took part in the election.

Monday – Update 5:35 PM: Although candidates have pledged not to declare themselves as the winner before results are announced, the Martelly camp has taken to twitter to do just that. Antonio Sola, the director of Ostos & Sola, the campaign managers of Martelly, tweeted, “Overwhelming victory of Michel Martelly in the Haitian elections. Another triumph for the OstosSola family. The era of change has arrived in Haiti.” Martelly’s twitter page has also linked to news reports about partial results showing Martelly winning (an issue we brought up here).

The Martelly campaign has benefitted greatly from the services of Ostos and Sola. Sola, who also worked on the campaign of Felipe Calderon in Mexico and has worked extensively with the Popular Party and former right-wing president Aznar in Spain. The executive director of Ostos & Sola and Martelly’s campaign manager is Damien Merlo. Merlo worked on the McCain campaign in 2008 and previously worked for the International Republican Institute. Merlo was also the Vice President of Otto Reich Associates, the company of the former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere under George Bush, Otto Reich. Ostos & Sola, together with Otto Reich Associates is actually lobbying for Raytheon in Chile. Raytheon is working with the National Emergency Office, which Chile wants strengthened after the
earthquake last year.

It remains unclear who is paying for the high profile campaign team. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Sola said, “A friend, a businessman, presented Michel to us in the U.S..”. Martelly has been asked multiple times by reporters, responding to the Miami Herald, “They are here. They are paid by people who believe in us. But who do not want to give us the money. Friends from out of Haiti, the States who decided to give us support.” When asked directly who was funding him, Martelly responded, “You talk to them.” A New York Times report after that interview reported that, “the first round ultimately cost him and his supporters $1 million and the second, backed by donors he refused to name, around $6 million.” That is about .1 percent of Haiti’s GDP.

Monday – Update 4:35 PM:
In Allyn Gaestel’s latest piece, she notes, almost as an aside that “On Sunday crowds swarmed the voting center where Martelly voted, and he enjoyed one last chance to clamber atop a truck and dance and wave to his followers. He mouthed, “Go vote!” to his supporters, as they waved pink cards and placards.” As was pointed out previously, according to electoral law, “all public manifestations in favor of one or several candidates, one or several political parties, grouping or regroupings are formally banned on Election Day and until the proclamation of the results.” It would seem worth mentioning that when reporting on the election.

Monday – Update 1:41 PM: AFP reports today that, “Michel Martelly, a singer and carnival entertainer with a colorful past, may have triumphed in quake-hit Haiti’s presidential elections, partial results indicated Monday.” Nevermind that the CEP had called on media not to publish partial results, something AFP noted in their French language article on the same topic. Unfortunately, it looks like AFP is engaging in exactly the sort of reporting that the CEP about. AFP reports:

Tally sheets read out on television and radio indicated Martelly was well ahead of his rival, former first lady Mirlande Manigat, in key urban areas including Petionville and the Cite Soleil slum in the capital.

“I think he has won the election. From everything that I’ve heard it looks like it may even be a landslide, at least in the urban areas,” said US-based Haiti expert Robert Fatton.

 

Although Fatton then says it is “not fully representative but it indicates a trend”, AFP uses some seriously flawed polling to report:

Out of 50 people questioned by AFP in Port-au-Prince after polls closed on Sunday at 5:00 pm local time (2200 GMT), not a single one said they had voted for Manigat, a soft-spoken 70-year-old and long-time opposition figure.

It may have been worth pointing out that although Martelly looked particularly popular in Petionville and Cite Soleil, he also was particularly popular in those areas in the first round. Martelly received nearly 50 percent of the votes in those areas, despite winning just over 20 percent nationwide (you can download the first round database, here). Furthermore, the total votes counted in Petionville and Cite Soleil accounted for roughly 5 percent of the total votes counted nationwide, a significant portion but certainly not representative of the total. If the AFP does decide to defy the CEP and report on partial results, it should at least provide the context necessary to interpret those results.

 

Publishing articles that try to definitevely declare a winner before official results are announced could lead to the sort of street protests that occurred after the first round. As the same AFP article notes, “Even before voting stations closed on Sunday, Martelly supporters were triumphantly taking to the streets”.

Monday – Update 11:31 AM: Also from Nick Miroff’s article in the Washington Post, reports that Martelly supporters are already “sure that Preval…was scheming to cheat them,” something we covered here. Miroff writes:

It was unclear whether the problems Sunday were caused by dirty tricks, Haiti’s general disorganization, or a bit of both. Voters, particularly Martelly supporters, said they were sure that Preval – who called Sunday for “cool heads” to prevail – was scheming to cheat them.

“If they don’t know how to count, we’ll show them how to count,” warned Pierre Yonel, 25, who wore a pink-and-white bracelet – Martelly’s colors – with the slogan “Tet Kale” (Bald Head), a reference to the candidate’s appearance.

 Also worth mentioning the fact that there were reports of campaining on election day, something expressly warned about the day before the election by the OAS mission. The OAS warned that:

article 122.2 of the Electoral Law states that “all public manifestations in favor of one or several candidates, one or several political parties, grouping or regroupings are formally banned on Election Day and until the proclamation of the results”. The candidates have the responsibility to inform their supporters about this stipulation and warn them not to wear any clothes or carry any visible signs that indicate their political preferences on Election Day.

 

Monday – Update 10:57 AM: Although announcements from the CEP, OAS, France, and MINUSTAH, all noted higher turnout in yesterday’s election this contradicts most reports from the ground. The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff provides a more nuanced view:

Haiti struggled once more to pull off an orderly election Sunday, as confusion broke out at polls and turnout appeared low, but when the day ended quietly without major violence, election officials and foreign observers called it a success.

 Although noting that at “many voting stations, the process seemed to unfold relatively smoothly”, Miroff adds that, “it was not difficult to find voters in the capital who had been turned away.” The low turnout was noted in othe reports as well. Jacqueline Charles and Frances Robles write in the Miami Herald that in most voting stations there were “more political observers and roving operatives present than voters”. A midday report from observers from Let Haiti Live, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties also reported “Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters.”

On the other hand, here are some comments from the CEP, MINUSTAH, and France:

CEP: “Haiti’s top electoral officer, Gaillot Dorsinvil, hailed what he called the large turnout of voters in the first presidential run-off vote in the Caribbean nation” 

MINUSTAH:AFP quotes Edmond Mulet, head of MINUSTAH, as saying, “I’ve seen a lot of differences compared to November 28. Participation is greater.”

France: “The second round of elections in Haiti took place in a satisfactory manner” and “the mobilisation of a large number of voters, which resulted in an increase in participation is a success” said foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero.

Update 11:38 PM:Ansel Herz posts a MINUSTAH document listing security incidents and irregularities as of 1 PM today. The document shows MINUSTAH to have responded in at least five of ten departments by midday. The most serious situation described in the document occurred in the Artibonite department, and resulted in one death:

 

On 20 March in École Nationale Poste Pierrot voting centre (VC Code / 05-21-55-10-04-9) in Dessalines (Artibonite Department) According to information received, ARGBAT troops went to the site to monitor and respond and were confronted with shots from the fighting group. Preliminary information received indicates that MINUSTAH military defended themselves, firing an unknown number of live shots at the group, injuring one person, upon evacuation by MINUSTAH to the Saint March hospital; the individual succumbed to his injuries. There is also incoming information that a local voting centre in Dessalines (Ecole Nationale Ogé-05-21-55-10-03-16) was invaded this morning, and elections materials were destroyed. Three armed individuals were reported to have been arrested in connection.

On 20 March at 11:07 hours in St Marc (Artibonite Department) that deferrals due to security situation, voting centers followings of the lower Artibonite Have closed: Ecole Nationale de Haute Feuilles (05-21-55-10-02-3) Ecole Nationale


Four voting centers were also closed, at least temporarily in Grand Anse:

On 20 March, at École Nationale Anse -à-Mason Voting Centre (08-02-05-12-06-11) in Pestel (Grande Anse Department) armed suspects fired gunshots. MINUSTH Military responded on the scene by firing in the air. The four voting centres are currently closed. 

Most news reports have indicated that overall voting was smoother than the first round, however there were still reports of delays, voters being turned away, voter intimidation and other irregularities throughout the day.

Update 9:05 PM: Although commentators may point to the CEP when assigning blame for the disorganization seen today (not without reason as the CEP has been discredited for some time), it is worth pointing out, as some already have, that MINUSTAH is responsible for the delivery of election materials. Many polling stations throughout the west department, as well as the south and southwest departments, had to delay opening because of missing voting materials or the delivery of the wrong voting materials. The four largest voting stations in Port-au-Prince were also affected, according to the OAS chief Colin Granderson. Alterpresse spoke with the MINUSTAH spokeperson, Sylvie Van Wildenberg:

 

In an interview with AlterPresse, the spokesman of MINUSTAH, Sylvie Van Wildenberg, admits that the UN mission, responsible for transporting sensitive equipment and non-sensitive in polling centers, has experienced some difficulties.

 

“Indeed there were some problems in the transportation of sensitive materials and non-sensitive this morning. This does not depend entirely on MINUSTAH since some items in the lots to be delivered were also missing, “said Sylvie Van Wildenberg. [google translation]


Update 8:46 PM:
Jacqueline Charles and Frances Robles report in The Miami Herald on today’s second round, contrasting the authorities statements with reports on the ground:

 

In some places, there were no ballots. In others, only dry ink to mark a voter’s finger. In many more, disenfranchised voters were turned away from polls and boisterous political party operatives got in the way.

But despite the irregularities, authorities said the day went smoothly, without the widespread fraud that marred November’s election.

After quoting CEP president Dorsinvil and the chead of the OAS observation mission Colin Granderson saying that things went well, Charles and Robles then report on some of the irregularities seen on the ground: missing ink and ballots, which causing delays up to 6 hours; stations being sent the wrong ballots; voters being turned away for not being on the electoral lists; low turnout, resulting in “more political observers and roving operatives present than voters”; and intimidation and repeat voting from partisans.

Although announcements from the CEP, OAS and MINUSTAH may be overly optimistic regarding participation, which was generally reported to be lower than the first round, there were no large scale protests or destruction of polling stations as there were in the first round. There were not as many reports of widespread ballot stuffing either. But although overall levels of fraud may have been lower than in the first round, much of the disorganization that disenfranchised many in November was reportedly seen today as well.
 
Update 5:47 PM: Polls were kept open until 5:00 PM, an extra hour, around Port-au-Prince due to delays in delivering voting materials and general disorganization this morning, but some on twitter are saying the streets are already rather empty. Democracy NOW!’s Sharif Kouddous tweets, “Half an hour to go before polls close in Haiti election. Normally busy streets are empty,” and shares this picture. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti tweets, “extending polling hours 1 hour has not increased turnout. Many polling stations empty already.”

Update 5:25 PM: Edmond Mulet continues to be cited in the press giving optimistic assesments of the situation, despite observer and media reports telling of extremely low turnout. After telling AFP earlier that participation was greater than in the first round, he now tells AP that, “Everything is peaceful, is more or less OK, much better than Nov. 28.” As was pointed out earlier, Mulet gave an overly optimistic assesment of the situation during the first round. It would seem appropriate to mention this when citing his assesment of the second round. Although there have not been reports of wide-spread violence, there have been some isolated cases. Journalist Allyn Gaestel recently tweeted: “Mario andresol [chief of police] said were two “elections related deaths” today in Desdunes and Marchand-Dessalines.”

Update 5:05 PM:
The latest AP report indicates that the lack of voting supplies delayed voting through multiple departments, and not just in and around Port-au-Prince. Trenton Daniel and Ben Fox report, “A spokesman for the electoral council told The Associated Press that poll supplies such as ballots and ink were delayed in reaching voting centers in the southern, southwestern, and western regions of Haiti.”

Update 4:30 PM: Kenneth Kidd reports for the Toronto Star that the election day began with a “disorganized start Sunday in an eerie echo of November’s botched opening round of balloting.” In one polling station that Kidd attended with an observor team from the Franchophonie organization he noted that the opening was delayed because some of the materials “bore the logo of Haiti’s 2009 Senate campaign.” Kidd continues:

Confusingly, the presidential ballots were dated 2011 while those for picking a local deputy to the national assembly were dated 2010.

“That’s crazy,” Lauren Gimenez, another member of the Francophonie group, said of the scene. “It’s worse than the first time.”

An official with the electoral council later confirmed that there was similar confusion over dates and ballots at polling stations across Port-au-Prince, with the start of voting routinely delayed.

Crowds outside grew boisterous all over the capital.

The dating issue only amplified the disarray at the nearby Lycée National de Pétionville, where 13,523 people were supposed to be casting their ballots.

When they opened the boxes containing ballots there, just before 6 a.m., they were for a past Senate race, with no presidential ballots anywhere to be found. Nor were there enough ballot boxes for all the polls at the Lycée.


Kidd also points out that although some voting centers seemed to be operating well, it was not necessarily because of the increased efforts of the international community and the CEP:

Just 30 metres away, in the outdoor garden of another school, the Frères de l’instruction Chretienne, perfect order reigned — voters’ lists posted where they should be, voters queuing calmly and voices all but hushed.

“C’est parfait,” smiled Gimenez, gazing at a place where 14,823 people were on the voters’ list.

And while it would be nice to think of this station as an exemplar of the electoral council’s promised overhaul of the voting machinery, the firing of roughly 500 workers from November’s fiasco and a boost in training, it would also be wrong.

Here, thankfully, nothing had changed, because in November “it was exactly the same,” Charette recalled.


Update 3:34 PM:
Polls are staying open one hour later, at least in the areas in and around Port-au-Prince. Polls had been set to close at 4 PM (5 PM EST).

Update 3:20 PM: As we noted below, Edmond Mulet told AFP that participation looked greater than in the first round, well, as a reminder, here was Mulet’s rosy assessment from election day in November:

 

“In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful,” Mulet, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH which is helping to police the elections, told AFP.

“I see a great passion of citizens and from citizens for democracy in this country. MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It’s an electoral celebration,” Mulet said.

“The decision of the people will be respected. There are some small administrative problems, but no big problem that is going to reduce participation.”

And we all know how the first round turned out.

