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.

Read Part 1: Timeline of Key Events, here.

In a crowded field of 54 presidential candidates, the top two finishers in last year’s elections were Jovenel Moïse (PHTK) and Jude Celestin (LAPEH). Third and fourth were Moïse Jean-Charles (Platfom Pitit Dessalines) and Maryse Narcisse (Fanmi Lavalas). Although the earlier vote was plagued by fraud and irregularities and the results were eventually discarded, the top four finishers on October 25, 2015 are expected to lead the pack of 27 candidates participating on Sunday, November 20. Here is a closer look at the principal candidates heading into this weekend’s election:

Jovenel Moïse is PHTK’s candidate. Prior to the 2015 elections when former President Martelly selected Moïse as his successor, the lanky agricultural businessman from the North was a political unknown. Moïse’s company Agritrans runs a banana plantation primarily for export in Trou-du-Nord and was set up with government financing under Martelly’s administration. During the campaign, Moïse has branded himself as “The Banana Man” (Nèg Bannann Nan). He promises to revitalize Haiti’s neglected agriculture and to remobilize Haiti’s military, which was disbanded in 1995.

While in office, Martelly campaigned aggressively for Moïse and was accused of using state resources to promote his party’s candidate. For this reason, Moïse was perceived by many as a weak Martelly surrogate. One irony of the long delay since last year’s vote is that PHTK’s Moïse may actually be in a better position now. Time has allowed him to step out from under Martelly’s shadow, posing as an opponent to the provisional government rather than the ruling party’s candidate. PHTK and its political allies in the parliament have accused the interim government and the CEP of being biased in favor of “Lavalas” and claimed that the elections may be rigged against them. They have also consistently questioned the legitimacy of the provisional president, even at one point calling on police officers to disobey orders.

After the Hurricane, PHTK leaders threatened the provisional government with street protests and legislative action if elections were not held within weeks of the storm and have been publicizing polling (notoriously suspect in Haiti) that shows Jovenel Moïse with the highest level of support among presidential candidates.

Haiti’s interminable election cycle has depleted the finances of many parties, but although PHTK is facing similar problems, they are likely the party with the deepest pockets. With greater access to resources, the party was able to continue to campaign – including in the hurricane-hit south where Moïse distributed aid to victims. Well-financed and with a cadre of international election advisors, PHTK has many factors working in their favor.

In their quest for the presidency, PHTK has allied with local politicians that, in some cases, have been tied to corruption, drug trafficking and other wrongdoing. Though the campaign has distanced itself from Martelly, there is lingering dissatisfaction with the previous government, bolstered by recent allegations of corruption, which could weigh on voter’s minds Sunday.

Jude Celestin, the second-place finisher in last year’s election and the leading figure in the boycott movement, is the candidate of Ligue alternative pour le progrès et l’émancipation haïtienne (LAPEH). In the 2010 election, Celestin competed under the banner of INITE, the party of then-president René Préval. Those elections were also plagued by widespread fraud, violence and irregularities, many stemming from the fact that elections were held in the same year as the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left more than a million displaced. An Organization of American States (OAS) commission recommended changing the results, removing Celestin from the race and replacing him with Michel Martelly, without providing evidence that Martelly had actually received more votes than Celestin. The US then issued diplomatic threats, including a possible cut off of desperately needed post-earthquake aid, in order force the Haitian government to accept the changes.

Many expected Celestin to eventually call off the boycott and participate in last year’s second-round election, but his position was unwavering and led to the cancellation of the election. His supporters consider him a savior for preventing the fraudulent elections from standing; adversaries see him as the primary cause of the political instability of the last year. After 2010 and his role in cancelling last year’s election, Celestin hasn’t made many friends in the international community, though many close to him have worked over the last year to reestablish a relationship.

Celestin has championed his boycott’s role in getting the rerun, and has pointed to his experience at CNE, the national construction company, to present himself as a builder who knows how to get things done. After the Hurricane, Celestin offered to rebuild a key bridge and construction equipment was seen plastered with his campaign image.

With the provisional president Privert coming from an allied political party, Celestin is perceived to have benefitted from the change in leadership. But it is important to note that the interim government consists of politicians from many different movements and it would be a mistake to think all, or even most, are willing or able to help his campaign.

Still Celestin, similar to PHTK, has received significant private sector backing and can likely count on support from those sectors that have historically been allied with President Préval, giving him a political machine that should be able to generate votes on election day. Still, it is interesting to note that of the three former presidents currently active in politics, Préval is the only one to not openly endorse a candidate. University professor Jacky Lumarque was Préval’s chosen candidate, but was excluded from participating by the previous electoral council under Martelly.

Moïse Jean-Charles, a former Senator from the North department, finished third in last year’s election and is once again expected to be a top vote getter. Jean-Charles was the leading opposition voice against the former Martelly government and led street protests against his rule. Jean-Charles joined Celestin in rejecting last year’s election results and initially supported the interim government and the decision to rerun the elections from scratch.

More recently, however, Pitit Dessalines has struck a similar tone as the other leading candidates in calling for elections to be held as soon as possible after hurricane Matthew.  The party has also expressed discontent with the electoral apparatus and interim government and called for greater transparency, especially in the vote counting process.

Campaigning against the traditional ruling elite and transnational control of Haiti, Jean-Charles is perhaps the candidate most feared by many in the international community and business sector. Partially as a result, his campaign has suffered from a lack of funds and Jean-Charles has been far less visible this year than he was last year. Without a foil in office such as president Martelly, Jean-Charles could have a harder time motivating his supporters this time around, especially with the lack of funding.

The party can draw from its bases in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, the country’s two largest cities, but it is unclear if it has been able to extend its reach throughout all departments.

Pitit Dessalines and Moïse Jean-Charles have likely been the movement most impacted by the reemergence of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide during this year’s campaign. Jean-Charles was a popular youth leader in Aristide’s Lavalas movement before splitting with the party in recent years.

Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party, the political movement started by Aristide, came in fourth last year but has put far more resources in to the race this year. Aristide, twice deposed in US-backed coups, was largely confined to his residence after returning from exile in 2011 due to political threats and a questionable house arrest order, but with Martelly out of the picture, he has since returned to the campaign trail, leading caravans across the country with Narcisse.  Aristide appeared just once with Narcisse during the 2015 campaign.

The Lavalas party has been prevented from participating in politics in the past, and this is the first political campaign where Aristide has been in country and able to campaign since his 2004 ouster. Still, the party faces significant constraints. While Aristide is still able to generate support, he is also a highly polarizing figure with many among the upper and middle classes associating the former leader with violence, corruption and political turmoil. Among the left in Haiti, there is concern that the emergence of Aristide will pull votes away from Jean-Charles and allow for the passage of the two elite-backed candidates, Celestin and Jovenel Moïse to move on to a second round. Never the less, an alliance between Narcisse and Jean-Charles has never been seriously pursued.

The head of the electoral authority, Leopold Berlanger, was a leader of the opposition to Aristide that resulted in the 2004 coup, raising concerns about the impartiality of the electoral apparatus. The presence of industrialist Andy Apaid as an advisor to Berlanger working at the vote tabulation center – though since removed from his position – has added to the lack of trust.

Lavalas has come under criticism recently after Aristide was recorded at a campaign event last week calling for electoral protests if there is not a new president by February 7th. Some have interpreted the remarks as a threat of violence and Aristide was called in for questioning by the electoral council last week. Lavalas leaders have characterized the event as just a misinterpretation. Many other parties and candidates have made incendiary remarks over the last year and a half, without ever facing potential ramifications or questioning from the electoral authority.

Read Part 1: Timeline of Key Events, here.

In a crowded field of 54 presidential candidates, the top two finishers in last year’s elections were Jovenel Moïse (PHTK) and Jude Celestin (LAPEH). Third and fourth were Moïse Jean-Charles (Platfom Pitit Dessalines) and Maryse Narcisse (Fanmi Lavalas). Although the earlier vote was plagued by fraud and irregularities and the results were eventually discarded, the top four finishers on October 25, 2015 are expected to lead the pack of 27 candidates participating on Sunday, November 20. Here is a closer look at the principal candidates heading into this weekend’s election:

Jovenel Moïse is PHTK’s candidate. Prior to the 2015 elections when former President Martelly selected Moïse as his successor, the lanky agricultural businessman from the North was a political unknown. Moïse’s company Agritrans runs a banana plantation primarily for export in Trou-du-Nord and was set up with government financing under Martelly’s administration. During the campaign, Moïse has branded himself as “The Banana Man” (Nèg Bannann Nan). He promises to revitalize Haiti’s neglected agriculture and to remobilize Haiti’s military, which was disbanded in 1995.

While in office, Martelly campaigned aggressively for Moïse and was accused of using state resources to promote his party’s candidate. For this reason, Moïse was perceived by many as a weak Martelly surrogate. One irony of the long delay since last year’s vote is that PHTK’s Moïse may actually be in a better position now. Time has allowed him to step out from under Martelly’s shadow, posing as an opponent to the provisional government rather than the ruling party’s candidate. PHTK and its political allies in the parliament have accused the interim government and the CEP of being biased in favor of “Lavalas” and claimed that the elections may be rigged against them. They have also consistently questioned the legitimacy of the provisional president, even at one point calling on police officers to disobey orders.

After the Hurricane, PHTK leaders threatened the provisional government with street protests and legislative action if elections were not held within weeks of the storm and have been publicizing polling (notoriously suspect in Haiti) that shows Jovenel Moïse with the highest level of support among presidential candidates.

Haiti’s interminable election cycle has depleted the finances of many parties, but although PHTK is facing similar problems, they are likely the party with the deepest pockets. With greater access to resources, the party was able to continue to campaign – including in the hurricane-hit south where Moïse distributed aid to victims. Well-financed and with a cadre of international election advisors, PHTK has many factors working in their favor.

In their quest for the presidency, PHTK has allied with local politicians that, in some cases, have been tied to corruption, drug trafficking and other wrongdoing. Though the campaign has distanced itself from Martelly, there is lingering dissatisfaction with the previous government, bolstered by recent allegations of corruption, which could weigh on voter’s minds Sunday.

Jude Celestin, the second-place finisher in last year’s election and the leading figure in the boycott movement, is the candidate of Ligue alternative pour le progrès et l’émancipation haïtienne (LAPEH). In the 2010 election, Celestin competed under the banner of INITE, the party of then-president René Préval. Those elections were also plagued by widespread fraud, violence and irregularities, many stemming from the fact that elections were held in the same year as the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left more than a million displaced. An Organization of American States (OAS) commission recommended changing the results, removing Celestin from the race and replacing him with Michel Martelly, without providing evidence that Martelly had actually received more votes than Celestin. The US then issued diplomatic threats, including a possible cut off of desperately needed post-earthquake aid, in order force the Haitian government to accept the changes.

Many expected Celestin to eventually call off the boycott and participate in last year’s second-round election, but his position was unwavering and led to the cancellation of the election. His supporters consider him a savior for preventing the fraudulent elections from standing; adversaries see him as the primary cause of the political instability of the last year. After 2010 and his role in cancelling last year’s election, Celestin hasn’t made many friends in the international community, though many close to him have worked over the last year to reestablish a relationship.

Celestin has championed his boycott’s role in getting the rerun, and has pointed to his experience at CNE, the national construction company, to present himself as a builder who knows how to get things done. After the Hurricane, Celestin offered to rebuild a key bridge and construction equipment was seen plastered with his campaign image.

With the provisional president Privert coming from an allied political party, Celestin is perceived to have benefitted from the change in leadership. But it is important to note that the interim government consists of politicians from many different movements and it would be a mistake to think all, or even most, are willing or able to help his campaign.

Still Celestin, similar to PHTK, has received significant private sector backing and can likely count on support from those sectors that have historically been allied with President Préval, giving him a political machine that should be able to generate votes on election day. Still, it is interesting to note that of the three former presidents currently active in politics, Préval is the only one to not openly endorse a candidate. University professor Jacky Lumarque was Préval’s chosen candidate, but was excluded from participating by the previous electoral council under Martelly.

Moïse Jean-Charles, a former Senator from the North department, finished third in last year’s election and is once again expected to be a top vote getter. Jean-Charles was the leading opposition voice against the former Martelly government and led street protests against his rule. Jean-Charles joined Celestin in rejecting last year’s election results and initially supported the interim government and the decision to rerun the elections from scratch.

More recently, however, Pitit Dessalines has struck a similar tone as the other leading candidates in calling for elections to be held as soon as possible after hurricane Matthew.  The party has also expressed discontent with the electoral apparatus and interim government and called for greater transparency, especially in the vote counting process.

Campaigning against the traditional ruling elite and transnational control of Haiti, Jean-Charles is perhaps the candidate most feared by many in the international community and business sector. Partially as a result, his campaign has suffered from a lack of funds and Jean-Charles has been far less visible this year than he was last year. Without a foil in office such as president Martelly, Jean-Charles could have a harder time motivating his supporters this time around, especially with the lack of funding.

The party can draw from its bases in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, the country’s two largest cities, but it is unclear if it has been able to extend its reach throughout all departments.

Pitit Dessalines and Moïse Jean-Charles have likely been the movement most impacted by the reemergence of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide during this year’s campaign. Jean-Charles was a popular youth leader in Aristide’s Lavalas movement before splitting with the party in recent years.

Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party, the political movement started by Aristide, came in fourth last year but has put far more resources in to the race this year. Aristide, twice deposed in US-backed coups, was largely confined to his residence after returning from exile in 2011 due to political threats and a questionable house arrest order, but with Martelly out of the picture, he has since returned to the campaign trail, leading caravans across the country with Narcisse.  Aristide appeared just once with Narcisse during the 2015 campaign.

The Lavalas party has been prevented from participating in politics in the past, and this is the first political campaign where Aristide has been in country and able to campaign since his 2004 ouster. Still, the party faces significant constraints. While Aristide is still able to generate support, he is also a highly polarizing figure with many among the upper and middle classes associating the former leader with violence, corruption and political turmoil. Among the left in Haiti, there is concern that the emergence of Aristide will pull votes away from Jean-Charles and allow for the passage of the two elite-backed candidates, Celestin and Jovenel Moïse to move on to a second round. Never the less, an alliance between Narcisse and Jean-Charles has never been seriously pursued.

The head of the electoral authority, Leopold Berlanger, was a leader of the opposition to Aristide that resulted in the 2004 coup, raising concerns about the impartiality of the electoral apparatus. The presence of industrialist Andy Apaid as an advisor to Berlanger working at the vote tabulation center – though since removed from his position – has added to the lack of trust.

Lavalas has come under criticism recently after Aristide was recorded at a campaign event last week calling for electoral protests if there is not a new president by February 7th. Some have interpreted the remarks as a threat of violence and Aristide was called in for questioning by the electoral council last week. Lavalas leaders have characterized the event as just a misinterpretation. Many other parties and candidates have made incendiary remarks over the last year and a half, without ever facing potential ramifications or questioning from the electoral authority.

Less than a week from now, on November 20, Haiti heads to the polls to choose a new president as well as dozens of legislative seats. The electoral process started in 2015 but has been repeatedly delayed and postponed due to post-election protests, candidates’ boycotts, and more recently Hurricane Matthew. The results of last October’s first-round presidential election were thrown out on the recommendation of an independent investigative commission that identified significant levels of fraud and other irregularities. Below is a timeline that traces the major events of Haiti’s extended electoral saga:

December 2014 – January 2015: Protests force Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to step down as the terms of many parliamentarians expire. President Michel Martelly’s government had not held elections for its first four years in office, allowing the president to begin ruling by decree. A new Prime Minister and CEP are appointed, tasked with organizing the legislative and presidential votes.

August 9, 2015: First-round legislative elections are so marred by violence and fraud that many races cannot be completed and must be re-run again in about a quarter of constituencies.

October 25, 2015: The first-round presidential election is held, alongside legislative reruns as well as legislative second-round elections in some localities. The elections are rejected by a growing opposition movement that alleges widespread fraud on behalf of the ruling party and its candidate, Jovenel Moise of the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), who came in first according to the official results.

December 17, 2015: Facing increasing criticism ahead of the planned December 27 runoff, president Martelly announces a commission to investigate the elections. Given just a few days to perform its work, the commission finds significant problems and makes a number of recommendations for moving the electoral process forward.

December 21, 2015: The scheduled runoff election is postponed. Before the commission’s recommendations can be adopted, a new runoff is scheduled for January 24.

January 11, 2016: Despite growing concerns about fraud-tainted electoral results, a partial legislature is seated, consisting of 92 newly-elected deputies and 24 senators. Races for 6 senators and 26 deputies remain incomplete.

January 22, 2016: The second-round presidential and legislative elections are indefinitely called off. Second-place finisher Jude Celestin (LAPEH) had pledged to boycott the second-round and was joined by seven other opposition presidential candidates. This stance was supported by the vast majority of civil society organizations, including human rights groups, church leaders and eventually even the private sector business associations.

February 5, 2016: With Martelly’s term expiring on February 7 and no elected successor to take his place, an agreement is reached to form a transitional government. Senator Jocelerme Privert is soon after selected as interim president and given a mandate of 120 days. The deal dissipated tensions that had been rising due to concerns that Martelly would try to hold on to power. Armed paramilitaries had appeared in Port-au-Prince and clashed with Martelly opponents.

April 30, 2016: President Privert establishes an independent investigation commission to examine fraud claims and restore confidence in the electoral process before continuing with the vote. This decision is opposed by PHTK and its political allies – who are well represented in the recently-seated parliament – as well as many actors in the international community, including the European Union (EU) and the United States.

June 6, 2016: The independent commission recommends rerunning the first round presidential vote and a new electoral council announces new first-round elections scheduled for October 9, 2016. The EU observation team pulls out of the country and the US pulls funding from the election after the decision.

June 14, 2016: The interim president’s mandate expires, but parliament is unable to reach a quorum to either replace the leader or extend his term due to obstruction by the pro-PHTK bloc. Privert’s opponents refuse to recognize him as a legitimate leader and question each decision made by the interim authorities, accusing them of simply wanting to perpetuate themselves in power.

Oct 4-5, 2016: Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, ravages the country – specifically the southern peninsula – just days before the new elections were set to take place. The election was once again postponed. One week before the scheduled October 9 vote, prospects for the vote were hopeful. Preparations were in place, electoral materials had arrived in country and were being prepared for distribution, new safeguards against fraud and abuse had been implemented and candidates had taken to the campaign trail.

Oct 14, 2016: Facing immense pressure from political actors to hold the election as soon as possible, the CEP issues a new electoral schedule calling for elections November 20. Electoral infrastructure, especially in the southern peninsula, is severely damaged with many voting centers being used as temporary shelters. The new date means that there will not be an elected president in office by February 7, as initially expected.

However with a dire humanitarian situation still raging in the southern peninsula, electoral infrastructure severely damaged and ongoing flooding in various parts of the country, skepticism remains high as to if a legitimate and free election is possible this weekend, or if it will be another blow to Haiti’s fragile democracy.

Up next, Haiti Election Primer, Part 2: The Parties, Parliament and the International Community

Less than a week from now, on November 20, Haiti heads to the polls to choose a new president as well as dozens of legislative seats. The electoral process started in 2015 but has been repeatedly delayed and postponed due to post-election protests, candidates’ boycotts, and more recently Hurricane Matthew. The results of last October’s first-round presidential election were thrown out on the recommendation of an independent investigative commission that identified significant levels of fraud and other irregularities. Below is a timeline that traces the major events of Haiti’s extended electoral saga:

December 2014 – January 2015: Protests force Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to step down as the terms of many parliamentarians expire. President Michel Martelly’s government had not held elections for its first four years in office, allowing the president to begin ruling by decree. A new Prime Minister and CEP are appointed, tasked with organizing the legislative and presidential votes.