Update 3:07 PM: It is perhaps not surprising that Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker recently tweeted, “Lines dwindling to zero at largest voting centre in Petionville. Little interest with 2.5 hours still to go…and it opened 2 hours late.” Although Martelly received about 60 percent of the votes counted in Petionville in the first round, the participation rate was just 14 percent. Martelly received 8 percent of his countrywide vote total from Petionville. You can download the first round database here.

Update 2:37 PM: The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles tweets, “All voting centers that had a late start will remain open til 6 pm today, #haiti #elections spokesman just told me.”

Update 2:19 PM: AFP quotes Edmond Mulet, head of MINUSTAH, as saying, “I’ve seen a lot of differences compared to November 28. Participation is greater.” The statement from Mulet would seem to contradict what observers had earlier reported:

Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to [sic] first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters.

Many of the problems of the first round were reportedly repeated; polling stations opening late, missing materials, voters having a hard time finding the correct voting location, and voters not finding their names on the electoral lists. The chaos of the first round, where 12 of 19 presidential candidates called for the elections annullment in the early afternoon and dozens of polling stations were destroyed or closed down would be hard to replicate, however the efforts to remedy the general disorganization and low turnout of the first round may have fallen short.

Update 1:20 PM: Worth noting is that the failure to issue new identification cards before the first round was not remedied for the second round. The day before the November 28 first round, the New York Times reported, “Less than half of the more than 400,000 new and replacement national identification cards necessary for voting are thought to have been distributed, leading to intense frustration.” After the first round, the CEP said in a press release, citing article 32 of the electoral law, that:

 

Accordingly, citizens holding a national identification card issued after September 28, 2010 are not eligible to vote in the second round of Presidential and Legislative Elections of 20 March. (google translation) 

Update 12:58 PM: Just received this mid-day report from Melinda Miles of Let Haiti Live who is monitoring the election today together with Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties. The full report follows:

Midday Progress Report: Low Participation and Obstacles for the March 20th Election in Haiti

Compiled by Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica Forum. Observer teams include representatives from: Let Haiti Live, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties

The morning started off quietly  and was marked by low voter turn out in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on this second round election day. Teams visited polling places throughout downtown Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil, Petionville, Delmas, Carrefour, and the camps for internally displaced people (homeless earthquake survivors) at Corail and Kanaran.

Initial observations:
– Many voting bureaus opened several hours late or still have not opened now, at mid-day.
– Lack of materials (ink, ballot boxes, etc) was a major obstacle to voting.
– Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters.
– In many places where people did attempt to vote, they were thwarted by not finding their names on the electoral lists.

As the polls were supposed to open at 6am, a small group gathered outside the Lycee Cite Soleil. Inside the polling station was not yet ready to receive voters. The majority of people in the street seemed uninterested in elections, just passed by on their way to other things. Security was lighter than in November, but still a significant MINUSTAH presence in the street. Later at 7:45am the voting bureaus opened and there were no lines. Several would-be voters could not find their names on the electoral lists and were noisily complaining. In the street some partisans for Michel Martelly were telling people to vote for him. Cite Soleil has approximately 150,000 eligible voters but it appeared as though not more than 200 were participating during the first few hours of voting.

At the IDP Camp Kanaran (also know as Canaan) there was no voting bureau set up, the same situation as in November. Not far away at the Corail Camp, the only voting bureau for the camp of more than ten thousand had 40 registered voters, many of whom were poll workers/observers. At the time of our visit around 7am there was more security and foreign observers than voters. There were four UN vehicles and one armored personnel carrier as well as more than a dozen soldiers and police in bullet proof vests. A Canadian police officer noted rumors that voters from Kanaran were expected to come to the Corail voting bureau to attempt to vote.

In some voting stations in Port-au-Prince, poll workers had ballot boxes marked for senator even though there is no second round for senator in the west department. In some polling stations, such as the Lecole Municipale Dumarsais Estime, there were ballots for deputy but not for president. In other places the ballot boxes did not arrive labeled, leading to confusion. At the ONA at the Champ de Mars there were no materials to vote at 8am, and at the Lecole Fleurant in Christ Roi they lacked ballots and ink. At the Lycee Toussaint many people could not find their names on the voter lists.

At the Lycee Petionville many people attempted to vote and a long line led around the corner. The bureaus opened late and some materials were missing. Outside the bureau at about 9:30am MINUSTAH Mission Head Edmond Mulet spoke to the press while only a few steps away partisans of Michel Martelly campaigned for him, encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Tet Kale. The police did not intervene. At 11:25am there was still a large number of people attempting to vote at the Lycee and many were complaining because they couldn’t find their names on the electoral lists.

Although normally the streets are very empty on election day, today the roadside markets are functioning normally and women are selling all kinds of products throughout the city. One produce seller told our team, “Moun grangou pa al vote; Hungry people don’t go to vote.” Another remarked that the distance many voters were required to travel to vote discouraged them from participating.

Update 12:34 PM: Tweets from people on the ground continue to show number of irregularities:

Ansel Herz (@mediahacker): MINUSTAH: 40+ voting centers experiencing “voter dissastisfaction” – missing names, materials. In Cite Soleil, ppl tore up ballots.

MINUSTAH: At Ecole Nat de Cerca Carvajal in Center Dep a group neared voting center, and shot 3 rounds.  UNPOL fired back one shot.

Miami Herald’s Frances Robles, in Gonaives (@roblesherald): Rural gonaives poll supe tells me she’s turned away about 50 voters because they don’t find names on list.

College union de gonaives missing hundreds of voter names from lists.

People complaining that “observers” get people to change their vote.

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles): Where are observers at grammer school in Cite Soleil? Young men encouraging voters to vote a candidate. Voters screaming can’t find name

MT @hanstippen: most locally outsourced voting material  there but foreign furnished materials like ink, tally sheets missing.

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (@IJDH): RT @Twadhaiti Haiti’s election: the second round doesn’t look any different than the first. Irregularities etc.

Update 11:31 AM: After the first round of the elections, CEPR conducted a full recount of the tally sheets posted by the CEP, the only independent recount done of the vote. You can see the full sortable database, here. Those who are on the ground observing today can check results at polling station in first round, and see number of first round irregularities. You can also check out the interactive graphing tool to sort through the first round data, available here.

Update 11:12 AM: After the first round, which saw the lowest voter turnout for a presidential election in the Western Hemisphere in recent history, numerous pleas were made by the international community to vote. The UN News Center reported on a MINUSTAH statement just days before the election:

The mission, known as MINUSTAH, said in a press statement that by going to the polls in large numbers, Haitians would be able to “demonstrate their commitment to exercise their sovereign right to choose the leaders they trust.” 

 This, however, misses the point of why turnout was so low. Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, was arbitrarily excluded from the ballot (as Aristide was quick to point out upon his return) and confusion, outright fraud and poor organization made voting a near impossibility for thousands more. A look at recent tweets for those observing the election on the ground paints a picture of low turnout and a high number of irregularities once again:

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles):It’s still early but turnout very light. Maybe Haitians waiting – like they did on first round b4 cancellation call.

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (@IJDH): Low turnout at Lycee Fermin polling station in PAP.

At Ecole Nat Rep de Chile in PAP, still waiting for voting materials. Poll workers have nothing to do

Melinda Miles (@melindayiti): School of the Republic of Chile supposed to have 952 voters but at this point ppl can’t vote yet because no materials RT @ViveHaiti

I see more people leaving church than leaving the voting stations. RT @gaetantguevara

AP’s Jacob Kushner (@jacobkushner): Last election, a voting bureau at Port-au-Prince’s general hospital never opened because ballots never arrived. This time? No ink.


Update 10:17 AM:
Ansel Herz flags a telling quote from the OAS’ Colin Granderson, from MarketWatch:

“There will be irregularities,” said Colin Granderson, head of the international OAS-led observer mission. “I asked if buses had been organized for camp refugees and nothing had been done; lists of registered voters are still missing.”

Mr. Granderson also criticized both candidates for instilling a climate of violence. “Manigat and Martelly have said they’ll take to the streets the day after the elections to proclaim their victory,” he said. “It’s irresponsible.”

If you want to get caught up with all the problems documented in the first round of balloting, you can check back on HRRW’s Live-Blog from the first round or our subsequent reports documenting the numerous irregularities.

Sunday – Update 10:10 AM: Voting centers have been open for nearly four hours already, yet according to many reports a significant number of polling stations have yet open. Reuters reports:

In the wrecked capital Port-au-Prince, several polling stations were unable to open on time because materials such as ink to mark voters’ fingers and labels to mark the urns had not arrived, witnesses said. Arguments also broke out over which officials and party representatives should be there.

The Reuters report is confirmed by those observing the election who have been tweeting updates. Here are some of the recent updates from those on the ground:

Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker (@sebwalker):Problems with Haiti vote seem worse at this point than in 1st round. Hearing of more complaints, seeing shorter lines than back in November

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (@IJDH): Voting suspended for unknown reasons at Lycee Marie Jean, biggest polling place in PAP. Frustration mounting.

At a second polling station near Chan Mars. Again, no ballots, no ink, no voting yet. Another 4000 ppl registered here.

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles): “I consider this a violation of my rights,” Hernst Chery, 40, a social worker waiting to vote. Poll still not opened.

Melinda Miles (@melindayiti): In the west dept (PAP) there is no runoff for senator but there are ballot boxes for senator in the Lycee Petion downtown PAP

The elections have now passed, in what has generally been described as a more peaceful election day than the first round. There were still many problems however, and most reports from on the ground indicate that turnout was very low. It is important to keep in mind that the first round saw just a 23 percent turnout, with the two right-wing run-off candidates receiving a combined 11 percent of support from all registered voters. The exclusion of the largest party, Fanmi Lavalas, the inadequate efforts to allow those living in IDP camps to vote and massive irregularities contributed not only to the low turnout, but to 12 percent of tally sheets never even being counted. The preliminary results were then arbitrarily overturned due to pressure from the international community, especially the US. The second round then is based on an illegitimate electoral process and a deeply flawed first round. New, inclusive elections remain the only way to ascertain the true will of the Haitian people. Although the elections have passed, we will continue to update this space with the latest election related news and analysis.

Tuesday 5:35 PM: A nice bit of analysis, from The Economist:

 

The biggest difficulties could await after the outcome is announced. Whoever is proclaimed the victor may have trouble establishing their legitimacy. A few legal corners were cut during the horse-trading over Mr Martelly’s inclusion in the run-off: the first-round results were not published in the state’s official news outlet, as the constitution requires, and allegedly only four members of the electoral council, rather than a majority, have signed off on the result. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former president who returned to Haiti two days before the vote after spending seven years in exile, cast further doubt on the vote’s credibility by decrying the “exclusion” of his political party, Fanmi Lavalas. (Some diplomats say the party could have fielded a candidate but did not). And even if all these concerns can be brushed aside, turnout in the run-off was estimated at just a smidge higher than the 22% registered in the first round. Hopes for a Haitian government with a broad mandate still remain a long way from fruition.

 

Tuesday – Update 12:58 PM: Dan Caughlin has a nice piece in The Nation on Sunday’s election, which provides some of the critical background that has been lacking from most of the media coverage. Coughlin writes that, “Despite a massive UN mobilization, Haitians stayed away from controversial presidential elections in large numbers on March 20, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the new government now poised to take power.” Coughlin also speaks with Patrick Elie, who comments:

 

“But the victor of these elections will have very little popular legitimacy,” Elie said, arguing that the electoral process has been a farce. “And because of that the victor will be the puppet of the international community and will have no card to play and no real popular support.”

 

To read the entire article, click here.

Tuesday – Update 10:55 AM: The OAS has released their preliminary observations, and the Miami Herald provides a nice write-up, while pointing some of the things that have been stressed on this blog. It is good to see caution coming from the U.S. as well, with Mark Toner saying ,“We’ll wait for …the assessment of the monitoring teams’ full assessment,’’ before declaring the elections free and fair. After the first round, despite the debacle of election day, OAS observers said that the irregularities had not necessarily invalidated the results. This was taken as an endorsement of the first round and is one reason why it would be smart to wait until preliminary results are announced and full observations are released before making declarations as to the legitimacy of the vote. The Miami Herald also notes the ongoing debate over turnout:

One area that remained a debate was turnout. Both the heads of the Provisional Electoral Council and the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission told journalists Sunday that participation was high. But Granderson said while the participation appears to be slightly higher than for the first round — 22 percent nationwide — it doesn’t appear to coincide with the more than 1 million inquiries via telephone calls and text messages election officials received from voters wanting to locate their polling stations.

“The final numbers were a bit disappointing,’’ he said, adding that they will have to wait for preliminary results for the actual turnout figure.

 

It is important to point out though that assuming there actually was a lower number of polling stations that were destroyed or closed on election day, the registered turnout would be higher even if the same number of people came out to vote. In the first round nearly 12 percent of the tally sheets where either never counted or thrown out due to fraud; since these votes were not counted they did not go into the participation rate of 22.8 percent. In a report released after the first round, we estimated that this corresponds to about 160,000 voters. If the same number of people tried to vote as in the first round, and assuming the OAS is correct in saying that overall the election was improved, we would expect turnout to be roughly 26 percent. This would not, however, mean that more people tried to vote, only that a higher percent of the actual vote was counted. If the participation rate is at or below the first round, it is an indication that far fewer people actually took part in the election.

Monday – Update 5:35 PM: Although candidates have pledged not to declare themselves as the winner before results are announced, the Martelly camp has taken to twitter to do just that. Antonio Sola, the director of Ostos & Sola, the campaign managers of Martelly, tweeted, “Overwhelming victory of Michel Martelly in the Haitian elections. Another triumph for the OstosSola family. The era of change has arrived in Haiti.” Martelly’s twitter page has also linked to news reports about partial results showing Martelly winning (an issue we brought up here).

The Martelly campaign has benefitted greatly from the services of Ostos and Sola. Sola, who also worked on the campaign of Felipe Calderon in Mexico and has worked extensively with the Popular Party and former right-wing president Aznar in Spain. The executive director of Ostos & Sola and Martelly’s campaign manager is Damien Merlo. Merlo worked on the McCain campaign in 2008 and previously worked for the International Republican Institute. Merlo was also the Vice President of Otto Reich Associates, the company of the former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere under George Bush, Otto Reich. Ostos & Sola, together with Otto Reich Associates is actually lobbying for Raytheon in Chile. Raytheon is working with the National Emergency Office, which Chile wants strengthened after the
earthquake last year.

It remains unclear who is paying for the high profile campaign team. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Sola said, “A friend, a businessman, presented Michel to us in the U.S..”. Martelly has been asked multiple times by reporters, responding to the Miami Herald, “They are here. They are paid by people who believe in us. But who do not want to give us the money. Friends from out of Haiti, the States who decided to give us support.” When asked directly who was funding him, Martelly responded, “You talk to them.” A New York Times report after that interview reported that, “the first round ultimately cost him and his supporters $1 million and the second, backed by donors he refused to name, around $6 million.” That is about .1 percent of Haiti’s GDP.

Monday – Update 4:35 PM:
In Allyn Gaestel’s latest piece, she notes, almost as an aside that “On Sunday crowds swarmed the voting center where Martelly voted, and he enjoyed one last chance to clamber atop a truck and dance and wave to his followers. He mouthed, “Go vote!” to his supporters, as they waved pink cards and placards.” As was pointed out previously, according to electoral law, “all public manifestations in favor of one or several candidates, one or several political parties, grouping or regroupings are formally banned on Election Day and until the proclamation of the results.” It would seem worth mentioning that when reporting on the election.

Monday – Update 1:41 PM: AFP reports today that, “Michel Martelly, a singer and carnival entertainer with a colorful past, may have triumphed in quake-hit Haiti’s presidential elections, partial results indicated Monday.” Nevermind that the CEP had called on media not to publish partial results, something AFP noted in their French language article on the same topic. Unfortunately, it looks like AFP is engaging in exactly the sort of reporting that the CEP about. AFP reports:

Tally sheets read out on television and radio indicated Martelly was well ahead of his rival, former first lady Mirlande Manigat, in key urban areas including Petionville and the Cite Soleil slum in the capital.

“I think he has won the election. From everything that I’ve heard it looks like it may even be a landslide, at least in the urban areas,” said US-based Haiti expert Robert Fatton.

 

Although Fatton then says it is “not fully representative but it indicates a trend”, AFP uses some seriously flawed polling to report:

Out of 50 people questioned by AFP in Port-au-Prince after polls closed on Sunday at 5:00 pm local time (2200 GMT), not a single one said they had voted for Manigat, a soft-spoken 70-year-old and long-time opposition figure.

It may have been worth pointing out that although Martelly looked particularly popular in Petionville and Cite Soleil, he also was particularly popular in those areas in the first round. Martelly received nearly 50 percent of the votes in those areas, despite winning just over 20 percent nationwide (you can download the first round database, here). Furthermore, the total votes counted in Petionville and Cite Soleil accounted for roughly 5 percent of the total votes counted nationwide, a significant portion but certainly not representative of the total. If the AFP does decide to defy the CEP and report on partial results, it should at least provide the context necessary to interpret those results.

 

Publishing articles that try to definitevely declare a winner before official results are announced could lead to the sort of street protests that occurred after the first round. As the same AFP article notes, “Even before voting stations closed on Sunday, Martelly supporters were triumphantly taking to the streets”.

Monday – Update 11:31 AM: Also from Nick Miroff’s article in the Washington Post, reports that Martelly supporters are already “sure that Preval…was scheming to cheat them,” something we covered here. Miroff writes:

It was unclear whether the problems Sunday were caused by dirty tricks, Haiti’s general disorganization, or a bit of both. Voters, particularly Martelly supporters, said they were sure that Preval – who called Sunday for “cool heads” to prevail – was scheming to cheat them.

“If they don’t know how to count, we’ll show them how to count,” warned Pierre Yonel, 25, who wore a pink-and-white bracelet – Martelly’s colors – with the slogan “Tet Kale” (Bald Head), a reference to the candidate’s appearance.

 Also worth mentioning the fact that there were reports of campaining on election day, something expressly warned about the day before the election by the OAS mission. The OAS warned that:

article 122.2 of the Electoral Law states that “all public manifestations in favor of one or several candidates, one or several political parties, grouping or regroupings are formally banned on Election Day and until the proclamation of the results”. The candidates have the responsibility to inform their supporters about this stipulation and warn them not to wear any clothes or carry any visible signs that indicate their political preferences on Election Day.

 

Monday – Update 10:57 AM: Although announcements from the CEP, OAS, France, and MINUSTAH, all noted higher turnout in yesterday’s election this contradicts most reports from the ground. The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff provides a more nuanced view:

Haiti struggled once more to pull off an orderly election Sunday, as confusion broke out at polls and turnout appeared low, but when the day ended quietly without major violence, election officials and foreign observers called it a success.

 Although noting that at “many voting stations, the process seemed to unfold relatively smoothly”, Miroff adds that, “it was not difficult to find voters in the capital who had been turned away.” The low turnout was noted in othe reports as well. Jacqueline Charles and Frances Robles write in the Miami Herald that in most voting stations there were “more political observers and roving operatives present than voters”. A midday report from observers from Let Haiti Live, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties also reported “Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters.”

On the other hand, here are some comments from the CEP, MINUSTAH, and France:

CEP: “Haiti’s top electoral officer, Gaillot Dorsinvil, hailed what he called the large turnout of voters in the first presidential run-off vote in the Caribbean nation” 

MINUSTAH:AFP quotes Edmond Mulet, head of MINUSTAH, as saying, “I’ve seen a lot of differences compared to November 28. Participation is greater.”

France: “The second round of elections in Haiti took place in a satisfactory manner” and “the mobilisation of a large number of voters, which resulted in an increase in participation is a success” said foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero.

Update 11:38 PM:Ansel Herz posts a MINUSTAH document listing security incidents and irregularities as of 1 PM today. The document shows MINUSTAH to have responded in at least five of ten departments by midday. The most serious situation described in the document occurred in the Artibonite department, and resulted in one death:

 

On 20 March in École Nationale Poste Pierrot voting centre (VC Code / 05-21-55-10-04-9) in Dessalines (Artibonite Department) According to information received, ARGBAT troops went to the site to monitor and respond and were confronted with shots from the fighting group. Preliminary information received indicates that MINUSTAH military defended themselves, firing an unknown number of live shots at the group, injuring one person, upon evacuation by MINUSTAH to the Saint March hospital; the individual succumbed to his injuries. There is also incoming information that a local voting centre in Dessalines (Ecole Nationale Ogé-05-21-55-10-03-16) was invaded this morning, and elections materials were destroyed. Three armed individuals were reported to have been arrested in connection.

On 20 March at 11:07 hours in St Marc (Artibonite Department) that deferrals due to security situation, voting centers followings of the lower Artibonite Have closed: Ecole Nationale de Haute Feuilles (05-21-55-10-02-3) Ecole Nationale


Four voting centers were also closed, at least temporarily in Grand Anse:

On 20 March, at École Nationale Anse -à-Mason Voting Centre (08-02-05-12-06-11) in Pestel (Grande Anse Department) armed suspects fired gunshots. MINUSTH Military responded on the scene by firing in the air. The four voting centres are currently closed. 

Most news reports have indicated that overall voting was smoother than the first round, however there were still reports of delays, voters being turned away, voter intimidation and other irregularities throughout the day.

Update 9:05 PM: Although commentators may point to the CEP when assigning blame for the disorganization seen today (not without reason as the CEP has been discredited for some time), it is worth pointing out, as some already have, that MINUSTAH is responsible for the delivery of election materials. Many polling stations throughout the west department, as well as the south and southwest departments, had to delay opening because of missing voting materials or the delivery of the wrong voting materials. The four largest voting stations in Port-au-Prince were also affected, according to the OAS chief Colin Granderson. Alterpresse spoke with the MINUSTAH spokeperson, Sylvie Van Wildenberg:

 

In an interview with AlterPresse, the spokesman of MINUSTAH, Sylvie Van Wildenberg, admits that the UN mission, responsible for transporting sensitive equipment and non-sensitive in polling centers, has experienced some difficulties.

 

“Indeed there were some problems in the transportation of sensitive materials and non-sensitive this morning. This does not depend entirely on MINUSTAH since some items in the lots to be delivered were also missing, “said Sylvie Van Wildenberg. [google translation]


Update 8:46 PM:
Jacqueline Charles and Frances Robles report in The Miami Herald on today’s second round, contrasting the authorities statements with reports on the ground:

 

In some places, there were no ballots. In others, only dry ink to mark a voter’s finger. In many more, disenfranchised voters were turned away from polls and boisterous political party operatives got in the way.

But despite the irregularities, authorities said the day went smoothly, without the widespread fraud that marred November’s election.

After quoting CEP president Dorsinvil and the chead of the OAS observation mission Colin Granderson saying that things went well, Charles and Robles then report on some of the irregularities seen on the ground: missing ink and ballots, which causing delays up to 6 hours; stations being sent the wrong ballots; voters being turned away for not being on the electoral lists; low turnout, resulting in “more political observers and roving operatives present than voters”; and intimidation and repeat voting from partisans.

Although announcements from the CEP, OAS and MINUSTAH may be overly optimistic regarding participation, which was generally reported to be lower than the first round, there were no large scale protests or destruction of polling stations as there were in the first round. There were not as many reports of widespread ballot stuffing either. But although overall levels of fraud may have been lower than in the first round, much of the disorganization that disenfranchised many in November was reportedly seen today as well.
 
Update 5:47 PM: Polls were kept open until 5:00 PM, an extra hour, around Port-au-Prince due to delays in delivering voting materials and general disorganization this morning, but some on twitter are saying the streets are already rather empty. Democracy NOW!’s Sharif Kouddous tweets, “Half an hour to go before polls close in Haiti election. Normally busy streets are empty,” and shares this picture. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti tweets, “extending polling hours 1 hour has not increased turnout. Many polling stations empty already.”

Update 5:25 PM: Edmond Mulet continues to be cited in the press giving optimistic assesments of the situation, despite observer and media reports telling of extremely low turnout. After telling AFP earlier that participation was greater than in the first round, he now tells AP that, “Everything is peaceful, is more or less OK, much better than Nov. 28.” As was pointed out earlier, Mulet gave an overly optimistic assesment of the situation during the first round. It would seem appropriate to mention this when citing his assesment of the second round. Although there have not been reports of wide-spread violence, there have been some isolated cases. Journalist Allyn Gaestel recently tweeted: “Mario andresol [chief of police] said were two “elections related deaths” today in Desdunes and Marchand-Dessalines.”

Update 5:05 PM:
The latest AP report indicates that the lack of voting supplies delayed voting through multiple departments, and not just in and around Port-au-Prince. Trenton Daniel and Ben Fox report, “A spokesman for the electoral council told The Associated Press that poll supplies such as ballots and ink were delayed in reaching voting centers in the southern, southwestern, and western regions of Haiti.”

Update 4:30 PM: Kenneth Kidd reports for the Toronto Star that the election day began with a “disorganized start Sunday in an eerie echo of November’s botched opening round of balloting.” In one polling station that Kidd attended with an observor team from the Franchophonie organization he noted that the opening was delayed because some of the materials “bore the logo of Haiti’s 2009 Senate campaign.” Kidd continues:

Confusingly, the presidential ballots were dated 2011 while those for picking a local deputy to the national assembly were dated 2010.

“That’s crazy,” Lauren Gimenez, another member of the Francophonie group, said of the scene. “It’s worse than the first time.”

An official with the electoral council later confirmed that there was similar confusion over dates and ballots at polling stations across Port-au-Prince, with the start of voting routinely delayed.

Crowds outside grew boisterous all over the capital.

The dating issue only amplified the disarray at the nearby Lycée National de Pétionville, where 13,523 people were supposed to be casting their ballots.

When they opened the boxes containing ballots there, just before 6 a.m., they were for a past Senate race, with no presidential ballots anywhere to be found. Nor were there enough ballot boxes for all the polls at the Lycée.


Kidd also points out that although some voting centers seemed to be operating well, it was not necessarily because of the increased efforts of the international community and the CEP:

Just 30 metres away, in the outdoor garden of another school, the Frères de l’instruction Chretienne, perfect order reigned — voters’ lists posted where they should be, voters queuing calmly and voices all but hushed.

“C’est parfait,” smiled Gimenez, gazing at a place where 14,823 people were on the voters’ list.

And while it would be nice to think of this station as an exemplar of the electoral council’s promised overhaul of the voting machinery, the firing of roughly 500 workers from November’s fiasco and a boost in training, it would also be wrong.

Here, thankfully, nothing had changed, because in November “it was exactly the same,” Charette recalled.


Update 3:34 PM:
Polls are staying open one hour later, at least in the areas in and around Port-au-Prince. Polls had been set to close at 4 PM (5 PM EST).

Update 3:20 PM: As we noted below, Edmond Mulet told AFP that participation looked greater than in the first round, well, as a reminder, here was Mulet’s rosy assessment from election day in November:

 

“In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful,” Mulet, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH which is helping to police the elections, told AFP.

“I see a great passion of citizens and from citizens for democracy in this country. MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It’s an electoral celebration,” Mulet said.

“The decision of the people will be respected. There are some small administrative problems, but no big problem that is going to reduce participation.”

And we all know how the first round turned out.

Update 3:07 PM: It is perhaps not surprising that Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker recently tweeted, “Lines dwindling to zero at largest voting centre in Petionville. Little interest with 2.5 hours still to go…and it opened 2 hours late.” Although Martelly received about 60 percent of the votes counted in Petionville in the first round, the participation rate was just 14 percent. Martelly received 8 percent of his countrywide vote total from Petionville. You can download the first round database here.

Update 2:37 PM: The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles tweets, “All voting centers that had a late start will remain open til 6 pm today, #haiti #elections spokesman just told me.”

Update 2:19 PM: AFP quotes Edmond Mulet, head of MINUSTAH, as saying, “I’ve seen a lot of differences compared to November 28. Participation is greater.” The statement from Mulet would seem to contradict what observers had earlier reported:

Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to [sic] first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters.

Many of the problems of the first round were reportedly repeated; polling stations opening late, missing materials, voters having a hard time finding the correct voting location, and voters not finding their names on the electoral lists. The chaos of the first round, where 12 of 19 presidential candidates called for the elections annullment in the early afternoon and dozens of polling stations were destroyed or closed down would be hard to replicate, however the efforts to remedy the general disorganization and low turnout of the first round may have fallen short.