August 9, 2015: First-round legislative elections are so marred by violence and fraud that many races cannot be completed and must be re-run again in about a quarter of constituencies.

October 25, 2015: The first-round presidential election is held, alongside legislative reruns as well as legislative second-round elections in some localities. The elections are rejected by a growing opposition movement that alleges widespread fraud on behalf of the ruling party and its candidate, Jovenel Moise of the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), who came in first according to the official results.

December 17, 2015: Facing increasing criticism ahead of the planned December 27 runoff, president Martelly announces a commission to investigate the elections. Given just a few days to perform its work, the commission finds significant problems and makes a number of recommendations for moving the electoral process forward.

December 21, 2015: The scheduled runoff election is postponed. Before the commission’s recommendations can be adopted, a new runoff is scheduled for January 24.

January 11, 2016: Despite growing concerns about fraud-tainted electoral results, a partial legislature is seated, consisting of 92 newly-elected deputies and 24 senators. Races for 6 senators and 26 deputies remain incomplete.

January 22, 2016: The second-round presidential and legislative elections are indefinitely called off. Second-place finisher Jude Celestin (LAPEH) had pledged to boycott the second-round and was joined by seven other opposition presidential candidates. This stance was supported by the vast majority of civil society organizations, including human rights groups, church leaders and eventually even the private sector business associations.

February 5, 2016: With Martelly’s term expiring on February 7 and no elected successor to take his place, an agreement is reached to form a transitional government. Senator Jocelerme Privert is soon after selected as interim president and given a mandate of 120 days. The deal dissipated tensions that had been rising due to concerns that Martelly would try to hold on to power. Armed paramilitaries had appeared in Port-au-Prince and clashed with Martelly opponents.

April 30, 2016: President Privert establishes an independent investigation commission to examine fraud claims and restore confidence in the electoral process before continuing with the vote. This decision is opposed by PHTK and its political allies – who are well represented in the recently-seated parliament – as well as many actors in the international community, including the European Union (EU) and the United States.

June 6, 2016: The independent commission recommends rerunning the first round presidential vote and a new electoral council announces new first-round elections scheduled for October 9, 2016. The EU observation team pulls out of the country and the US pulls funding from the election after the decision.

June 14, 2016: The interim president’s mandate expires, but parliament is unable to reach a quorum to either replace the leader or extend his term due to obstruction by the pro-PHTK bloc. Privert’s opponents refuse to recognize him as a legitimate leader and question each decision made by the interim authorities, accusing them of simply wanting to perpetuate themselves in power.

Oct 4-5, 2016: Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, ravages the country – specifically the southern peninsula – just days before the new elections were set to take place. The election was once again postponed. One week before the scheduled October 9 vote, prospects for the vote were hopeful. Preparations were in place, electoral materials had arrived in country and were being prepared for distribution, new safeguards against fraud and abuse had been implemented and candidates had taken to the campaign trail.

Oct 14, 2016: Facing immense pressure from political actors to hold the election as soon as possible, the CEP issues a new electoral schedule calling for elections November 20. Electoral infrastructure, especially in the southern peninsula, is severely damaged with many voting centers being used as temporary shelters. The new date means that there will not be an elected president in office by February 7, as initially expected.

However with a dire humanitarian situation still raging in the southern peninsula, electoral infrastructure severely damaged and ongoing flooding in various parts of the country, skepticism remains high as to if a legitimate and free election is possible this weekend, or if it will be another blow to Haiti’s fragile democracy.

Up next, Haiti Election Primer, Part 2: The Parties, Parliament and the International Community

On October 10, less than a week after Hurricane Matthew ripped across Haiti, the United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $120 million. Ten days later, donors have failed to fill the need, contributing just over 20 percent of the funds deemed necessary. But whom is the money being raised for? What planning or coordination went in to the $120 million ask? Are donors right to be hesitant?

An analysis of UN Financial Tracking Service data shows that the vast majority of the funds raised are destined for UN agencies or large, international NGOs. Reading press releases, government statements and comments to the press, it would seem that many lessons have been learned after the devastating earthquake of 2010: the importance of coordinating with the government, of working with local institutions and organizations, of purchasing goods locally and of building long-term sustainability in to an emergency response.

But, as one Haitian government official posed it to me, “we all learned the lessons, but have we found a solution?” Based on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) appeal, the answer is not yet.

Perhaps this should be of little surprise, the flash appeal is designed specifically to “fund United Nations aid activities” for the next three months, not to raise money for local organizations, the Haitian government or for long-term, sustainable projects.  But the analysis is nonetheless revealing.

Funding Destined for UN and Foreign NGOs

The appeal is largely based on individual projects from individual organizations, and does not appear to have been launched with input from the Haitian government. As can be seen below, the vast majority of funding is destined for UN agencies.

Table 1.

OCHA Appeal UN Agency 2

Looking at the above chart, one sees that 85 percent of the funding requested is for the UN’s own agencies and that, of the $28 million provided so far, 79 percent has gone to these same entities.

Of the remaining $17 million for other organizations, it is overwhelmingly allocated to large foreign NGOs such as CARE and Save the Children. Haitian organizations or institutions appear to have an extremely limited role in the appeal, if one at all.

Importance of Coordination and Long-Term Sustainability

There has also been an acknowledgement that more must be done to both coordinate with the Haitian government and the various actors on the ground and to focus earlier on in building long-term capacity. But the OCHA appeal does not have an emphasis on either.

Table 2.

OCHA Appeal Sector

As can be seen, about 50 percent of the total requirement is for the food security, nutrition and emergency agriculture sector. There is no doubt that agriculture production and food security are some of the largest concerns going forward, but most of these funds, $46 million, is for short-term food assistance through the World Food Program (WFP). On the other hand, just $9 million will go towards “restoration” of “rural productive capacity.” The WFP program has already received $7.4 million, while the restoration project has only received $800,000.

Again, this is not to say that emergency food assistance is not needed, but it must be a part of longer-term sustainable projects to rebuild agriculture capacity as well. The OCHA appeal, while focusing on emergency needs, could also raise funds for needed capacity building. Funds from donors and private individuals come mostly after a disaster, but if all the money raised simply goes to emergency needs, there is nothing left to build for the long term when donor funds will be even scarcer.

Coordination and support services, on the other hand, is only the target of 1.2 percent of the overall appeal. However, this appears to be one of the most significant bottle necks in the distribution of assistance right now in Haiti. The Haitian government has pledged to take the lead in coordinating the international and local response, but lacks the necessary capacity? or willingness from donors? to make that a reality. The OCHA appeal does attempt to raise funds to support the government’s coordination efforts, but only $193,000, and that would go through the UN Development Program. That project remains 0 percent funded as of now. In fact, despite the low targets for the sector, no funding has thus been channeled in to this important area.

On his visit to Haiti last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed “disappointment” with donors, who had yet to commit funds. “I know there is some fatigue from certain countries, but the current situation, the current disaster that hit this country through Hurricane Matthew is beyond description,” he said.

“The United Nations stands by your side. We will mobilize all resources to help you,” Ban continued. Speaking yesterday directly to donor governments, Ban once again criticized the slow response, saying “We urgently need more resources.”

Provisional president of Haiti Jocelerme Privert struck a slightly different tone in his remarks with Ban last week: “There will always be hurricanes, there will always be catastrophes. We need concrete actions to mitigate the damage from the next hurricanes that have not hit yet,” he said.

Those are the types of actions that failed to materialize after the 2010 earthquake, and that do not appear to be addressed through this latest UN appeal for funds.  Everyone learned the lessons, but Haiti needs solutions.

*Flash Appeal funding data is as of October 21, 2016.

On October 10, less than a week after Hurricane Matthew ripped across Haiti, the United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $120 million. Ten days later, donors have failed to fill the need, contributing just over 20 percent of the funds deemed necessary. But whom is the money being raised for? What planning or coordination went in to the $120 million ask? Are donors right to be hesitant?

An analysis of UN Financial Tracking Service data shows that the vast majority of the funds raised are destined for UN agencies or large, international NGOs. Reading press releases, government statements and comments to the press, it would seem that many lessons have been learned after the devastating earthquake of 2010: the importance of coordinating with the government, of working with local institutions and organizations, of purchasing goods locally and of building long-term sustainability in to an emergency response.

But, as one Haitian government official posed it to me, “we all learned the lessons, but have we found a solution?” Based on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) appeal, the answer is not yet.

Perhaps this should be of little surprise, the flash appeal is designed specifically to “fund United Nations aid activities” for the next three months, not to raise money for local organizations, the Haitian government or for long-term, sustainable projects.  But the analysis is nonetheless revealing.

Funding Destined for UN and Foreign NGOs

The appeal is largely based on individual projects from individual organizations, and does not appear to have been launched with input from the Haitian government. As can be seen below, the vast majority of funding is destined for UN agencies.

Table 1.

OCHA Appeal UN Agency 2

Looking at the above chart, one sees that 85 percent of the funding requested is for the UN’s own agencies and that, of the $28 million provided so far, 79 percent has gone to these same entities.

Of the remaining $17 million for other organizations, it is overwhelmingly allocated to large foreign NGOs such as CARE and Save the Children. Haitian organizations or institutions appear to have an extremely limited role in the appeal, if one at all.

Importance of Coordination and Long-Term Sustainability

There has also been an acknowledgement that more must be done to both coordinate with the Haitian government and the various actors on the ground and to focus earlier on in building long-term capacity. But the OCHA appeal does not have an emphasis on either.

Table 2.

OCHA Appeal Sector

As can be seen, about 50 percent of the total requirement is for the food security, nutrition and emergency agriculture sector. There is no doubt that agriculture production and food security are some of the largest concerns going forward, but most of these funds, $46 million, is for short-term food assistance through the World Food Program (WFP). On the other hand, just $9 million will go towards “restoration” of “rural productive capacity.” The WFP program has already received $7.4 million, while the restoration project has only received $800,000.