Update 1:20 PM: Worth noting is that the failure to issue new identification cards before the first round was not remedied for the second round. The day before the November 28 first round, the New York Times reported, “Less than half of the more than 400,000 new and replacement national identification cards necessary for voting are thought to have been distributed, leading to intense frustration.” After the first round, the CEP said in a press release, citing article 32 of the electoral law, that:

 

Accordingly, citizens holding a national identification card issued after September 28, 2010 are not eligible to vote in the second round of Presidential and Legislative Elections of 20 March. (google translation) 

Update 12:58 PM: Just received this mid-day report from Melinda Miles of Let Haiti Live who is monitoring the election today together with Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties. The full report follows:

Midday Progress Report: Low Participation and Obstacles for the March 20th Election in Haiti

Compiled by Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica Forum. Observer teams include representatives from: Let Haiti Live, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties

The morning started off quietly  and was marked by low voter turn out in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on this second round election day. Teams visited polling places throughout downtown Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil, Petionville, Delmas, Carrefour, and the camps for internally displaced people (homeless earthquake survivors) at Corail and Kanaran.

Initial observations:
– Many voting bureaus opened several hours late or still have not opened now, at mid-day.
– Lack of materials (ink, ballot boxes, etc) was a major obstacle to voting.
– Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters.
– In many places where people did attempt to vote, they were thwarted by not finding their names on the electoral lists.

As the polls were supposed to open at 6am, a small group gathered outside the Lycee Cite Soleil. Inside the polling station was not yet ready to receive voters. The majority of people in the street seemed uninterested in elections, just passed by on their way to other things. Security was lighter than in November, but still a significant MINUSTAH presence in the street. Later at 7:45am the voting bureaus opened and there were no lines. Several would-be voters could not find their names on the electoral lists and were noisily complaining. In the street some partisans for Michel Martelly were telling people to vote for him. Cite Soleil has approximately 150,000 eligible voters but it appeared as though not more than 200 were participating during the first few hours of voting.

At the IDP Camp Kanaran (also know as Canaan) there was no voting bureau set up, the same situation as in November. Not far away at the Corail Camp, the only voting bureau for the camp of more than ten thousand had 40 registered voters, many of whom were poll workers/observers. At the time of our visit around 7am there was more security and foreign observers than voters. There were four UN vehicles and one armored personnel carrier as well as more than a dozen soldiers and police in bullet proof vests. A Canadian police officer noted rumors that voters from Kanaran were expected to come to the Corail voting bureau to attempt to vote.

In some voting stations in Port-au-Prince, poll workers had ballot boxes marked for senator even though there is no second round for senator in the west department. In some polling stations, such as the Lecole Municipale Dumarsais Estime, there were ballots for deputy but not for president. In other places the ballot boxes did not arrive labeled, leading to confusion. At the ONA at the Champ de Mars there were no materials to vote at 8am, and at the Lecole Fleurant in Christ Roi they lacked ballots and ink. At the Lycee Toussaint many people could not find their names on the voter lists.

At the Lycee Petionville many people attempted to vote and a long line led around the corner. The bureaus opened late and some materials were missing. Outside the bureau at about 9:30am MINUSTAH Mission Head Edmond Mulet spoke to the press while only a few steps away partisans of Michel Martelly campaigned for him, encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Tet Kale. The police did not intervene. At 11:25am there was still a large number of people attempting to vote at the Lycee and many were complaining because they couldn’t find their names on the electoral lists.

Although normally the streets are very empty on election day, today the roadside markets are functioning normally and women are selling all kinds of products throughout the city. One produce seller told our team, “Moun grangou pa al vote; Hungry people don’t go to vote.” Another remarked that the distance many voters were required to travel to vote discouraged them from participating.

Update 12:34 PM: Tweets from people on the ground continue to show number of irregularities:

Ansel Herz (@mediahacker): MINUSTAH: 40+ voting centers experiencing “voter dissastisfaction” – missing names, materials. In Cite Soleil, ppl tore up ballots.

MINUSTAH: At Ecole Nat de Cerca Carvajal in Center Dep a group neared voting center, and shot 3 rounds.  UNPOL fired back one shot.

Miami Herald’s Frances Robles, in Gonaives (@roblesherald): Rural gonaives poll supe tells me she’s turned away about 50 voters because they don’t find names on list.

College union de gonaives missing hundreds of voter names from lists.

People complaining that “observers” get people to change their vote.

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles): Where are observers at grammer school in Cite Soleil? Young men encouraging voters to vote a candidate. Voters screaming can’t find name

MT @hanstippen: most locally outsourced voting material  there but foreign furnished materials like ink, tally sheets missing.

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (@IJDH): RT @Twadhaiti Haiti’s election: the second round doesn’t look any different than the first. Irregularities etc.

Update 11:31 AM: After the first round of the elections, CEPR conducted a full recount of the tally sheets posted by the CEP, the only independent recount done of the vote. You can see the full sortable database, here. Those who are on the ground observing today can check results at polling station in first round, and see number of first round irregularities. You can also check out the interactive graphing tool to sort through the first round data, available here.

Update 11:12 AM: After the first round, which saw the lowest voter turnout for a presidential election in the Western Hemisphere in recent history, numerous pleas were made by the international community to vote. The UN News Center reported on a MINUSTAH statement just days before the election:

The mission, known as MINUSTAH, said in a press statement that by going to the polls in large numbers, Haitians would be able to “demonstrate their commitment to exercise their sovereign right to choose the leaders they trust.” 

 This, however, misses the point of why turnout was so low. Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, was arbitrarily excluded from the ballot (as Aristide was quick to point out upon his return) and confusion, outright fraud and poor organization made voting a near impossibility for thousands more. A look at recent tweets for those observing the election on the ground paints a picture of low turnout and a high number of irregularities once again:

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles):It’s still early but turnout very light. Maybe Haitians waiting – like they did on first round b4 cancellation call.

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (@IJDH): Low turnout at Lycee Fermin polling station in PAP.

At Ecole Nat Rep de Chile in PAP, still waiting for voting materials. Poll workers have nothing to do

Melinda Miles (@melindayiti): School of the Republic of Chile supposed to have 952 voters but at this point ppl can’t vote yet because no materials RT @ViveHaiti

I see more people leaving church than leaving the voting stations. RT @gaetantguevara

AP’s Jacob Kushner (@jacobkushner): Last election, a voting bureau at Port-au-Prince’s general hospital never opened because ballots never arrived. This time? No ink.


Update 10:17 AM:
Ansel Herz flags a telling quote from the OAS’ Colin Granderson, from MarketWatch:

“There will be irregularities,” said Colin Granderson, head of the international OAS-led observer mission. “I asked if buses had been organized for camp refugees and nothing had been done; lists of registered voters are still missing.”

Mr. Granderson also criticized both candidates for instilling a climate of violence. “Manigat and Martelly have said they’ll take to the streets the day after the elections to proclaim their victory,” he said. “It’s irresponsible.”

If you want to get caught up with all the problems documented in the first round of balloting, you can check back on HRRW’s Live-Blog from the first round or our subsequent reports documenting the numerous irregularities.

Sunday – Update 10:10 AM: Voting centers have been open for nearly four hours already, yet according to many reports a significant number of polling stations have yet open. Reuters reports:

In the wrecked capital Port-au-Prince, several polling stations were unable to open on time because materials such as ink to mark voters’ fingers and labels to mark the urns had not arrived, witnesses said. Arguments also broke out over which officials and party representatives should be there.

The Reuters report is confirmed by those observing the election who have been tweeting updates. Here are some of the recent updates from those on the ground:

Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker (@sebwalker):Problems with Haiti vote seem worse at this point than in 1st round. Hearing of more complaints, seeing shorter lines than back in November

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (@IJDH): Voting suspended for unknown reasons at Lycee Marie Jean, biggest polling place in PAP. Frustration mounting.

At a second polling station near Chan Mars. Again, no ballots, no ink, no voting yet. Another 4000 ppl registered here.

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles): “I consider this a violation of my rights,” Hernst Chery, 40, a social worker waiting to vote. Poll still not opened.

Melinda Miles (@melindayiti): In the west dept (PAP) there is no runoff for senator but there are ballot boxes for senator in the Lycee Petion downtown PAP

Supporters of presidential candidate Michel Martelly (including military contractors) have been complaining of allegedly “fraudulent” polls showing Mirlande Manigat with a lead over Martelly. Instead, Martelly backers claim that “real numbers show Martelly with 70% to low double-digits for Manigat.” Martelly supporters such as Hotel Oloffson proprietor (and Martelly’s cousin) Richard Morse claim that even some polls showing Martelly leading are fraudulent, and that his support is actually much higher. AFP reports:

Poll results released Thursday showed Martelly with a comfortable lead — 53 percent support against 47 percent for Manigat.??However, experts warn that historically weak voter turnout makes forecasts unreliable: just 23 percent of 4.7 million eligible voters cast ballots in the first round November 28.

AFP also reports that “singer Michel Martelly …has a strong following among Haiti’s youth,” although providing no information to support this statement. Martelly is well-known for his music, but this did not seem to lead to popularity at the ballot box in November; he received only 4.5 percent of votes from registered voters.

The cries of “fraud” could be cause for concern, considering the pro-Martelly riots that lasted for days following the first round of elections. While the first round was indeed marked by numerous irregularities, and some documented fraud, ultimately a review of the tally sheets from the election showed that it was impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. The CEP’s results showing government-backed Jude Celestin placing second were arbitrary, but so were claims that Martelly definitively edged out Celestin. Rather than proceed with caution, Martelly supporters burned government offices and Celestin’s party headquarters, with at least two people being killed in the violence. Martelly did or said little to attempt to reign in the rioters.

In the wake of Aristide’s return to Haiti, and Manigat’s high-profile, if last minute, support for his coming back, it is possible that Manigat could receive an “Aristide bump”, with more people heading to the polls, or deciding to shift their support to Manigat. This could easily sway electoral victory in her direction, and the bump in support would probably not even be reflected in the most recent polling.

But signals from the Martelly camp have been troubling, suggesting that anything less than victory will be seen as fraud, and, therefore, cause for riots by Martelly supporters whom Manigat has described as a “pink militia”, in reference to the trademark color of the Martelly campaign.

Reuters reported last week:

In an echo of the ill-tempered first round, Martelly exhorted supporters to “vote — and watch out,” saying plans were afoot to “steal” what he forecast would be his victory.

Also contained in the the same Reuters report:

Manigat accused Martelly supporters of attacking with stones and bottles a rally she tried to hold in Mirebalais, south of Thomonde, in the Central Plateau on Tuesday. At least one person was hurt, she said.

Referring to the party color of pink worn by Martelly and his fanatical young backers, she denounced what she called the apparent formation of a “pink militia” that she said could pose a dangerous threat of political intolerance.

“I don’t desire a dictatorship for my country, wherever it comes from,” she said, appealing for calm among voters.

The attack on Manigat supporters was not the first; AFP reported March 8 that:

Three men who were putting up posters in support of Haitian presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat have been found dead, their families announced today after finding their mutilated bodies.

It is also possible that polls showing Martelly in the lead are inflated. It would not be the first case in which less-than-credible polls showing a rightwing candidate in the lead were used as justification to cry “fraud” when the results came in. The Venezuelan opposition, for example, cited polls fabricated by Penn, Shoen, Berland & Associates in crying fraud following President Hugo Chavez’s overwhelming victory in the 2004 recall referendum. The international media were little impressed by the claims, and following the release of polls in the lead-up to Venezuela’s 2006 presidential elections showing opposition candidate Manuel Rosales with a significant lead, Doug Schoen made a hasty and unexpected departure from the polling firm (he then went on to write the little-read anti-Chavez screed, The Threat Closer to Home). ??In this regard, it is worth noting that Martelly campaign manager Damian Merlo formerly worked with the International Republican Institute – known for conducting polls that often produce an outcome reflecting IRI policy positions.

Supporters of presidential candidate Michel Martelly (including military contractors) have been complaining of allegedly “fraudulent” polls showing Mirlande Manigat with a lead over Martelly. Instead, Martelly backers claim that “real numbers show Martelly with 70% to low double-digits for Manigat.” Martelly supporters such as Hotel Oloffson proprietor (and Martelly’s cousin) Richard Morse claim that even some polls showing Martelly leading are fraudulent, and that his support is actually much higher. AFP reports:

Poll results released Thursday showed Martelly with a comfortable lead — 53 percent support against 47 percent for Manigat.??However, experts warn that historically weak voter turnout makes forecasts unreliable: just 23 percent of 4.7 million eligible voters cast ballots in the first round November 28.

AFP also reports that “singer Michel Martelly …has a strong following among Haiti’s youth,” although providing no information to support this statement. Martelly is well-known for his music, but this did not seem to lead to popularity at the ballot box in November; he received only 4.5 percent of votes from registered voters.

The cries of “fraud” could be cause for concern, considering the pro-Martelly riots that lasted for days following the first round of elections. While the first round was indeed marked by numerous irregularities, and some documented fraud, ultimately a review of the tally sheets from the election showed that it was impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. The CEP’s results showing government-backed Jude Celestin placing second were arbitrary, but so were claims that Martelly definitively edged out Celestin. Rather than proceed with caution, Martelly supporters burned government offices and Celestin’s party headquarters, with at least two people being killed in the violence. Martelly did or said little to attempt to reign in the rioters.

In the wake of Aristide’s return to Haiti, and Manigat’s high-profile, if last minute, support for his coming back, it is possible that Manigat could receive an “Aristide bump”, with more people heading to the polls, or deciding to shift their support to Manigat. This could easily sway electoral victory in her direction, and the bump in support would probably not even be reflected in the most recent polling.

But signals from the Martelly camp have been troubling, suggesting that anything less than victory will be seen as fraud, and, therefore, cause for riots by Martelly supporters whom Manigat has described as a “pink militia”, in reference to the trademark color of the Martelly campaign.

Reuters reported last week:

In an echo of the ill-tempered first round, Martelly exhorted supporters to “vote — and watch out,” saying plans were afoot to “steal” what he forecast would be his victory.

Also contained in the the same Reuters report:

Manigat accused Martelly supporters of attacking with stones and bottles a rally she tried to hold in Mirebalais, south of Thomonde, in the Central Plateau on Tuesday. At least one person was hurt, she said.

Referring to the party color of pink worn by Martelly and his fanatical young backers, she denounced what she called the apparent formation of a “pink militia” that she said could pose a dangerous threat of political intolerance.