Again, this is not to say that emergency food assistance is not needed, but it must be a part of longer-term sustainable projects to rebuild agriculture capacity as well. The OCHA appeal, while focusing on emergency needs, could also raise funds for needed capacity building. Funds from donors and private individuals come mostly after a disaster, but if all the money raised simply goes to emergency needs, there is nothing left to build for the long term when donor funds will be even scarcer.

Coordination and support services, on the other hand, is only the target of 1.2 percent of the overall appeal. However, this appears to be one of the most significant bottle necks in the distribution of assistance right now in Haiti. The Haitian government has pledged to take the lead in coordinating the international and local response, but lacks the necessary capacity? or willingness from donors? to make that a reality. The OCHA appeal does attempt to raise funds to support the government’s coordination efforts, but only $193,000, and that would go through the UN Development Program. That project remains 0 percent funded as of now. In fact, despite the low targets for the sector, no funding has thus been channeled in to this important area.

On his visit to Haiti last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed “disappointment” with donors, who had yet to commit funds. “I know there is some fatigue from certain countries, but the current situation, the current disaster that hit this country through Hurricane Matthew is beyond description,” he said.

“The United Nations stands by your side. We will mobilize all resources to help you,” Ban continued. Speaking yesterday directly to donor governments, Ban once again criticized the slow response, saying “We urgently need more resources.”

Provisional president of Haiti Jocelerme Privert struck a slightly different tone in his remarks with Ban last week: “There will always be hurricanes, there will always be catastrophes. We need concrete actions to mitigate the damage from the next hurricanes that have not hit yet,” he said.

Those are the types of actions that failed to materialize after the 2010 earthquake, and that do not appear to be addressed through this latest UN appeal for funds.  Everyone learned the lessons, but Haiti needs solutions.

*Flash Appeal funding data is as of October 21, 2016.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti ? Under the leadership of an interim government since February, Haiti will now wait a little longer to elect a president after Hurricane Matthew struck the island, with 130 mile-per-hour winds and up to two feet of rain last week. Elections scheduled for October 9 have been put on hold, with Haiti’s provision electoral council (CEP) expected to announce a new date on Friday.

As the scale of the damage becomes clearer in Haiti’s rural Tiburon peninsula, where entire communities were left destroyed and under water, negotiations are ongoing in the relatively unscathed capital of Port-au-Prince, where political and economic power has long resided. Pressure is building on Haiti’s besieged interim president Jocelerme Privert to hold the elections in the coming weeks, but an internal assessment of electoral infrastructure obtained by Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch reveals massive damage to voting centers throughout the hardest-hit departments.

Some 30 percent of voting centers remained inaccessible in the most impacted areas according to the report compiled by the Organization of American States (OAS), while of those that were visited, 70 percent were rendered inoperable. The storm-ravaged departments are home to roughly one million of Haiti’s approximately 5.9 million registered voters. Across the country, meanwhile, the government estimates 1.4 million people to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

The CEP met with political parties Monday and has also met with representatives from the international community, Haitian civil society and the government this week. Mathias Pierre, a representative of Platfòm Pitit Dessalines, whose presidential candidate is former Senator Moïse Jean Charles, said that political parties had agreed on October 30 for the new date. But no official decision has been made, as the CEP continues to search for consensus.

According to multiple sources briefed on the situation, November 13 is the latest date where it would still be possible to maintain the existing electoral calendar and hand over of power in February. But it is unclear if even that will provide enough time to prepare, or satisfy the many political interests.

“If there are not elections by the end of October, we are ready to take to the street,” Roudy Chute, a representative from PHTK ? the party of former president Michel Martelly, whose candidate, Jovenel Moïse, came in first in last year’s discarded elections ? said in an interview earlier this week. “The people in power are not legitimate,” he continued. “They can’t negotiate with the international community.”

Senator Privert was selected to head an interim government in February 2016 when Martelly’s term expired after presidential elections in October 2015 were scrapped due to massive fraud and other irregularities. Given a 120-day mandate, Privert called for an investigation into the previous year’s elections. The commission recommended holding new presidential and partial legislative elections this October. The decision, however, was never fully accepted by political parties aligned with the former president, nor by some actors in the international community.

When Privert’s official mandate ended in June, a gridlocked parliament failed to act to either extend his term or replace him. Initiatives since then have faced stiff opposition; the government has been unable to adopt a budget. International donors also curtailed funding earlier this year.

In Jérémie, a coastal town in the Grand’Anse department where few structures remain intact after the storm, a local government official complained that aid from the government was not arriving fast enough, but then added, “How could it? It’s not a legitimate government.” But Privert has said the government is mobilizing what resources it can, telling reporters it has already spent some $400,000 and is working to coordinate various international actors to ensure the government remains in the lead of relief efforts and that goods are reaching those in need.

“Everyone agrees that the elections need to move forward and need to be completed, and that having a newly elected president in place will allow the government to deal [better] with the longer-term issues than having a provisional government in place,” US Ambassador Peter Mulrean told the Washington Post. But, he added, there must be a “balance between the political imperative to hold the elections as quickly as possible and what is technically feasible to run credible elections.”

Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network, whose organization observed last year’s elections, warned that it would be “impossible” to hold elections on October 30. In the three departments hardest hit it was unclear if the electoral apparatus would be ready, even by mid-November, he said. Looming in the future though is February 7, the constitutional date for a new ? elected ? president to take office. Terms for one-third of the Senate are also set to expire in early January.

The electoral infrastructure assessment obtained by HRRW raises significant questions as to whether the country can adequately prepare for elections in just a few short weeks, alongside a massive humanitarian response. In the South department, 112 of 157 voting centers were damaged and determined to be inoperable. In the Grand Anse and Nippes many voting centers remained inaccessible due to road blockages and flooding from the storm. Of those that could be visited, 88 percent and 54 percent, respectively, were damaged. The report added that impacted urban areas could also pose “security challenges.” Five Senate seats from these departments are to be decided in this election, as well as three seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Still, the report stopped short of recommending a new date or estimating how long preparation might take. Rather, it urges electoral authorities, the government, and political parties to reach a consensus balancing political needs with voters’ access to the polls. Last year’s elections were plagued by low voter turnout and there is concern that rushing toward elections could further isolate rural areas that have long felt neglected by the so-called republic of Port-au-Prince.

With floodwaters sweeping away belongings, it is likely that many have lost identity cards necessary to vote. According to the government, some 175,000 people are still living in temporary shelters. The government has pledged to distribute new voter ID cards as fast as possible.  

Rony Desroches, who heads a local observer organization, OCID, that receives funding from the US government, said that while many voting centers were damaged, it would still be possible to meet the February 7 deadline. “The government has to repair the voting centers, most of them are schools, and children must go to school.” He added that the government “could channel the assistance towards that.”

Chute, the PHTK representative, alleged that the government wanted to delay elections so that “the people forget Jovenel [Moïse].” While the electoral body cut off official campaigning last Friday, presidential candidates have fanned out over the country, delivering aid supplies throughout the impacted regions. Many candidates have branded relief supplies with their political logos. “Absolutely, it is to contrast with the [Haitian] government” that is seen as absent from many rural areas, Chute said. Political ploy or not, a barge with supplies from private sector actors supporting PHTK arrived in Jérémie earlier this week and was expected to continue along the coast, delivering goods to remote coastal towns that have yet to be reached by aid efforts.

Many of the dump trucks removing debris in Jérémie bore the PHTK logo next to that of V&F, one of the largest Haitian construction companies. But PHTK is far from the only party to take such steps. Jude Célestin, another of the top candidates and a former head of the national construction company, has said he is willing to rebuild a crucial bridge that connects the south to the rest of the country, and that was destroyed. His LAPEH party logo was also seen on construction vehicles in Jérémie. Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the presidential candidate of the Fanmi Lavalas party, has led food distributions as well.  The CEP warned this week that political branding of supplies was a violation of the electoral decree, stating that assistance should be an act of “non-partisan solidarity.”

Residents in rural areas seem to have more immediate concerns than elections, after the storm destroyed upward of 90 percent of houses in some areas. On the road between Les Cayes and Jérémie, two of the larger cities that were hit, small villages have been left on their own. Throughout the mountainous pass, residents were seen picking up the pieces left behind by the hurricane, hammering old zinc sheeting back on to roofs, drying their belongings in the sun, and collecting what food they could from trees that were uprooted in the storm.

One group simply scoffed when asked about the elections. “We’re not even thinking about that now,” a middle-aged man responded. In Jérémie, local authorities raced to provide medical treatment and supplies to understaffed and damaged hospitals that have been left without electricity. Cholera treatment supplies from Doctors Without Borders were unloaded off a boat and raced to a newly set up treatment center. The cholera epidemic, introduced by UN troops in October 2010, is expected to increase sharply in the coming weeks and months after floodwater mixed with sewage inundated communities. In some rural areas, there have already been significant increases in caseloads, stretching already limited capacities.

Some actors have accused the international community of pushing for a delay of the election in order to support the “humanitarian business” of disaster relief. Haitians have long-held suspicions of international relief efforts, feeling, most recently after the earthquake in 2010, that much of the promised aid never actually reaches the ground.

“Certainly [the international community is] pressuring in that direction, but one notes that we cannot cope with the humanitarian situation with a provisional government,” Desroches commented. If communications were handled properly, stressing the need for a legitimate president to oversee assistance efforts, “it might encourage people to vote,” he said about the possibility of an even lower turnout.  

But there are also more simple concerns for parties pushing elections to be help rapidly; most are running out of money. After campaigning for much of the last two years, campaign funds are dwindling and private sector backers have been reluctant to provide additional resources.

A longer delay could also threaten Privert’s already tenuous hold on the government. An international official involved in the organization of elections believed the question of when to hold elections had become increasingly politicized. Opponents of the interim government could take advantage of the delay “to get rid of Privert,” the source added, making it more likely that every effort will be made to hold elections by November 13, in order to ensure the February 7 handover of power.