“I don’t desire a dictatorship for my country, wherever it comes from,” she said, appealing for calm among voters.

The attack on Manigat supporters was not the first; AFP reported March 8 that:

Three men who were putting up posters in support of Haitian presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat have been found dead, their families announced today after finding their mutilated bodies.

It is also possible that polls showing Martelly in the lead are inflated. It would not be the first case in which less-than-credible polls showing a rightwing candidate in the lead were used as justification to cry “fraud” when the results came in. The Venezuelan opposition, for example, cited polls fabricated by Penn, Shoen, Berland & Associates in crying fraud following President Hugo Chavez’s overwhelming victory in the 2004 recall referendum. The international media were little impressed by the claims, and following the release of polls in the lead-up to Venezuela’s 2006 presidential elections showing opposition candidate Manuel Rosales with a significant lead, Doug Schoen made a hasty and unexpected departure from the polling firm (he then went on to write the little-read anti-Chavez screed, The Threat Closer to Home). ??In this regard, it is worth noting that Martelly campaign manager Damian Merlo formerly worked with the International Republican Institute – known for conducting polls that often produce an outcome reflecting IRI policy positions.

As has been widely reported, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now back in Haiti, ending his seven year exile in South Africa. We’ll be updating this space throughout the evening and over the weekend with the latest updates from twitter, news reports and sources on the ground. Please check back often, as the situation continues to change rapidly.

Sunday, Update 9:53 AM: Haitians head to the polls today to vote for president and we’ll be updating throughout the day here, with the latest observations from the ground as well as news reports and analysis.


Update 4:14 PM:
Worth noting is that despite the pressure from the US, France and others, and contrary to what prior media reports had suggested, the Haitian government seemed to provide at least some sort of security and state presence yesterday. The General Secretary for the presidency, Fritz Longchamp was at the airport to greet Aristide, and Reuters reported yesterday that “Haiti’s government said it had drawn up a security plan in the expectation Aristide’s return would generate crowds.” Today, Retuers reports that, “Outgoing President Rene Preval, who is angry at what he sees as excessive U.S. and U.N. meddling in his country, sent officials to meet Aristide and an official car.”

Update 1:41 PM: This video report from Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker, provides some great footage from yesterday’s arrival in Haiti of former president Aristide. Walker reports from the street:

You can see the scene here right outside Aristide’s house. This is where several thousand of his supporters have been gathering for the last few hours. There is music blaring and a carnival atmosphere, but one of the big questions now is what is Arsitide going to say to those supporters in terms of whether or not they should participate in Sunday’s presidential vote.

Concluding:

 

It’s unclear what Aristides plans are or exactly how much support he can muster after 7 years, but judging from the first few hours of of his arrival home, there is a significant political force back on the scene.

It should also be added that although many are waiting some sort of a political endorsement, he has continually said he plans to focus on issues relating to education and health care as a resident of Haiti, as Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman said, “Of that he is really clear about right now.”

Update 12:11 AM:
Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! filed another report last night covering the plane ride, the reception and the trip to Aristide’s house. Goodman reports on a conversation she had with Frantz Gabriel in Aristide’s home:

 

In Tabarre, in the Aristide’s home, I had a chance to talk to Frantz Gabriel. He actually is a U.S. war veteran and a Haitian. He was with the Aristides in 2004 when the U.S. embassy when the U.S. embassy rep came to the house to kick them out and put them on that plane with the American flag that ultimately landed them in the Central African Republic.

Why it’s relevant today is the statements of the State Department over and over—first P.J. Crowley, then repeated by the State Department spokesman [Mark] Toner. When P.J. Crowley was there he tweeted out, ‘Aristide is the past. Haitians must look to the future.’ And then Toner talked about how the Aristides had willingly gone to the Central African Republic. I asked Frantz Gabriel about that, who was on that plane with them, and he said there was nothing voluntary about it.

Well after seven years, seven years of exile, the Aristides have once again returned two days before the election will take place for the next president of Haiti. Jean-Bertrand Aristide will not participate in that election; he’s already been president twice, though he did not serve his full terms in either case. What is clear is the massive amount of support he has among the Haitian people, which is probably why the U.S. government is so concerned about Aristide returning. He says now he will focus on education and healthcare.

 

To read the full transcript or listen to the entire report, click here. Be sure to check the Democracy NOW! blog often as they continue to report from Haiti.

Satuday, Update 11:35 AM: Time to finally give the New York Times some credit. After downplaying the crowds yesterday, at first describing them as a “few dozen”, and later “several hundred”, in the most recent update from last night, the Times reports:

 

Thousands of people cheered, danced and blocked streets around the airport upon his arrival. Then they swarmed the grounds of his spacious home, climbing over walls to get on the property, scaling trees to get a look at him and massing on his porch to peer into windows — once the thick crowd parted enough for him to get out of his car and make it inside. Several people swiped coconuts from his trees and cracked them open during an impromptu celebration under the fierce sun. 

The video that is linked to below (here) provides a good sense of the atmosphere as Aristide arrives home.

Update 9:46 PM: The video availabe here, from Etant Dupaine, is probably the best shot of the crowds surrounding Aristide’s vehicle as he arrives home this afternoon.

Update 7:24 PM: More pictures from today, from Ansel Herz. This one in particular gives the viewer some sense of the crowd. Also, see all of his tweets on the wikileaks revelations in one place: here.
 
Update 6:48 PM:
MINUSTAH has posted a pretty nice slide show of Aristide’s return today.

Update 6:23 PM: Wikileaks cables, released today, expose the extent to which the United States and France have sought to neutralize Aristide and and how far they went in pressuring South Africa not to let him return to Haiti. Although the US was calling on Aristide to delay his return until after the election, what these cables show, is that it has long been US policy to try and keep Aristide from returning. From the wikileaks cable entitled “FRENCH SHARE CONCERNS ON POSSIBLE ARISTIDE RETURN TO HAITI” from 2005:

 

1. (C) Poloff and Embassy Africa Watcher delivered reftel demarche July 1 to both MFA DAS-equivalent for Central America and the Caribbean Gilles Bienvenu and MFA AF PDAS-equivalent Elisabeth Barbier. Bienvenu stated that the GOF shared our analysis of the implications of an Aristide return to Haiti, terming the likely repercussions “catastrophic.” Bienvenu actively sought our thoughts on next steps to prevent Aristide from returning. Initially expressing caution when asked about France demarching the SARG, Bienvenu noted that Aristide was not a prisoner in South Africa and that such an action could “create difficulties.” However, Bienvenu later offered to express our shared concerns in Pretoria, perhaps under the pretext that as a country desiring to secure a seat on the UN Security Council, South Africa could not afford to be involved in any way with the destabilization of another country. Barbier, speaking on behalf of the AF bureau, however, did not foresee any problems at all in delivering a demarche in Pretoria.

 

2. (S) Bienvenu speculated on exactly how Aristide might return, seeing a possible opportunity to hinder him in the logistics of reaching Haiti. If Aristide traveled commercially, Bienvenu reasoned, he would likely need to transit certain countries in order to reach Haiti. Bienvenu suggested a demarche to CARICOM countries by the U.S. and EU to warn them against facilitating any travel or other plans Aristide might have. 

 Be sure to keep up with Ansel Herz as he continues to tweet quotes from the cables.

Update 6:07 PM:
In this interview with Telesur (in Spanish), Colombia peace activist Piedad Cordoba, who was in Haiti today, speaks about Aristide’s return, calling his presence important for Haiti.

Update 6:01 PM: Democracy NOW!’s Sharif Kouddous has posted this video showing the chanting crowds of thousands outside Aristide’s residence in Tabarre this afternoon.

Update 5:57 PM: The Norwegien paper Aftenposten has posted 14 wikileaks cables on Aristide available at their website. Follow Ansel Herz (@mediahacker) for revelations as they come. His latest tweets are below:

 

“Bahamas Prime Min. Christie complained USG owed him a call when it decided to “remove him from power.” #Aristide #Haiti http://j.mp/gONGkc

“US upset when Dominican Pres. said, post-coup, Aristide has “great popular support,” advocated for his inclusion. http://j.mp/gKoCeW #Haiti”

Update 5:32 PM: In case you missed Aristide’s press conference from this morning, you can watch the entire thing, here.

Update 5:07 PM: With Aristide now back in Haiti, some will surely be trying to equate Aristide and “Baby Doc”, at which point it would be good to remember the following, from AP earlier this week:

Reed Brody, a counsel for Human Rights Watch, said it would be difficult to link the former president directly to alleged crimes by his followers.

It would also be wrong to equate Aristide to the Duvalier years, when repression was much more widespread, Brody said. Next to recent years under outgoing President Rene Preval, “the Aristide periods were probably the periods of least violence in Haiti’s history,” he said.

FAIR also had a piece recently on the false equivalence.

Update 4:32 PM: Amy Goodman will appearing on CBC’s As It Happens program this evening at 5:30. Goodman, who accompanied Aristide on the return trip from South Africa has been providing exclusive coverage of the former president. You can listen to the program online, here.

Update 3:22 PM: The New York Times has once again updated their story on Aristide’s return, and once again it seems to be a bit fuzzy on the math. While the Miami Herald reports that “Outside Aristide’s home in Tabarre, thousands of supporters gathered to welcome him back,” and other sources on the ground put the number close to ten thousand, the New York Times continues to report that just “several hundred” were present.

Update 2:57 PM: We had heard earlier this morning that Haitian radio had reported that Aristide’s plane was delayed and would not be arriving until the afternoon, however shortly there after, just after 9 AM local time, the plane landed. Many journalists were surprised by the lack of crowds at first, although since then they have swelled to thousands. A report from TIME seems to confirm that rumors had spread in Haiti that his flight would be delayed:

 

Aristide actually surprised his followers, who were expecting him to arrive in the early afternoon. Only a couple of hundred supporters were at the airport when his plane landed Friday morning. But as soon as the news was broadcast on the radio, many people seemed to drop everything, suddenly walking toward the airport, carrying branches to welcome him. They wore t-shirts with his portraits and honked the horns of their motorcyles.

Haitian and international press had reported last night that the plane was set to arrive around 10 AM local time.

Update 2:41 PM: Democracy NOW! updates live-blog with new photos from inside Aristide’s house.

Update 2:26 PM: Although there were some reports earlier of tear gas being used, Melinda Miles (@melindayiti) provides an update via Twitter: “Just confirmed w/several journalists at #Aristide’s house a smoke bomb was used by police to discourage climbing walls no tear gas #Haiti.”

Update 1:47 PM: Actor and activist Danny Glover, who flew to South Africa earlier this week to accompany Aristide back to Haiti tweets, “It’s been an honor to help return #Aristide home to #Haiti. Special thanks to @transafrica & Amy Goodman for all your hard work. Viv Ayiti!”.

Update 1:45 PM: Following up on the New York Times coverage (Update from 12:03), the story has now been updated, it reads: “Throughout the capital, Port-au-Prince, the streets were quiet early Friday, but by late morning a throng of several hundred supporters had gathered outside the airport as word spread that he had come back after seven years in exile.” So the Times has gone from a few dozen to “several hundred”, but this still contradicts most reports from the ground. In a phone call, Danny Glover said that there were tens of thousands and that the car he was in could barely move through the crowds. Pictures from the ground also seem to contradict the Times report.

Update 1:08 PM: The AP’s latest on Aristide’s arrival, and the scene on the ground, which Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker recently described as a “carnival atmosphere, unbridled joy on street”. Fox and Daniel report:

 

On Friday, Aristide was mobbed by close allies and journalists outside his private plane before being hustled into an airport VIP lounge as several thousand supporters rallied in the streets outside the terminal.

“It’s one of the most beautiful moments for the Haitian people,” actor Danny Glover, who accompanied Aristide from South Africa, told The Associated Press as he left the VIP lounge before Aristide. “It’s a historic moment for the Haitian people.”

In the street outside the airport, where people listened to his remarks on car radio, there was jubilation.

“This man is our father, without him we haven’t lived,” said 31-year-old Sainvil Petit-Frere, one of about 3,000 cheering and chanting supporters in a quickly growing crowd. “This is the doctor who will heal the country.”

Aristide compared his return to the Haitian revolution that ended slavery in 1804 in what was then a French colony. “Today, may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coups d’etat,” he said with his wife, Mildred, and daughters by his side.

The reporters also point out that Aristide “took a swipe at the decision to bar his political party from the country’s presidential election.” The AP continues:

Aristide, addressing reporters and a Haitian public that clustered around TVs and radios throughout the country, said the decision not to allow his Lavalas Family party disenfranchised the majority in a sharply divided nation.

“Excluding Lavalas, you cut the branches that link the people,” he said in remarks that were otherwise largely devoted to thanking supporters who stayed loyal to him during his exile and helped engineer his return over the objections of the U.S. government. “The solution is inclusion of all Haitians as human beings.”

Update 12:33 PM: Danny Glover just called to say there are tens of thousands in the street and that the car he is in can barely move because of the throngs of people. This picture from Etant Dupaine shows the massive crowd that is outside of Aristide’s former residence in Tabarre.

Update 12:10 PM: Jacqueline Charles tweets that, “Among the delegation officials greeting #jba was a top #Manigat supporter.” More evidence of why now was the time to return, before the election passes and candidates are no longer campaigning. As Charles reported for the Miami Herald earlier today:

 

Throughout quake-ravaged Port-au-Prince on Thursday, newly erected green and white welcome home banners read: “Our mother is here already, our father is coming. We all agree.’’

The “father” refers to the pending arrival of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is expected to return from South Africa on Friday — or as early as Thursday — despite diplomatic attempts to keep him away until after Sunday’s critical presidential and legislative runoff elections.

The fluttering green and white banners — in which the word “mother” refers to presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat — shows to what extent candidates in Haiti’s historic elections are willing to go to court Aristide’s supporters, but also how relevant he remains even after seven years in exile.

Update 12:03 PM: Turns out the New York Times report this morning, which included, “the turnout was far below the thousands many had expected to greet him” was a bit premature. Thousands now following Aristide to his former residence, as seen in this picture from Allyn Gaestel (@samayxalaat).