“We will strike in parliament, and we will strike in the street. There will be another crisis,” if elections are delayed too long, Chute said. “I’m pretty sure the international community doesn’t want that.” He noted that a longer delay would require a new political pact, and PHTK was not prepared to agree to that.

Speaking at the UN Security Council this week, the head of the UN mission that has been in Haiti for more than a decade, Sandra Honoré, said that the impact of the storm “on the political process and on stability in the country could only serve to reconfirm” the need for an extension of the troops’ mandate. A withdrawal had been expected after the elections.

Recent history shows how damaging a poorly organized election can be to long-term political stability. In November 2010, elections were held nine months after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and displaced over a million people. A month before the election, cholera was introduced and spread rapidly throughout the country and then, in early November, Hurricane Tomas swept across Haiti. Rather than delay the election, international backers and many in Haiti urged the process to continue at all costs.

The elections were plagued by such a high level of irregularities that it was statistically impossible to determine a winner. Instead of rerunning the elections, a US-backed mission from the OAS came to Haiti to analyze the vote and recommended an arbitrary change in the official results ? a recommendation backed by threats from Washington to cut desperately needed humanitarian relief funds. Michel Martelly was moved to the second round, which he won handily, but many political actors never recognized his legitimacy, and the parliament was barely functional over his five years in power. No elections were held for four years, and eventually the parliament’s terms expired. Martelly ruled by decree for his last year in office, eventually leading to the aborted elections of last year.

“The CEP needs to be very careful regarding the date because it is important to organize a good election,” Esperance said, warning that if they don’t go well it would provide a pretext for parties to contest the results. He recognized the importance of holding elections as soon as possible, but believed that further evaluation must be done by the CEP to determine how long it will take. “It looks like political interests are being put over the needs of the people,” he added.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti ? Under the leadership of an interim government since February, Haiti will now wait a little longer to elect a president after Hurricane Matthew struck the island, with 130 mile-per-hour winds and up to two feet of rain last week. Elections scheduled for October 9 have been put on hold, with Haiti’s provision electoral council (CEP) expected to announce a new date on Friday.

As the scale of the damage becomes clearer in Haiti’s rural Tiburon peninsula, where entire communities were left destroyed and under water, negotiations are ongoing in the relatively unscathed capital of Port-au-Prince, where political and economic power has long resided. Pressure is building on Haiti’s besieged interim president Jocelerme Privert to hold the elections in the coming weeks, but an internal assessment of electoral infrastructure obtained by Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch reveals massive damage to voting centers throughout the hardest-hit departments.

Some 30 percent of voting centers remained inaccessible in the most impacted areas according to the report compiled by the Organization of American States (OAS), while of those that were visited, 70 percent were rendered inoperable. The storm-ravaged departments are home to roughly one million of Haiti’s approximately 5.9 million registered voters. Across the country, meanwhile, the government estimates 1.4 million people to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

The CEP met with political parties Monday and has also met with representatives from the international community, Haitian civil society and the government this week. Mathias Pierre, a representative of Platfòm Pitit Dessalines, whose presidential candidate is former Senator Moïse Jean Charles, said that political parties had agreed on October 30 for the new date. But no official decision has been made, as the CEP continues to search for consensus.

According to multiple sources briefed on the situation, November 13 is the latest date where it would still be possible to maintain the existing electoral calendar and hand over of power in February. But it is unclear if even that will provide enough time to prepare, or satisfy the many political interests.

“If there are not elections by the end of October, we are ready to take to the street,” Roudy Chute, a representative from PHTK ? the party of former president Michel Martelly, whose candidate, Jovenel Moïse, came in first in last year’s discarded elections ? said in an interview earlier this week. “The people in power are not legitimate,” he continued. “They can’t negotiate with the international community.”

Senator Privert was selected to head an interim government in February 2016 when Martelly’s term expired after presidential elections in October 2015 were scrapped due to massive fraud and other irregularities. Given a 120-day mandate, Privert called for an investigation into the previous year’s elections. The commission recommended holding new presidential and partial legislative elections this October. The decision, however, was never fully accepted by political parties aligned with the former president, nor by some actors in the international community.

When Privert’s official mandate ended in June, a gridlocked parliament failed to act to either extend his term or replace him. Initiatives since then have faced stiff opposition; the government has been unable to adopt a budget. International donors also curtailed funding earlier this year.

In Jérémie, a coastal town in the Grand’Anse department where few structures remain intact after the storm, a local government official complained that aid from the government was not arriving fast enough, but then added, “How could it? It’s not a legitimate government.” But Privert has said the government is mobilizing what resources it can, telling reporters it has already spent some $400,000 and is working to coordinate various international actors to ensure the government remains in the lead of relief efforts and that goods are reaching those in need.

“Everyone agrees that the elections need to move forward and need to be completed, and that having a newly elected president in place will allow the government to deal [better] with the longer-term issues than having a provisional government in place,” US Ambassador Peter Mulrean told the Washington Post. But, he added, there must be a “balance between the political imperative to hold the elections as quickly as possible and what is technically feasible to run credible elections.”

Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network, whose organization observed last year’s elections, warned that it would be “impossible” to hold elections on October 30. In the three departments hardest hit it was unclear if the electoral apparatus would be ready, even by mid-November, he said. Looming in the future though is February 7, the constitutional date for a new ? elected ? president to take office. Terms for one-third of the Senate are also set to expire in early January.

The electoral infrastructure assessment obtained by HRRW raises significant questions as to whether the country can adequately prepare for elections in just a few short weeks, alongside a massive humanitarian response. In the South department, 112 of 157 voting centers were damaged and determined to be inoperable. In the Grand Anse and Nippes many voting centers remained inaccessible due to road blockages and flooding from the storm. Of those that could be visited, 88 percent and 54 percent, respectively, were damaged. The report added that impacted urban areas could also pose “security challenges.” Five Senate seats from these departments are to be decided in this election, as well as three seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Still, the report stopped short of recommending a new date or estimating how long preparation might take. Rather, it urges electoral authorities, the government, and political parties to reach a consensus balancing political needs with voters’ access to the polls. Last year’s elections were plagued by low voter turnout and there is concern that rushing toward elections could further isolate rural areas that have long felt neglected by the so-called republic of Port-au-Prince.

With floodwaters sweeping away belongings, it is likely that many have lost identity cards necessary to vote. According to the government, some 175,000 people are still living in temporary shelters. The government has pledged to distribute new voter ID cards as fast as possible.  

Rony Desroches, who heads a local observer organization, OCID, that receives funding from the US government, said that while many voting centers were damaged, it would still be possible to meet the February 7 deadline. “The government has to repair the voting centers, most of them are schools, and children must go to school.” He added that the government “could channel the assistance towards that.”

Chute, the PHTK representative, alleged that the government wanted to delay elections so that “the people forget Jovenel [Moïse].” While the electoral body cut off official campaigning last Friday, presidential candidates have fanned out over the country, delivering aid supplies throughout the impacted regions. Many candidates have branded relief supplies with their political logos. “Absolutely, it is to contrast with the [Haitian] government” that is seen as absent from many rural areas, Chute said. Political ploy or not, a barge with supplies from private sector actors supporting PHTK arrived in Jérémie earlier this week and was expected to continue along the coast, delivering goods to remote coastal towns that have yet to be reached by aid efforts.

Many of the dump trucks removing debris in Jérémie bore the PHTK logo next to that of V&F, one of the largest Haitian construction companies. But PHTK is far from the only party to take such steps. Jude Célestin, another of the top candidates and a former head of the national construction company, has said he is willing to rebuild a crucial bridge that connects the south to the rest of the country, and that was destroyed. His LAPEH party logo was also seen on construction vehicles in Jérémie. Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the presidential candidate of the Fanmi Lavalas party, has led food distributions as well.  The CEP warned this week that political branding of supplies was a violation of the electoral decree, stating that assistance should be an act of “non-partisan solidarity.”

Residents in rural areas seem to have more immediate concerns than elections, after the storm destroyed upward of 90 percent of houses in some areas. On the road between Les Cayes and Jérémie, two of the larger cities that were hit, small villages have been left on their own. Throughout the mountainous pass, residents were seen picking up the pieces left behind by the hurricane, hammering old zinc sheeting back on to roofs, drying their belongings in the sun, and collecting what food they could from trees that were uprooted in the storm.

One group simply scoffed when asked about the elections. “We’re not even thinking about that now,” a middle-aged man responded. In Jérémie, local authorities raced to provide medical treatment and supplies to understaffed and damaged hospitals that have been left without electricity. Cholera treatment supplies from Doctors Without Borders were unloaded off a boat and raced to a newly set up treatment center. The cholera epidemic, introduced by UN troops in October 2010, is expected to increase sharply in the coming weeks and months after floodwater mixed with sewage inundated communities. In some rural areas, there have already been significant increases in caseloads, stretching already limited capacities.

Some actors have accused the international community of pushing for a delay of the election in order to support the “humanitarian business” of disaster relief. Haitians have long-held suspicions of international relief efforts, feeling, most recently after the earthquake in 2010, that much of the promised aid never actually reaches the ground.

“Certainly [the international community is] pressuring in that direction, but one notes that we cannot cope with the humanitarian situation with a provisional government,” Desroches commented. If communications were handled properly, stressing the need for a legitimate president to oversee assistance efforts, “it might encourage people to vote,” he said about the possibility of an even lower turnout.  

But there are also more simple concerns for parties pushing elections to be help rapidly; most are running out of money. After campaigning for much of the last two years, campaign funds are dwindling and private sector backers have been reluctant to provide additional resources.

A longer delay could also threaten Privert’s already tenuous hold on the government. An international official involved in the organization of elections believed the question of when to hold elections had become increasingly politicized. Opponents of the interim government could take advantage of the delay “to get rid of Privert,” the source added, making it more likely that every effort will be made to hold elections by November 13, in order to ensure the February 7 handover of power.

“We will strike in parliament, and we will strike in the street. There will be another crisis,” if elections are delayed too long, Chute said. “I’m pretty sure the international community doesn’t want that.” He noted that a longer delay would require a new political pact, and PHTK was not prepared to agree to that.

Speaking at the UN Security Council this week, the head of the UN mission that has been in Haiti for more than a decade, Sandra Honoré, said that the impact of the storm “on the political process and on stability in the country could only serve to reconfirm” the need for an extension of the troops’ mandate. A withdrawal had been expected after the elections.

Recent history shows how damaging a poorly organized election can be to long-term political stability. In November 2010, elections were held nine months after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and displaced over a million people. A month before the election, cholera was introduced and spread rapidly throughout the country and then, in early November, Hurricane Tomas swept across Haiti. Rather than delay the election, international backers and many in Haiti urged the process to continue at all costs.

The elections were plagued by such a high level of irregularities that it was statistically impossible to determine a winner. Instead of rerunning the elections, a US-backed mission from the OAS came to Haiti to analyze the vote and recommended an arbitrary change in the official results ? a recommendation backed by threats from Washington to cut desperately needed humanitarian relief funds. Michel Martelly was moved to the second round, which he won handily, but many political actors never recognized his legitimacy, and the parliament was barely functional over his five years in power. No elections were held for four years, and eventually the parliament’s terms expired. Martelly ruled by decree for his last year in office, eventually leading to the aborted elections of last year.

“The CEP needs to be very careful regarding the date because it is important to organize a good election,” Esperance said, warning that if they don’t go well it would provide a pretext for parties to contest the results. He recognized the importance of holding elections as soon as possible, but believed that further evaluation must be done by the CEP to determine how long it will take. “It looks like political interests are being put over the needs of the people,” he added.

En français

“The situation cannot afford Washington to sit on sidelines. They elected him and they need [sic] pressure him. He can’t go unchecked,” Laura Graham, then the Chief Operating Officer of the Clinton Foundation, wrote to Bill Clinton in early 2012. Graham was referring to the increasingly erratic, and potentially dangerous, behavior of Haitian president Michel Martelly. When she said “They elected him,” she was referring to the US government, which intervened through the OAS to change the election results of the first round of Haiti, putting Martelly in to the second round. The e-mail, one of many Graham sent to Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff on February 26, 2012, eventually was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aide, Cheryl Mills. The note is perhaps the clearest evidence to date that key officials, even within the Clinton camp, viewed the US intervention in the 2010 Haitian election as decisive.

The 2010 Haitian election was a mess. Held less than a year after a devastating earthquake, millions of people were displaced or otherwise disenfranchised and then-president René Préval was accused of fraud on behalf of his preferred candidate Jude Célestin. A majority of candidates held an afternoon press conference on election day denouncing the process and calling for new elections. But Washington and its allies, who had funded the election, pushed forward, telling the press that everything was okay. Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional law professor and former first lady, and Célestin came in first and second, respectively, according to preliminary results, putting them into a scheduled run-off. Martelly was in third, a few thousand votes behind.

Protests engulfed the capital and other major cities, threatening the political stability that donors have long desired, but have failed to nurture. With billions in foreign aid on the table and Bill Clinton overseeing an international effort at “building back better,” there was a lot on the line: both money and credibility.

With Martelly’s supporters leading large, and at times violent, protests, the US turned up the heat by publicly questioning the results just hours after they were announced. Within 24 hours, top State Department officials were already discussing with Haitian private sector groups plans to force Célestin out of the race. “[P]rivate sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw … This is big,” then US Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten wrote the next day. Merten wrote that he had personally contacted Martelly’s “camp” and told them that he needs to “get on radio telling people to not pillage. Peaceful demo OK: pillage is not.” Unfortunately, much of Merten’s message and those in response have been redacted.

The Haitian government eventually requested that a mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) come to Haiti to analyze the results. The mission, despite not conducting a recount or any statistical test, recommended replacing Célestin in the runoff with Martelly.  With the lowest turnout for a presidential election in the hemisphere’s recent history, and at least 12 percent of the votes simply missing, any decision on who should be in a second round would be based on faulty assumptions. (CEPR analyzed all the voter tally sheets at the time, conducting a statistical analysis of the vote, and later showed how the OAS recommendation could not be supported by any statistical evidence.)

Nevertheless, pressure began to mount on the Haitian government to accept the OAS recommendations. Officials had their US visas revoked and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice even went so far as to threaten to cut aid, even though the country was still recovering from the devastating earthquake earlier in the year.

In late January 2011, two months after the elections, but before any decision had been made, Laura Graham wrote to top Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, warning that her boss, Bill Clinton [wjc] would be very upset if certain visas were pulled:

There are rumors abt ur second visa list and jmb [Prime Minister and co-chair of the Clinton-led reconstruction commission, Jean Max Bellerive] being on it. He’s a conflicted guy and is being pressured on both sides and we believe trying to help. Wjc will be v unhappy if that’s the case. Nor do I think u need remove his visa. Not sure what it gets u. Remove elizabeth’s [Préval’s wife] and prevals people. I’m also staying at his house fyi so exposure in general and this weekend in particular for wjc on this.

In response, Mills questioned the “message it sends” for Graham to stay at Bellerive’s house, but Graham replied, indicating a certain coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department in influencing Haitian politics: “For the record, I discussed staying at his house w both u and wjc long ago and was told good strategic value and ive [sic] stayed there every time.”

But being at Bellerive’s house, with a decision on the election coming any day, would send an inappropriate signal, Mills pointed out. “Think of all the rumors you have heard?” Mills asked, “that we want to pressure Célestin out when that is Brazilian and UN position,” she added as an example. There is no doubt that high-level Brazilian and UN officials were involved in the decision and efforts to exclude Célestin. Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN military mission in Haiti, even privately suggested flying Préval out of the country on election day. But it was the US that funded the OAS mission and that had been applying the most pressure on the Haitian government, and another e-mail from Graham to Mills a few days later confirms this.

I think you need to consider a message and outreach strategy to ensure that different elements of haitian society (church leaders, business, etc) buy into the mms solution and are out their [sic] on radio messaging why its [sic] good.

The “mms solution” here likely refers to the presence of Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly being placed in the second round over Célestin, the scenario State Department officials and Haitian private sector groups had been discussing since the day after results were announced. “Seems to me IC [international community] needs a complimentary message-outreach strategy to support this solution,” Graham added, noting that the US government was being made out as a “villain.”

A week earlier, a separate e-mail reveals, the Haitian government had proposed cancelling the elections, as many had been calling for, and running new ones, but the plan was rejected by the EU and US. The international actors opted instead for the arbitrary removal of Célestin and moving forward with the “MMs,” two rightist political candidates who would support the “Haiti is open for business” slogan that emerged after the quake.  

The e-mail from Graham came just days before Hillary Clinton would fly to Haiti, in the middle of the crisis in Egypt, to force the government’s hand. Mills forwarded Graham’s message to Hillary Clinton, with a note, “Let’s discuss this on the plane,” to which Hillary responded simply: “Bill talked to me about this and is quite worried about what I do and say tomorrow.”

“As we all are,” Mills responded, passing along talking points for the following day’s Haiti trip. “Ask him if he has any thoughts,” Mills wrote, in reference to Bill Clinton.

The next day Hillary Clinton traveled to Haiti and met with Préval. “We tried to resist and did, until the visit of Hillary Clinton. That was when Préval understood he had no way out and accepted” it, Bellerive told me in an interview last year. Martelly won in the second round, in which just over 20 percent of the electorate voted.

But the hoped-for political stability wouldn’t come so easy. After Martelly’s first two choices for prime minister failed to pass parliament, Garry Conille, who had previously served as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff when Clinton was UN Special Envoy to Haiti, became prime minister in September 2011. E-mails reveal that Graham had been vetting potential prime minister picks as early as June 2011 and had suggested Conille. E-mails show State Department staff helped to sway parliamentarians on Conille, who was expected to be the partner that the international community needed in the Haitian government to help oversee the massive reconstruction underway. But it didn’t work out that way.

After just five months on the job, Conille resigned on February 24, 2012. Two days later, Laura Graham wrote to Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Jon Davidson. In the e-mail, written while she said she was with Conille, Graham expressed extreme frustration with Martelly and pointed the finger clearly at him for the resignation of Conille, who had begun investigating a number of high-profile reconstruction contracts involving Dominican firms. Graham also warned that the US must step up and act to rein in Martelly, or risk the consequences, urging Bill Clinton to “convince” the US government:

GC [Conille] believes that his resignation offers the IC [International Community] an opportunity to join in the chorus (media, business, civil society, parliament) of pressure on MM [Martelly]. He can no longer use GC as his obstacle. He has to act and show he’s for democracy or there needs to be consequences. Waiting for this truck wo brakes to hit the bottom of the hill will be too late. You can be helpful in convincing USG and the IC.

Graham continued, suggesting Bill Clinton go forward with his investor trip to Haiti, but also use the time to pressure Martelly. Graham was also concerned that the State Department was going too easy on their new friend Martelly, whom they had helped elect:

The US has to push here and I believe some at state, definitely Merten [US Ambassador], are advising a wait and see attitude. The situation cannot afford Washington to sit on sidelines. They elected him and they need [sic] pressure him. He can’t go unchecked. Same thing with UN. Mariano Fernandez [Top UN military official at the time] needs to act more like “mulet” [UN official who helped oust Célestin] than the quiet peaceful guy he is. 

Graham, having been in close communication with Mills and other high-level State Department staff, as well as Bill Clinton, who, as the e-mails clearly indicate, was kept well informed, was certainly in a position to know just how influential the US intervention in the 2010 election was. “They elected him,” is as clear as it gets, though given previous e-mails, perhaps it would have been more accurate to say “We elected him.” But it’s clear that forcing her colleague Conille to resign had pushed Graham.