Update 11:59 AM: Amy Goodman continues to regularly file audio reports from on the ground, her latest is up now. “The scene is amazing, thousands of people just outside the airport where they were held back, but they’re not held back anymore,” reports Goodman. She also confirms they are on their way to the former home of Aristide in Tabarre where crowds have been forming all morning.

Update 11:50 AM: Sharif Kouddous (@sharifkouddous), who is in a car with Danny Glover and others accompanying Aristide, is sharing pictures of the massive crowds that are lining the streets. Not sure where they are headed, but reports are that there are large crowds forming outside Aristide’s former residence as well.

Update 11:38 AM: As can be seen in the background of this picture of Aristide during his press conference, former Colombian Senator and peace activist Piedad Cordoba is in Haiti to welcome Aristide. She is also tweeting (in Spanish) at @piedadcordoba.

Update 11:27 AM: Amy Goodman files her latest audio report from the airport in PaP.

Update 11:24 AM: Although earlier reports had said the crowds were not very large, they appear to be gaining in size. These pictures from Etant Dupaine show many Haitians waiting outside the airport (pic 1, pic 2) while Melina Miles recently tweeted: “Hearing estimates of 5000 in the street outside the airport waiting for #Aristide #Haiti #JBA”.

Update 11:11 AM: More quotes, from those on the ground, via Twitter:

@jacquiecharles: #jba condemns any form of violence. #haiti now speaking French

@jacquiecharles: #jba speaks directly to #haiti youth, but beats on social exclusion and need for education.

@jacquiecharles: #jba ends, blows a kiss ans ends with good, bad times “it’s the same love.” #haiti

@sharifkouddous: Aristide: “we are together. We are side by side. This is our home” #Haiti

@sharifkouddous: Aristide: “Haiti I love you. And I will love you always.”

@melindayiti:”If you could hear my heart you would hear how it beats faster, how it sings a song of consolation for #Haiti” #JBA

@sebwalker: Aristide: “modern day slavery will have to end today…the greatest richness of Haiti is Haitians”

Update 11:01 AM: Watch Aristide speak live, via HaitiXchange.

Update 10:57 AM: A sampling of reports from Twitter as Aristide is now addressing journalists and supports after arriving in PaP.

From @jacquiecharles: #jba retraces his step into exile, thanks all who defended haitian dignity, died from quake and mentiones gerard jean juste.

From @sebwalker: Aristide addressing media at a podium on edge of tarmac…incredible scenes…pays respect to victims of cholera…crowd cheering

and: “Aristide: “Today may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coup d’etat…move from social exclusion towards inclusion”

From @Vladlaguerre: From Aristide thank you the haitian gov,S. A gov,the diplomatic,Dany Glover… http://yfrog.com/h4q6sdyvj

Update 10:43 AM: Reuters quotes CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot:

“Aristide’s return marks an end to the era when the United States gets to choose the political leaders of other countries. It is a historic victory for democracy and self-determination,” said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. 

Update 10:41 AM: The plane has landed and reporters are anxiously awaiting a press conference, expected any minute from the airport. Reporters noted the overwhelming emotion from the Aristide family as they exited the plane, accompanied by Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman, Danny Glover, and others.

Update 10:20 AM: J.F. String has a nice run down of all the Aristide related news in today’s Hemispheric Brief. He also flags an important quote from Robert Fatton on the potential blowback from the US’ hard stand against Aristide’s return:

University of Virginia Haiti scholar Robert Fatton tells the Herald that such a position from the US will only make Aristide more popular than he currently is, in Haiti and elsewhere. “The more [the US] opposes him…the more popular he will be.’’

Update 10:14 AM: Democracy NOW!’s Sharif Kouddous Tweets that the plane has landed. Picture here.

Update 10:10 AM: Crowds are beginning to form. Via Twitter:

AP’s Trenton Daniel(@trentondaniel): Crowds begin to swell outside Port-au-Prince airport for “2nd Jesus Christ.” #Haiti

Haitian Journalist Vladimir Laguerre (@Vladlaguerre): The number of Aristide’s supporters of grow up step by step in front of the Airport.

Update 9:54 AM: Seems as though the streets in PaP and at the airport are pretty calm right now. The latest, via Twitter:

Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker (@sebwalker): On tarmac at PaP airport with waiting for Aristide to arrive. Streets are quiet…for now. He’s due in about an hour

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles): I saw no crowd coming in to airport. A colleague who recently arrived said there were more troops than people. Let’s wait. #Jba #Aristide

Update 9:15 AM: Although many are expressing concern that Aristide’s return could complicate this weekend presidential election, despite his statements to the contrary, the real threat to the elections is the poor organization and fraud that has marred the entire electoral process. The OAS yesterday issued a statement, warning that, “Missteps made during the first round will have the same impact in the second round”. AFP has the story:

The Organisation of American States yesterday denounced irregularities in the training of election personnel in Haiti, saying they could impact this weekend’s presidential runoff.

The OAS, which is conducting a joint electoral observation mission in Haiti with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said training of election officials was “essential” to the success of the poll scheduled for Sunday, following deadly violence and corruption that marred the first round last November.

“It is therefore regrettable that the training of supervisors was once again disrupted not only by those who were excluded because of their poor performance or delinquency during the first round, but also by protests organized by experienced supervisors” who were replaced in the process, the OAS said.

“Missteps made during the first round will have the same impact in the second round,” it said in a statement.

The OAS underlined the need to recruit competent and experienced staff, cautioning that “attempts to insert the names of people who do not meet the criteria can disrupt training and will not help achieve the main objective, which is to improve the organisation of the second round.”

Update 8:51 AM: For those who want to follow along on twitter, we’re at @HaitiAidWatch. As for people tweeting from the ground, Ansel Herz (@mediahacker) is a good start, and here was his suggestions from earlier this morning on other to follow: “#FF on the ground in #Haiti @kimives13 @melindayiti @samayxalaat @sharifkouddous @vladlaguerre @gaetantguevara @carelpedre @sebwalker”

Update 8:43 AM: The AP’s Trenton Daniel and Ben Fox describe the mood on the ground early Friday morning:

Joy filled Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s most ardent followers early Friday as they waited the last few hours until the former president considered by many a champion of the poor returned from seven years of exile.

Thousands were expected to throng the airport to greet the chartered jet carrying Aristide from South Africa, where the government assisted his departure despite a request from U.S. President Barack Obama that the homecoming be postponed until after Haiti’s presidential runoff election Sunday.

“We are going to party,” said 36-year-old mechanic Assey Woy, discussing the news of the ousted leader’s return with friends on a street corner downtown. “It will be like New Year’s Day.”

Energy spread through Aristide’s followers Thursday as word spread across Haiti that he was heading back home. Some joined in a raucous, horn-blaring victory procession. Others decorated the courtyard of his foundation headquarters with Haitian flags and photos of the former president. One woman waited with a bouquet of flowers.

To read the whole article, click here.

Update 8:36 AM: Kenneth Kidd reporting for the Toronto Star, spoke with Patrick Elie about Aristide’s return, and the upcoming elections:

“I think it’s going to be large,” Patrick Elie, a friend and former close adviser to Aristide, said of the likely reception.

“What will happen is that he will, by his presence, expose the fraud that these people running for president truly are,” Elie told the Star. “These people don’t represent the Haitian people.

“The election will go (ahead), but the point will have been made.”

While conceding Martelly has likely picked up supporters in Aristide’s natural constituency, Elie said Martelly can’t claim to be truly popular because voter turnout was only 23 per cent.

“He got 20 per cent of 20 per cent,” said Elie. “That’s 4 per cent of the electorate.”

Update 8:29 AM: Overnight, the plane carrying Aristibe stopped in Dakar to refuel. Amy Goodman, from Democracy NOW! spoke with both Aristide and his wife Mildred during that stop. You can listen to the audio at the links.

Friday, Update 8:20 AM: Best estimate has Aristide’s plan landing somewhere around 10:40 AM EST (that’s 9:40 Haitian time). Reporters are already heading to the airport and we can expect some updates from the airport soon. In the meantime, Sean Christie, writing for South Africa’s Mail & Guardian reports that South Africa paid for Aristide’s flight, a decision sure to rankle Washington:

“We covered the cost of Aristide’s stay in South Africa and now we will facilitate his journey home,” said department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.

Update 10:09 PM: Via Jacqueline Charles, AFP is now reporting (in French) that the plane carrying Aristide, Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman, Danny Glover, and others is set to arrive at 10:00 AM (11:00 EST) in Port-au-Prince tomorrow.

Update 7:47 PM: Ansel Herz’s latest for Inter-Press Service provides important background on this weekend’s election, including the continuing calls for its cancellation:

Some are still calling for the vote to be annulled and re- started. Ginette Cherubin, a member of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), revealed that she and three other members, out of eight, never agreed to the announced results pitting the two candidates against each other. A majority of the council is required to take a decision.

The changed results conformed to the recommendations of a report by the Organization of American States and intense pressure from the United States. The ruling party candidate was thrown out due to alleged fraud and Martelly moved into second place.

Richardson Dumel, a CEP spokesman, refused to confirm that a majority of the body’s members signed the results, saying repeatedly he could not comment on it or Haiti’s electoral law.

Presidential candidate Jean Henry Ceant, who came in fourth in the first round, demanded the CEP provide a copy of the results to a Haitian court. The document, delivered by Dumel, bears a CEP stamp but no signatures. Ceant maintains the election is illegal.

Update 7:37 PM: The Center for Economic and Policy Research released the following statement, calling on governments to respect international law and not try to block Aristide’s return:

No government should stand in the way of Haiti’s former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from returning to Haiti, the Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Mark Weisbrot said today, following news that Aristide was en route to Haiti.

Weisbrot noted that there is still a chance that Washington could pressure the government of Haiti to not let Aristide’s plane land. “That would be even more outrageous, and would probably provoke a strong reaction within Haiti and from other governments.”

Weisbrot added, “President Zuma is to be commended for standing up to the United States government and the UN Secretary General, both of which have attempted to violate international law by preventing President Aristide from returning to his home country.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty that the United States has ratified, states that “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

“This is another example of how most developing countries respect international law more than the United States does,” said Weisbrot. “How can our government preach to others about the rule of law? Or democracy in North Africa, when they do not respect democracy just a few hundred miles from our East Coast?

Full text, here.

Update 7:09 PM: The Congressional Black Caucus has issued a statement regarding Aristide’s return, reports Jacqueline Charles for the Miami Herald. Charles also speaks with CBC member Maxine Water:

The Congressional Black Caucus circulated a resolution calling it “essential” that Aristide be allowed to return to Haiti before the election because he believes that those who ousted him before “will be in a position to block his return” once a new government is established.

“President Aristide has stated that he has no intention of affecting Haiti’s upcoming election,” the resolution says, adding that the U.S. should not “use its power to prevent his planned return to the land of his birth.’’

Waters acknowledged she disagreed with the election and the runoffs, but is “simply in favor of fairness and justice, and a democracy that can carry out a real election.”

She said Aristide wants to help develop education efforts in Haiti and suggested he could “be of terrific assistance to the redevelopment of Haiti.”

She said she’s talked to the White House and the State Department and that they’ve “made it clear” that they’d prefer him not to return before the election.

“Between President Aristide and the South African government, they’ve decided he’s going to return and that’s their decision, no matter what the White House would like,’’ Waters told The Miami Herald. “The bottom line is he’s returning, he’s going to get there.’’
Asked about the White House’s contention that Aristide’s return could be destabilizing, Waters said, “I support democracy, just as I support the people in Egypt, Libya deciding who their leaders should be or who they should not be. I support democracy in Haiti the same way.’’

Update 6:11 PM: As media outlets file stories on Aristide’s return, they would be good to point out the reason for Aristide returning before this Sunday’s election. As Isabeau Doucet reported for the Guardian, “Aides say Aristide fears the election winner might reverse the long-awaited decision to allow his return – both are right-wing candidates long opposed to him. Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said: “He is genuinely concerned that a change in the Haitian government may result in his remaining in South Africa.””

As both Martelly and Manigat campaign for the presidency, they are wary not to anger Aristide supporters who could tip the election either way. Manigat has gone so far as to say she is willing to cooperate with Aristide on education, and reportedly put up a banner near Haiti’s airport that reads, “you have your mother, now your father is coming.” As soon as the election has passed, the enormous pressure from the United States and others could be much more influential with the candidates, and potentially thwart Aristide’s constitutional return.

Update 5:46 PM: Catching up on today’s coverage, check out Greg Grandin’s blog post for The Nation from earlier, where he provides some useful background on what has prevented Aristide from returning previously:

Another thing to watch for during Obama’s visit in Brazil is if Jean-Bertrand Aristide manages to return to Haiti. If Aristide does land in Port-au-Prince while the first family is in Rio, it would be further indication of the United States’s waning influence in the region. As Wikileaks cables reveal, the US Department of State has been intensely lobbying Brazil to use its influence in South Africa, where Aristide resides in exile, to prevent his departure. Unfortunately, the strong independent streak Lula exhibited in other areas of foreign policy didn’t extend to Haiti, where Brazil has largely supported efforts by the “international community,” led by the United States, Canada and France, to place the island country in receivership after having drove Aristide out in 2004. Now, though, Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, seems to have declined to press South Africa to bend to Washington’s will, and Aristide is expected to return home.

Update 5:42 PM: Democracy NOW! has posted a series of pictures from Aristide’s plane. The AP’s Ben Fox is reporting that the first stop will be in Senegal.

Update 5:34 PM: Important point to remember for tomorrow: As Jacqueline Charles reported, “Aristide, 57, arrives with no guarantees from Haiti, says the Haitian government and others privy to the planning of his trip. His request for 60 armed police officers was turned down. Under a law passed in his absence, former presidents are only entitled to five years of state-sponsored protection.”

Update 5:18 PM: Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! files this report just before boarding plane that will bring Aristide back to Haiti. Goodman, met privately with Aristide and his family earlier today with the rest of the delegation that will accompany the former president to Haiti. “He is extremely excited about returning home,” reports Goodman. Although the exact itinerary is not known, they expect to arrive in Haiti around noon on Friday.

Update 5:12 PM: Karen Allen of BBC tweets: “Aristide jets off shortly after 2310 SA time. A new chapter in Haiti’s history begins.”

Update 5:09 PM: While Aristide waits to depart, get caught up on today’s happenings with the latest from the AP:

 

Declaring the “great day has arrived,” Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide arrived at a South African airport Thursday, on his way home after seven years in exile despite President Barack Obama’s bid to keep the hugely popular but controversial figure away from his country until it holds a presidential election this weekend.

Also, Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman, who is accompanying Aristide back to Haiti, reported from South Africa this morning, and will be updating readers here.

Thursday, Update 5:03 PM
: Despite intense diplomatic pressure, which included a call from President Obama to South African President Zuma, Aristide is set to depart for Haiti this evening. Folks tweeting from the ground in South Africa (@jgg17, @sebhervieuare) have posted pictures of Aristide and the South African Foreign Minister boarding the chartered plane at Lanseria airport.

 
 

As has been widely reported, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now back in Haiti, ending his seven year exile in South Africa. We’ll be updating this space throughout the evening and over the weekend with the latest updates from twitter, news reports and sources on the ground. Please check back often, as the situation continues to change rapidly.

Sunday, Update 9:53 AM: Haitians head to the polls today to vote for president and we’ll be updating throughout the day here, with the latest observations from the ground as well as news reports and analysis.


Update 4:14 PM:
Worth noting is that despite the pressure from the US, France and others, and contrary to what prior media reports had suggested, the Haitian government seemed to provide at least some sort of security and state presence yesterday. The General Secretary for the presidency, Fritz Longchamp was at the airport to greet Aristide, and Reuters reported yesterday that “Haiti’s government said it had drawn up a security plan in the expectation Aristide’s return would generate crowds.” Today, Retuers reports that, “Outgoing President Rene Preval, who is angry at what he sees as excessive U.S. and U.N. meddling in his country, sent officials to meet Aristide and an official car.”

Update 1:41 PM: This video report from Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker, provides some great footage from yesterday’s arrival in Haiti of former president Aristide. Walker reports from the street:

You can see the scene here right outside Aristide’s house. This is where several thousand of his supporters have been gathering for the last few hours. There is music blaring and a carnival atmosphere, but one of the big questions now is what is Arsitide going to say to those supporters in terms of whether or not they should participate in Sunday’s presidential vote.

Concluding:

 

It’s unclear what Aristides plans are or exactly how much support he can muster after 7 years, but judging from the first few hours of of his arrival home, there is a significant political force back on the scene.

It should also be added that although many are waiting some sort of a political endorsement, he has continually said he plans to focus on issues relating to education and health care as a resident of Haiti, as Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman said, “Of that he is really clear about right now.”

Update 12:11 AM:
Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! filed another report last night covering the plane ride, the reception and the trip to Aristide’s house. Goodman reports on a conversation she had with Frantz Gabriel in Aristide’s home:

 

In Tabarre, in the Aristide’s home, I had a chance to talk to Frantz Gabriel. He actually is a U.S. war veteran and a Haitian. He was with the Aristides in 2004 when the U.S. embassy when the U.S. embassy rep came to the house to kick them out and put them on that plane with the American flag that ultimately landed them in the Central African Republic.

Why it’s relevant today is the statements of the State Department over and over—first P.J. Crowley, then repeated by the State Department spokesman [Mark] Toner. When P.J. Crowley was there he tweeted out, ‘Aristide is the past. Haitians must look to the future.’ And then Toner talked about how the Aristides had willingly gone to the Central African Republic. I asked Frantz Gabriel about that, who was on that plane with them, and he said there was nothing voluntary about it.

Well after seven years, seven years of exile, the Aristides have once again returned two days before the election will take place for the next president of Haiti. Jean-Bertrand Aristide will not participate in that election; he’s already been president twice, though he did not serve his full terms in either case. What is clear is the massive amount of support he has among the Haitian people, which is probably why the U.S. government is so concerned about Aristide returning. He says now he will focus on education and healthcare.

 

To read the full transcript or listen to the entire report, click here. Be sure to check the Democracy NOW! blog often as they continue to report from Haiti.

Satuday, Update 11:35 AM: Time to finally give the New York Times some credit. After downplaying the crowds yesterday, at first describing them as a “few dozen”, and later “several hundred”, in the most recent update from last night, the Times reports:

 

Thousands of people cheered, danced and blocked streets around the airport upon his arrival. Then they swarmed the grounds of his spacious home, climbing over walls to get on the property, scaling trees to get a look at him and massing on his porch to peer into windows — once the thick crowd parted enough for him to get out of his car and make it inside. Several people swiped coconuts from his trees and cracked them open during an impromptu celebration under the fierce sun. 

The video that is linked to below (here) provides a good sense of the atmosphere as Aristide arrives home.

Update 9:46 PM: The video availabe here, from Etant Dupaine, is probably the best shot of the crowds surrounding Aristide’s vehicle as he arrives home this afternoon.

Update 7:24 PM: More pictures from today, from Ansel Herz. This one in particular gives the viewer some sense of the crowd. Also, see all of his tweets on the wikileaks revelations in one place: here.
 
Update 6:48 PM:
MINUSTAH has posted a pretty nice slide show of Aristide’s return today.

Update 6:23 PM: Wikileaks cables, released today, expose the extent to which the United States and France have sought to neutralize Aristide and and how far they went in pressuring South Africa not to let him return to Haiti. Although the US was calling on Aristide to delay his return until after the election, what these cables show, is that it has long been US policy to try and keep Aristide from returning. From the wikileaks cable entitled “FRENCH SHARE CONCERNS ON POSSIBLE ARISTIDE RETURN TO HAITI” from 2005:

 

1. (C) Poloff and Embassy Africa Watcher delivered reftel demarche July 1 to both MFA DAS-equivalent for Central America and the Caribbean Gilles Bienvenu and MFA AF PDAS-equivalent Elisabeth Barbier. Bienvenu stated that the GOF shared our analysis of the implications of an Aristide return to Haiti, terming the likely repercussions “catastrophic.” Bienvenu actively sought our thoughts on next steps to prevent Aristide from returning. Initially expressing caution when asked about France demarching the SARG, Bienvenu noted that Aristide was not a prisoner in South Africa and that such an action could “create difficulties.” However, Bienvenu later offered to express our shared concerns in Pretoria, perhaps under the pretext that as a country desiring to secure a seat on the UN Security Council, South Africa could not afford to be involved in any way with the destabilization of another country. Barbier, speaking on behalf of the AF bureau, however, did not foresee any problems at all in delivering a demarche in Pretoria.

 

2. (S) Bienvenu speculated on exactly how Aristide might return, seeing a possible opportunity to hinder him in the logistics of reaching Haiti. If Aristide traveled commercially, Bienvenu reasoned, he would likely need to transit certain countries in order to reach Haiti. Bienvenu suggested a demarche to CARICOM countries by the U.S. and EU to warn them against facilitating any travel or other plans Aristide might have. 

 Be sure to keep up with Ansel Herz as he continues to tweet quotes from the cables.

Update 6:07 PM:
In this interview with Telesur (in Spanish), Colombia peace activist Piedad Cordoba, who was in Haiti today, speaks about Aristide’s return, calling his presence important for Haiti.

Update 6:01 PM: Democracy NOW!’s Sharif Kouddous has posted this video showing the chanting crowds of thousands outside Aristide’s residence in Tabarre this afternoon.

Update 5:57 PM: The Norwegien paper Aftenposten has posted 14 wikileaks cables on Aristide available at their website. Follow Ansel Herz (@mediahacker) for revelations as they come. His latest tweets are below:

 

“Bahamas Prime Min. Christie complained USG owed him a call when it decided to “remove him from power.” #Aristide #Haiti http://j.mp/gONGkc

“US upset when Dominican Pres. said, post-coup, Aristide has “great popular support,” advocated for his inclusion. http://j.mp/gKoCeW #Haiti”

Update 5:32 PM: In case you missed Aristide’s press conference from this morning, you can watch the entire thing, here.

Update 5:07 PM: With Aristide now back in Haiti, some will surely be trying to equate Aristide and “Baby Doc”, at which point it would be good to remember the following, from AP earlier this week:

Reed Brody, a counsel for Human Rights Watch, said it would be difficult to link the former president directly to alleged crimes by his followers.

It would also be wrong to equate Aristide to the Duvalier years, when repression was much more widespread, Brody said. Next to recent years under outgoing President Rene Preval, “the Aristide periods were probably the periods of least violence in Haiti’s history,” he said.

FAIR also had a piece recently on the false equivalence.

Update 4:32 PM: Amy Goodman will appearing on CBC’s As It Happens program this evening at 5:30. Goodman, who accompanied Aristide on the return trip from South Africa has been providing exclusive coverage of the former president. You can listen to the program online, here.

Update 3:22 PM: The New York Times has once again updated their story on Aristide’s return, and once again it seems to be a bit fuzzy on the math. While the Miami Herald reports that “Outside Aristide’s home in Tabarre, thousands of supporters gathered to welcome him back,” and other sources on the ground put the number close to ten thousand, the New York Times continues to report that just “several hundred” were present.

Update 2:57 PM: We had heard earlier this morning that Haitian radio had reported that Aristide’s plane was delayed and would not be arriving until the afternoon, however shortly there after, just after 9 AM local time, the plane landed. Many journalists were surprised by the lack of crowds at first, although since then they have swelled to thousands. A report from TIME seems to confirm that rumors had spread in Haiti that his flight would be delayed:

 

Aristide actually surprised his followers, who were expecting him to arrive in the early afternoon. Only a couple of hundred supporters were at the airport when his plane landed Friday morning. But as soon as the news was broadcast on the radio, many people seemed to drop everything, suddenly walking toward the airport, carrying branches to welcome him. They wore t-shirts with his portraits and honked the horns of their motorcyles.

Haitian and international press had reported last night that the plane was set to arrive around 10 AM local time.

Update 2:41 PM: Democracy NOW! updates live-blog with new photos from inside Aristide’s house.

Update 2:26 PM: Although there were some reports earlier of tear gas being used, Melinda Miles (@melindayiti) provides an update via Twitter: “Just confirmed w/several journalists at #Aristide’s house a smoke bomb was used by police to discourage climbing walls no tear gas #Haiti.”

Update 1:47 PM: Actor and activist Danny Glover, who flew to South Africa earlier this week to accompany Aristide back to Haiti tweets, “It’s been an honor to help return #Aristide home to #Haiti. Special thanks to @transafrica & Amy Goodman for all your hard work. Viv Ayiti!”.

Update 1:45 PM: Following up on the New York Times coverage (Update from 12:03), the story has now been updated, it reads: “Throughout the capital, Port-au-Prince, the streets were quiet early Friday, but by late morning a throng of several hundred supporters had gathered outside the airport as word spread that he had come back after seven years in exile.” So the Times has gone from a few dozen to “several hundred”, but this still contradicts most reports from the ground. In a phone call, Danny Glover said that there were tens of thousands and that the car he was in could barely move through the crowds. Pictures from the ground also seem to contradict the Times report.

Update 1:08 PM: The AP’s latest on Aristide’s arrival, and the scene on the ground, which Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker recently described as a “carnival atmosphere, unbridled joy on street”. Fox and Daniel report:

 

On Friday, Aristide was mobbed by close allies and journalists outside his private plane before being hustled into an airport VIP lounge as several thousand supporters rallied in the streets outside the terminal.

“It’s one of the most beautiful moments for the Haitian people,” actor Danny Glover, who accompanied Aristide from South Africa, told The Associated Press as he left the VIP lounge before Aristide. “It’s a historic moment for the Haitian people.”

In the street outside the airport, where people listened to his remarks on car radio, there was jubilation.

“This man is our father, without him we haven’t lived,” said 31-year-old Sainvil Petit-Frere, one of about 3,000 cheering and chanting supporters in a quickly growing crowd. “This is the doctor who will heal the country.”

Aristide compared his return to the Haitian revolution that ended slavery in 1804 in what was then a French colony. “Today, may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coups d’etat,” he said with his wife, Mildred, and daughters by his side.

The reporters also point out that Aristide “took a swipe at the decision to bar his political party from the country’s presidential election.” The AP continues:

Aristide, addressing reporters and a Haitian public that clustered around TVs and radios throughout the country, said the decision not to allow his Lavalas Family party disenfranchised the majority in a sharply divided nation.

“Excluding Lavalas, you cut the branches that link the people,” he said in remarks that were otherwise largely devoted to thanking supporters who stayed loyal to him during his exile and helped engineer his return over the objections of the U.S. government. “The solution is inclusion of all Haitians as human beings.”

Update 12:33 PM: Danny Glover just called to say there are tens of thousands in the street and that the car he is in can barely move because of the throngs of people. This picture from Etant Dupaine shows the massive crowd that is outside of Aristide’s former residence in Tabarre.

Update 12:10 PM: Jacqueline Charles tweets that, “Among the delegation officials greeting #jba was a top #Manigat supporter.” More evidence of why now was the time to return, before the election passes and candidates are no longer campaigning. As Charles reported for the Miami Herald earlier today:

 

Throughout quake-ravaged Port-au-Prince on Thursday, newly erected green and white welcome home banners read: “Our mother is here already, our father is coming. We all agree.’’

The “father” refers to the pending arrival of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is expected to return from South Africa on Friday — or as early as Thursday — despite diplomatic attempts to keep him away until after Sunday’s critical presidential and legislative runoff elections.

The fluttering green and white banners — in which the word “mother” refers to presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat — shows to what extent candidates in Haiti’s historic elections are willing to go to court Aristide’s supporters, but also how relevant he remains even after seven years in exile.

Update 12:03 PM: Turns out the New York Times report this morning, which included, “the turnout was far below the thousands many had expected to greet him” was a bit premature. Thousands now following Aristide to his former residence, as seen in this picture from Allyn Gaestel (@samayxalaat).

Update 11:59 AM: Amy Goodman continues to regularly file audio reports from on the ground, her latest is up now. “The scene is amazing, thousands of people just outside the airport where they were held back, but they’re not held back anymore,” reports Goodman. She also confirms they are on their way to the former home of Aristide in Tabarre where crowds have been forming all morning.

Update 11:50 AM: Sharif Kouddous (@sharifkouddous), who is in a car with Danny Glover and others accompanying Aristide, is sharing pictures of the massive crowds that are lining the streets. Not sure where they are headed, but reports are that there are large crowds forming outside Aristide’s former residence as well.

Update 11:38 AM: As can be seen in the background of this picture of Aristide during his press conference, former Colombian Senator and peace activist Piedad Cordoba is in Haiti to welcome Aristide. She is also tweeting (in Spanish) at @piedadcordoba.