“MM [Martelly] wants GC [Conille] to leave the country,” she began another email later that same evening. Conille’s “life has and continues to be threatened by people associated with” Martelly, Graham added, and that Martelly “said himself he will do all it takes to take” Conille down. Once again, Graham questioned Merten’s stance regarding Martelly:

The US – Cheryl [Mills] – promised him American backed security immediately but when he met with Merten yesterday Merten was not only in the mind frame of “well MM is not such a bad guy and he’s better than previous presidents” but he didn’t discuss or offer any security. Every day, GC life and reputation are at risk. The US and or the IC must go to MM and tell him that nothing is to happen to GC, not even a tree accidentally falling on him, or MM will face consequences.

A few minutes later Graham writes again, warning of Martelly’s efforts to form armed militias throughout the country:

I now have seen the actual intel from MINUSTAH [UN military contingent] and the evidence of the armed militia training throughout the country including evidence that the palace is funding and supporting it. I’m meeting with Mariano Fernandez tomorrow but GC shared with me this intel last night and its obvious from the documents and the pictures what is going on here.

“The evidence is clear as day and they have already begun parading in the streets with guns and chanting in carrefour (less than 1 hour from PaP [Port-au-Prince]) and other areas of the country,” Graham adds.

Finally, an hour later, Graham sends the last e-mail after viewing Conille’s preliminary audit, which “details the amount of corruption and the arrogance in they [sic] way they did it.” Graham continues:

It is the contracts that MM is saying he will come after GC with everything he’s got to prevent the real details (presumably including his take) from coming out.

The next day, Oscar Flores, a long-time Clinton aide, forwards all of the messages to Mills and Hillary Clinton. “Pls print,” Clinton responds.

But despite Graham’s concerns and the apparent evidence of corruption and armed militias, the US continued to stand by the Martelly administration. His term ended in February 2016, and Graham’s e-mail on Martelly’s lack of democratic credentials now reads especially prescient. After no elections were held during his first four years in office, Martelly began ruling by decree in January 2015. Presidential elections, held last fall, were so marred by fraud and irregularities that they were entirely scrapped (unlike the controversial elections in 2010), leaving Haiti without a democratically elected president. Once again, the US argued for accepting the flawed elections and moving forward with a second round, this time between Martelly’s hand-picked successor and an old friend from 2010, Jude Célestin. But this time, the US didn’t get their way ? entirely new elections are scheduled for this October.

En français

“The situation cannot afford Washington to sit on sidelines. They elected him and they need [sic] pressure him. He can’t go unchecked,” Laura Graham, then the Chief Operating Officer of the Clinton Foundation, wrote to Bill Clinton in early 2012. Graham was referring to the increasingly erratic, and potentially dangerous, behavior of Haitian president Michel Martelly. When she said “They elected him,” she was referring to the US government, which intervened through the OAS to change the election results of the first round of Haiti, putting Martelly in to the second round. The e-mail, one of many Graham sent to Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff on February 26, 2012, eventually was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aide, Cheryl Mills. The note is perhaps the clearest evidence to date that key officials, even within the Clinton camp, viewed the US intervention in the 2010 Haitian election as decisive.

The 2010 Haitian election was a mess. Held less than a year after a devastating earthquake, millions of people were displaced or otherwise disenfranchised and then-president René Préval was accused of fraud on behalf of his preferred candidate Jude Célestin. A majority of candidates held an afternoon press conference on election day denouncing the process and calling for new elections. But Washington and its allies, who had funded the election, pushed forward, telling the press that everything was okay. Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional law professor and former first lady, and Célestin came in first and second, respectively, according to preliminary results, putting them into a scheduled run-off. Martelly was in third, a few thousand votes behind.

Protests engulfed the capital and other major cities, threatening the political stability that donors have long desired, but have failed to nurture. With billions in foreign aid on the table and Bill Clinton overseeing an international effort at “building back better,” there was a lot on the line: both money and credibility.

With Martelly’s supporters leading large, and at times violent, protests, the US turned up the heat by publicly questioning the results just hours after they were announced. Within 24 hours, top State Department officials were already discussing with Haitian private sector groups plans to force Célestin out of the race. “[P]rivate sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw … This is big,” then US Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten wrote the next day. Merten wrote that he had personally contacted Martelly’s “camp” and told them that he needs to “get on radio telling people to not pillage. Peaceful demo OK: pillage is not.” Unfortunately, much of Merten’s message and those in response have been redacted.

The Haitian government eventually requested that a mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) come to Haiti to analyze the results. The mission, despite not conducting a recount or any statistical test, recommended replacing Célestin in the runoff with Martelly.  With the lowest turnout for a presidential election in the hemisphere’s recent history, and at least 12 percent of the votes simply missing, any decision on who should be in a second round would be based on faulty assumptions. (CEPR analyzed all the voter tally sheets at the time, conducting a statistical analysis of the vote, and later showed how the OAS recommendation could not be supported by any statistical evidence.)

Nevertheless, pressure began to mount on the Haitian government to accept the OAS recommendations. Officials had their US visas revoked and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice even went so far as to threaten to cut aid, even though the country was still recovering from the devastating earthquake earlier in the year.

In late January 2011, two months after the elections, but before any decision had been made, Laura Graham wrote to top Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, warning that her boss, Bill Clinton [wjc] would be very upset if certain visas were pulled:

There are rumors abt ur second visa list and jmb [Prime Minister and co-chair of the Clinton-led reconstruction commission, Jean Max Bellerive] being on it. He’s a conflicted guy and is being pressured on both sides and we believe trying to help. Wjc will be v unhappy if that’s the case. Nor do I think u need remove his visa. Not sure what it gets u. Remove elizabeth’s [Préval’s wife] and prevals people. I’m also staying at his house fyi so exposure in general and this weekend in particular for wjc on this.

In response, Mills questioned the “message it sends” for Graham to stay at Bellerive’s house, but Graham replied, indicating a certain coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department in influencing Haitian politics: “For the record, I discussed staying at his house w both u and wjc long ago and was told good strategic value and ive [sic] stayed there every time.”

But being at Bellerive’s house, with a decision on the election coming any day, would send an inappropriate signal, Mills pointed out. “Think of all the rumors you have heard?” Mills asked, “that we want to pressure Célestin out when that is Brazilian and UN position,” she added as an example. There is no doubt that high-level Brazilian and UN officials were involved in the decision and efforts to exclude Célestin. Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN military mission in Haiti, even privately suggested flying Préval out of the country on election day. But it was the US that funded the OAS mission and that had been applying the most pressure on the Haitian government, and another e-mail from Graham to Mills a few days later confirms this.

I think you need to consider a message and outreach strategy to ensure that different elements of haitian society (church leaders, business, etc) buy into the mms solution and are out their [sic] on radio messaging why its [sic] good.

The “mms solution” here likely refers to the presence of Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly being placed in the second round over Célestin, the scenario State Department officials and Haitian private sector groups had been discussing since the day after results were announced. “Seems to me IC [international community] needs a complimentary message-outreach strategy to support this solution,” Graham added, noting that the US government was being made out as a “villain.”

A week earlier, a separate e-mail reveals, the Haitian government had proposed cancelling the elections, as many had been calling for, and running new ones, but the plan was rejected by the EU and US. The international actors opted instead for the arbitrary removal of Célestin and moving forward with the “MMs,” two rightist political candidates who would support the “Haiti is open for business” slogan that emerged after the quake.  

The e-mail from Graham came just days before Hillary Clinton would fly to Haiti, in the middle of the crisis in Egypt, to force the government’s hand. Mills forwarded Graham’s message to Hillary Clinton, with a note, “Let’s discuss this on the plane,” to which Hillary responded simply: “Bill talked to me about this and is quite worried about what I do and say tomorrow.”

“As we all are,” Mills responded, passing along talking points for the following day’s Haiti trip. “Ask him if he has any thoughts,” Mills wrote, in reference to Bill Clinton.

The next day Hillary Clinton traveled to Haiti and met with Préval. “We tried to resist and did, until the visit of Hillary Clinton. That was when Préval understood he had no way out and accepted” it, Bellerive told me in an interview last year. Martelly won in the second round, in which just over 20 percent of the electorate voted.

But the hoped-for political stability wouldn’t come so easy. After Martelly’s first two choices for prime minister failed to pass parliament, Garry Conille, who had previously served as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff when Clinton was UN Special Envoy to Haiti, became prime minister in September 2011. E-mails reveal that Graham had been vetting potential prime minister picks as early as June 2011 and had suggested Conille. E-mails show State Department staff helped to sway parliamentarians on Conille, who was expected to be the partner that the international community needed in the Haitian government to help oversee the massive reconstruction underway. But it didn’t work out that way.

After just five months on the job, Conille resigned on February 24, 2012. Two days later, Laura Graham wrote to Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Jon Davidson. In the e-mail, written while she said she was with Conille, Graham expressed extreme frustration with Martelly and pointed the finger clearly at him for the resignation of Conille, who had begun investigating a number of high-profile reconstruction contracts involving Dominican firms. Graham also warned that the US must step up and act to rein in Martelly, or risk the consequences, urging Bill Clinton to “convince” the US government:

GC [Conille] believes that his resignation offers the IC [International Community] an opportunity to join in the chorus (media, business, civil society, parliament) of pressure on MM [Martelly]. He can no longer use GC as his obstacle. He has to act and show he’s for democracy or there needs to be consequences. Waiting for this truck wo brakes to hit the bottom of the hill will be too late. You can be helpful in convincing USG and the IC.

Graham continued, suggesting Bill Clinton go forward with his investor trip to Haiti, but also use the time to pressure Martelly. Graham was also concerned that the State Department was going too easy on their new friend Martelly, whom they had helped elect:

The US has to push here and I believe some at state, definitely Merten [US Ambassador], are advising a wait and see attitude. The situation cannot afford Washington to sit on sidelines. They elected him and they need [sic] pressure him. He can’t go unchecked. Same thing with UN. Mariano Fernandez [Top UN military official at the time] needs to act more like “mulet” [UN official who helped oust Célestin] than the quiet peaceful guy he is. 