Update 11:27 AM: Amy Goodman files her latest audio report from the airport in PaP.

Update 11:24 AM: Although earlier reports had said the crowds were not very large, they appear to be gaining in size. These pictures from Etant Dupaine show many Haitians waiting outside the airport (pic 1, pic 2) while Melina Miles recently tweeted: “Hearing estimates of 5000 in the street outside the airport waiting for #Aristide #Haiti #JBA”.

Update 11:11 AM: More quotes, from those on the ground, via Twitter:

@jacquiecharles: #jba condemns any form of violence. #haiti now speaking French

@jacquiecharles: #jba speaks directly to #haiti youth, but beats on social exclusion and need for education.

@jacquiecharles: #jba ends, blows a kiss ans ends with good, bad times “it’s the same love.” #haiti

@sharifkouddous: Aristide: “we are together. We are side by side. This is our home” #Haiti

@sharifkouddous: Aristide: “Haiti I love you. And I will love you always.”

@melindayiti:”If you could hear my heart you would hear how it beats faster, how it sings a song of consolation for #Haiti” #JBA

@sebwalker: Aristide: “modern day slavery will have to end today…the greatest richness of Haiti is Haitians”

Update 11:01 AM: Watch Aristide speak live, via HaitiXchange.

Update 10:57 AM: A sampling of reports from Twitter as Aristide is now addressing journalists and supports after arriving in PaP.

From @jacquiecharles: #jba retraces his step into exile, thanks all who defended haitian dignity, died from quake and mentiones gerard jean juste.

From @sebwalker: Aristide addressing media at a podium on edge of tarmac…incredible scenes…pays respect to victims of cholera…crowd cheering

and: “Aristide: “Today may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coup d’etat…move from social exclusion towards inclusion”

From @Vladlaguerre: From Aristide thank you the haitian gov,S. A gov,the diplomatic,Dany Glover… http://yfrog.com/h4q6sdyvj

Update 10:43 AM: Reuters quotes CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot:

“Aristide’s return marks an end to the era when the United States gets to choose the political leaders of other countries. It is a historic victory for democracy and self-determination,” said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. 

Update 10:41 AM: The plane has landed and reporters are anxiously awaiting a press conference, expected any minute from the airport. Reporters noted the overwhelming emotion from the Aristide family as they exited the plane, accompanied by Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman, Danny Glover, and others.

Update 10:20 AM: J.F. String has a nice run down of all the Aristide related news in today’s Hemispheric Brief. He also flags an important quote from Robert Fatton on the potential blowback from the US’ hard stand against Aristide’s return:

University of Virginia Haiti scholar Robert Fatton tells the Herald that such a position from the US will only make Aristide more popular than he currently is, in Haiti and elsewhere. “The more [the US] opposes him…the more popular he will be.’’

Update 10:14 AM: Democracy NOW!’s Sharif Kouddous Tweets that the plane has landed. Picture here.

Update 10:10 AM: Crowds are beginning to form. Via Twitter:

AP’s Trenton Daniel(@trentondaniel): Crowds begin to swell outside Port-au-Prince airport for “2nd Jesus Christ.” #Haiti

Haitian Journalist Vladimir Laguerre (@Vladlaguerre): The number of Aristide’s supporters of grow up step by step in front of the Airport.

Update 9:54 AM: Seems as though the streets in PaP and at the airport are pretty calm right now. The latest, via Twitter:

Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker (@sebwalker): On tarmac at PaP airport with waiting for Aristide to arrive. Streets are quiet…for now. He’s due in about an hour

Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles): I saw no crowd coming in to airport. A colleague who recently arrived said there were more troops than people. Let’s wait. #Jba #Aristide

Update 9:15 AM: Although many are expressing concern that Aristide’s return could complicate this weekend presidential election, despite his statements to the contrary, the real threat to the elections is the poor organization and fraud that has marred the entire electoral process. The OAS yesterday issued a statement, warning that, “Missteps made during the first round will have the same impact in the second round”. AFP has the story:

The Organisation of American States yesterday denounced irregularities in the training of election personnel in Haiti, saying they could impact this weekend’s presidential runoff.

The OAS, which is conducting a joint electoral observation mission in Haiti with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said training of election officials was “essential” to the success of the poll scheduled for Sunday, following deadly violence and corruption that marred the first round last November.

“It is therefore regrettable that the training of supervisors was once again disrupted not only by those who were excluded because of their poor performance or delinquency during the first round, but also by protests organized by experienced supervisors” who were replaced in the process, the OAS said.

“Missteps made during the first round will have the same impact in the second round,” it said in a statement.

The OAS underlined the need to recruit competent and experienced staff, cautioning that “attempts to insert the names of people who do not meet the criteria can disrupt training and will not help achieve the main objective, which is to improve the organisation of the second round.”

Update 8:51 AM: For those who want to follow along on twitter, we’re at @HaitiAidWatch. As for people tweeting from the ground, Ansel Herz (@mediahacker) is a good start, and here was his suggestions from earlier this morning on other to follow: “#FF on the ground in #Haiti @kimives13 @melindayiti @samayxalaat @sharifkouddous @vladlaguerre @gaetantguevara @carelpedre @sebwalker”

Update 8:43 AM: The AP’s Trenton Daniel and Ben Fox describe the mood on the ground early Friday morning:

Joy filled Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s most ardent followers early Friday as they waited the last few hours until the former president considered by many a champion of the poor returned from seven years of exile.

Thousands were expected to throng the airport to greet the chartered jet carrying Aristide from South Africa, where the government assisted his departure despite a request from U.S. President Barack Obama that the homecoming be postponed until after Haiti’s presidential runoff election Sunday.

“We are going to party,” said 36-year-old mechanic Assey Woy, discussing the news of the ousted leader’s return with friends on a street corner downtown. “It will be like New Year’s Day.”

Energy spread through Aristide’s followers Thursday as word spread across Haiti that he was heading back home. Some joined in a raucous, horn-blaring victory procession. Others decorated the courtyard of his foundation headquarters with Haitian flags and photos of the former president. One woman waited with a bouquet of flowers.

To read the whole article, click here.

Update 8:36 AM: Kenneth Kidd reporting for the Toronto Star, spoke with Patrick Elie about Aristide’s return, and the upcoming elections:

“I think it’s going to be large,” Patrick Elie, a friend and former close adviser to Aristide, said of the likely reception.

“What will happen is that he will, by his presence, expose the fraud that these people running for president truly are,” Elie told the Star. “These people don’t represent the Haitian people.

“The election will go (ahead), but the point will have been made.”

While conceding Martelly has likely picked up supporters in Aristide’s natural constituency, Elie said Martelly can’t claim to be truly popular because voter turnout was only 23 per cent.

“He got 20 per cent of 20 per cent,” said Elie. “That’s 4 per cent of the electorate.”

Update 8:29 AM: Overnight, the plane carrying Aristibe stopped in Dakar to refuel. Amy Goodman, from Democracy NOW! spoke with both Aristide and his wife Mildred during that stop. You can listen to the audio at the links.

Friday, Update 8:20 AM: Best estimate has Aristide’s plan landing somewhere around 10:40 AM EST (that’s 9:40 Haitian time). Reporters are already heading to the airport and we can expect some updates from the airport soon. In the meantime, Sean Christie, writing for South Africa’s Mail & Guardian reports that South Africa paid for Aristide’s flight, a decision sure to rankle Washington:

“We covered the cost of Aristide’s stay in South Africa and now we will facilitate his journey home,” said department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.

Update 10:09 PM: Via Jacqueline Charles, AFP is now reporting (in French) that the plane carrying Aristide, Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman, Danny Glover, and others is set to arrive at 10:00 AM (11:00 EST) in Port-au-Prince tomorrow.

Update 7:47 PM: Ansel Herz’s latest for Inter-Press Service provides important background on this weekend’s election, including the continuing calls for its cancellation:

Some are still calling for the vote to be annulled and re- started. Ginette Cherubin, a member of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), revealed that she and three other members, out of eight, never agreed to the announced results pitting the two candidates against each other. A majority of the council is required to take a decision.

The changed results conformed to the recommendations of a report by the Organization of American States and intense pressure from the United States. The ruling party candidate was thrown out due to alleged fraud and Martelly moved into second place.

Richardson Dumel, a CEP spokesman, refused to confirm that a majority of the body’s members signed the results, saying repeatedly he could not comment on it or Haiti’s electoral law.

Presidential candidate Jean Henry Ceant, who came in fourth in the first round, demanded the CEP provide a copy of the results to a Haitian court. The document, delivered by Dumel, bears a CEP stamp but no signatures. Ceant maintains the election is illegal.

Update 7:37 PM: The Center for Economic and Policy Research released the following statement, calling on governments to respect international law and not try to block Aristide’s return:

No government should stand in the way of Haiti’s former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from returning to Haiti, the Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Mark Weisbrot said today, following news that Aristide was en route to Haiti.

Weisbrot noted that there is still a chance that Washington could pressure the government of Haiti to not let Aristide’s plane land. “That would be even more outrageous, and would probably provoke a strong reaction within Haiti and from other governments.”

Weisbrot added, “President Zuma is to be commended for standing up to the United States government and the UN Secretary General, both of which have attempted to violate international law by preventing President Aristide from returning to his home country.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty that the United States has ratified, states that “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

“This is another example of how most developing countries respect international law more than the United States does,” said Weisbrot. “How can our government preach to others about the rule of law? Or democracy in North Africa, when they do not respect democracy just a few hundred miles from our East Coast?

Full text, here.

Update 7:09 PM: The Congressional Black Caucus has issued a statement regarding Aristide’s return, reports Jacqueline Charles for the Miami Herald. Charles also speaks with CBC member Maxine Water:

The Congressional Black Caucus circulated a resolution calling it “essential” that Aristide be allowed to return to Haiti before the election because he believes that those who ousted him before “will be in a position to block his return” once a new government is established.

“President Aristide has stated that he has no intention of affecting Haiti’s upcoming election,” the resolution says, adding that the U.S. should not “use its power to prevent his planned return to the land of his birth.’’

Waters acknowledged she disagreed with the election and the runoffs, but is “simply in favor of fairness and justice, and a democracy that can carry out a real election.”

She said Aristide wants to help develop education efforts in Haiti and suggested he could “be of terrific assistance to the redevelopment of Haiti.”

She said she’s talked to the White House and the State Department and that they’ve “made it clear” that they’d prefer him not to return before the election.

“Between President Aristide and the South African government, they’ve decided he’s going to return and that’s their decision, no matter what the White House would like,’’ Waters told The Miami Herald. “The bottom line is he’s returning, he’s going to get there.’’
Asked about the White House’s contention that Aristide’s return could be destabilizing, Waters said, “I support democracy, just as I support the people in Egypt, Libya deciding who their leaders should be or who they should not be. I support democracy in Haiti the same way.’’

Update 6:11 PM: As media outlets file stories on Aristide’s return, they would be good to point out the reason for Aristide returning before this Sunday’s election. As Isabeau Doucet reported for the Guardian, “Aides say Aristide fears the election winner might reverse the long-awaited decision to allow his return – both are right-wing candidates long opposed to him. Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said: “He is genuinely concerned that a change in the Haitian government may result in his remaining in South Africa.””

As both Martelly and Manigat campaign for the presidency, they are wary not to anger Aristide supporters who could tip the election either way. Manigat has gone so far as to say she is willing to cooperate with Aristide on education, and reportedly put up a banner near Haiti’s airport that reads, “you have your mother, now your father is coming.” As soon as the election has passed, the enormous pressure from the United States and others could be much more influential with the candidates, and potentially thwart Aristide’s constitutional return.

Update 5:46 PM: Catching up on today’s coverage, check out Greg Grandin’s blog post for The Nation from earlier, where he provides some useful background on what has prevented Aristide from returning previously:

Another thing to watch for during Obama’s visit in Brazil is if Jean-Bertrand Aristide manages to return to Haiti. If Aristide does land in Port-au-Prince while the first family is in Rio, it would be further indication of the United States’s waning influence in the region. As Wikileaks cables reveal, the US Department of State has been intensely lobbying Brazil to use its influence in South Africa, where Aristide resides in exile, to prevent his departure. Unfortunately, the strong independent streak Lula exhibited in other areas of foreign policy didn’t extend to Haiti, where Brazil has largely supported efforts by the “international community,” led by the United States, Canada and France, to place the island country in receivership after having drove Aristide out in 2004. Now, though, Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, seems to have declined to press South Africa to bend to Washington’s will, and Aristide is expected to return home.

Update 5:42 PM: Democracy NOW! has posted a series of pictures from Aristide’s plane. The AP’s Ben Fox is reporting that the first stop will be in Senegal.

Update 5:34 PM: Important point to remember for tomorrow: As Jacqueline Charles reported, “Aristide, 57, arrives with no guarantees from Haiti, says the Haitian government and others privy to the planning of his trip. His request for 60 armed police officers was turned down. Under a law passed in his absence, former presidents are only entitled to five years of state-sponsored protection.”

Update 5:18 PM: Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! files this report just before boarding plane that will bring Aristide back to Haiti. Goodman, met privately with Aristide and his family earlier today with the rest of the delegation that will accompany the former president to Haiti. “He is extremely excited about returning home,” reports Goodman. Although the exact itinerary is not known, they expect to arrive in Haiti around noon on Friday.

Update 5:12 PM: Karen Allen of BBC tweets: “Aristide jets off shortly after 2310 SA time. A new chapter in Haiti’s history begins.”

Update 5:09 PM: While Aristide waits to depart, get caught up on today’s happenings with the latest from the AP:

 

Declaring the “great day has arrived,” Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide arrived at a South African airport Thursday, on his way home after seven years in exile despite President Barack Obama’s bid to keep the hugely popular but controversial figure away from his country until it holds a presidential election this weekend.

Also, Democracy NOW!’s Amy Goodman, who is accompanying Aristide back to Haiti, reported from South Africa this morning, and will be updating readers here.

Thursday, Update 5:03 PM
: Despite intense diplomatic pressure, which included a call from President Obama to South African President Zuma, Aristide is set to depart for Haiti this evening. Folks tweeting from the ground in South Africa (@jgg17, @sebhervieuare) have posted pictures of Aristide and the South African Foreign Minister boarding the chartered plane at Lanseria airport.

 
 

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