Graham, having been in close communication with Mills and other high-level State Department staff, as well as Bill Clinton, who, as the e-mails clearly indicate, was kept well informed, was certainly in a position to know just how influential the US intervention in the 2010 election was. “They elected him,” is as clear as it gets, though given previous e-mails, perhaps it would have been more accurate to say “We elected him.” But it’s clear that forcing her colleague Conille to resign had pushed Graham.

“MM [Martelly] wants GC [Conille] to leave the country,” she began another email later that same evening. Conille’s “life has and continues to be threatened by people associated with” Martelly, Graham added, and that Martelly “said himself he will do all it takes to take” Conille down. Once again, Graham questioned Merten’s stance regarding Martelly:

The US – Cheryl [Mills] – promised him American backed security immediately but when he met with Merten yesterday Merten was not only in the mind frame of “well MM is not such a bad guy and he’s better than previous presidents” but he didn’t discuss or offer any security. Every day, GC life and reputation are at risk. The US and or the IC must go to MM and tell him that nothing is to happen to GC, not even a tree accidentally falling on him, or MM will face consequences.

A few minutes later Graham writes again, warning of Martelly’s efforts to form armed militias throughout the country:

I now have seen the actual intel from MINUSTAH [UN military contingent] and the evidence of the armed militia training throughout the country including evidence that the palace is funding and supporting it. I’m meeting with Mariano Fernandez tomorrow but GC shared with me this intel last night and its obvious from the documents and the pictures what is going on here.

“The evidence is clear as day and they have already begun parading in the streets with guns and chanting in carrefour (less than 1 hour from PaP [Port-au-Prince]) and other areas of the country,” Graham adds.

Finally, an hour later, Graham sends the last e-mail after viewing Conille’s preliminary audit, which “details the amount of corruption and the arrogance in they [sic] way they did it.” Graham continues:

It is the contracts that MM is saying he will come after GC with everything he’s got to prevent the real details (presumably including his take) from coming out.

The next day, Oscar Flores, a long-time Clinton aide, forwards all of the messages to Mills and Hillary Clinton. “Pls print,” Clinton responds.

But despite Graham’s concerns and the apparent evidence of corruption and armed militias, the US continued to stand by the Martelly administration. His term ended in February 2016, and Graham’s e-mail on Martelly’s lack of democratic credentials now reads especially prescient. After no elections were held during his first four years in office, Martelly began ruling by decree in January 2015. Presidential elections, held last fall, were so marred by fraud and irregularities that they were entirely scrapped (unlike the controversial elections in 2010), leaving Haiti without a democratically elected president. Once again, the US argued for accepting the flawed elections and moving forward with a second round, this time between Martelly’s hand-picked successor and an old friend from 2010, Jude Célestin. But this time, the US didn’t get their way ? entirely new elections are scheduled for this October.

Dismayed by the decision to rerun controversial and fraud-plagued presidential elections, the US State Department announced on Thursday a suspension of electoral assistance to Haiti. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the decision was communicated to Haitian authorities last week, noting that the US “has provided over $30 million in assistance” for elections and that the move would allow the US “to maintain priority assistance” for ongoing projects.

Kirby added that “I don’t have a dollar figure in terms of this because it wasn’t funded, it wasn’t budgeted.” However multiple sources have confirmed that the U.S has withdrawn nearly $2 million already in a United Nations controlled fund for elections. Donor governments, as well as the Haitian state, had contributed to the fund. Prior to the US move, $8.2 million remained for elections.

The pulling of funds indicates the growing displeasure with Haitian authorities’ decision to rerun last year’s presidential elections.

“We’ve made no bones about the fact that we had concerns about the way the process was unfolding,” Kirby told reporters on Thursday. During a July 4 address, US Ambassador to Haiti Peter Mulrean was even clearer: “We had difficulty understanding the decision … to start the presidential election from scratch.”

According to University of Virginia professor Robert Fatton, the withdrawal may be the “typical punishment” for “feeling insulted by the decisions taken by the people in its so-called ‘backyard.’”

“We believe it’s the sound thing to do, the right thing to do, for the people of Haiti in the long term,” Kirby said about the suspension. The Haitian government and electoral authorities have previously indicated a desire to fund elections from its own coffers. 

“We already made ourselves clear: Haiti will make all effort to find the $55 million to do the elections,” presidential spokesman Serge Simon told the Miami Herald. “If no one comes to our assistance we will manage because the priority for us is the elections,” he added.

“Haiti organizing its own elections with its own funds is a very good thing,” Fatton said. While noting that it would not guarantee a cleaner election, Fatton continued “This new reality may finally compel Haitians to blame or congratulate themselves for the outcome, and it represents a small but important step in the country’s recovery of a modicum of its national sovereignty.”

Second-round presidential elections, scheduled for January, were scrapped amid allegations of fraud and increasing street protests. The handpicked successor to former president Michel Martelly had placed first, according to the since discarded results. The US, European Union, United Nations and other donors that make up the “Core Group” in Haiti all endorsed the results as credible.

With no president-elect waiting, Martelly stepped down when his term ended in February. The legislature elected a provisional president from the political opposition – Senator Jocelerme Privert.

Privert, with the strong backing of civil society organizations, local elections observers and a wide swath of the political spectrum, created a verification commission to audit the previous election. The five-member panel found evidence of “zombie votes” — representing hundreds of thousands of votes — as well as widespread irregularities and recommended tossing the results. Haiti’s electoral council, heeding the recommendations, scheduled new presidential elections for October.

European Union election observers, disagreeing vehemently with the decision, pulled out of the country. The Organization of American States (OAS), after initially backing the results, pledged to respect the Haitian-led verification process and new electoral calendar. However the US suspension of electoral assistance may impact the OAS’ ability to continue monitoring the electoral process.

The US provided $1 million to the OAS for its electoral observation mission last year.

Some have expressed concern that the US suspension of assistance could have greater ramifications for the electoral process. “The fact that the US is pulling $2 million from the ‘election basket’ may be a sign that it is prepared to delegitimize the forthcoming elections if the results do not coincide with its interests,” Fatton said.

Asked prior to the announcement if the US was concerned that the withdrawal of funds could undermine the legitimacy of the elections, State Department Public Affairs Officer Joseph Crook did not immediately respond, later pointing to the Thursday press briefing. Kirby repeated that “these are decisions that [Haitian leaders] have to make, and we want to continue to urge them to make the right ones.” The State Department once again pointed to the press briefing when asked if they were discussing with other donor countries the possibility of pulling election funding.

The United Nations and “Core Group” countries previously warned that the decision to rerun elections and extend the electoral process could have implications for bilateral assistance. Organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, have stated that the ongoing electoral process would impact new funding decisions.

The suspension of US assistance could also have more immediate political ramifications in Haiti.  Provisional president Privert, initially given a 120-day mandate that expired in June, is awaiting a decision from parliament on whether he will be able to stay on until new elections are held or if a new interim leader will replace him. Though Privert seems to have majority support in parliament, certain members from the minority have maneuvered to block quorum and prevent a vote from taking place.

Martelly’s political party and its allies argue that Privert lacks legitimacy and must resign. The US decision will likely embolden those voices.  Any funds allocated from the Haitian state for the new elections would likely need to be approved by the parliament.

This week, the Washington DC-based Haiti Democracy Project brought two parliamentarians — both opposed to Privert — to the US for meetings with Congressional staff and US government representatives. The delegation is advocating for the holding of the scrapped second round election and the removal of Privert. James Morrell, the Executive Director of the Haiti Democracy Project, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Dismayed by the decision to rerun controversial and fraud-plagued presidential elections, the US State Department announced on Thursday a suspension of electoral assistance to Haiti. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the decision was communicated to Haitian authorities last week, noting that the US “has provided over $30 million in assistance” for elections and that the move would allow the US “to maintain priority assistance” for ongoing projects.

Kirby added that “I don’t have a dollar figure in terms of this because it wasn’t funded, it wasn’t budgeted.” However multiple sources have confirmed that the U.S has withdrawn nearly $2 million already in a United Nations controlled fund for elections. Donor governments, as well as the Haitian state, had contributed to the fund. Prior to the US move, $8.2 million remained for elections.

The pulling of funds indicates the growing displeasure with Haitian authorities’ decision to rerun last year’s presidential elections.

“We’ve made no bones about the fact that we had concerns about the way the process was unfolding,” Kirby told reporters on Thursday. During a July 4 address, US Ambassador to Haiti Peter Mulrean was even clearer: “We had difficulty understanding the decision … to start the presidential election from scratch.”

According to University of Virginia professor Robert Fatton, the withdrawal may be the “typical punishment” for “feeling insulted by the decisions taken by the people in its so-called ‘backyard.’”

“We believe it’s the sound thing to do, the right thing to do, for the people of Haiti in the long term,” Kirby said about the suspension. The Haitian government and electoral authorities have previously indicated a desire to fund elections from its own coffers. 

“We already made ourselves clear: Haiti will make all effort to find the $55 million to do the elections,” presidential spokesman Serge Simon told the Miami Herald. “If no one comes to our assistance we will manage because the priority for us is the elections,” he added.

“Haiti organizing its own elections with its own funds is a very good thing,” Fatton said. While noting that it would not guarantee a cleaner election, Fatton continued “This new reality may finally compel Haitians to blame or congratulate themselves for the outcome, and it represents a small but important step in the country’s recovery of a modicum of its national sovereignty.”

Second-round presidential elections, scheduled for January, were scrapped amid allegations of fraud and increasing street protests. The handpicked successor to former president Michel Martelly had placed first, according to the since discarded results. The US, European Union, United Nations and other donors that make up the “Core Group” in Haiti all endorsed the results as credible.

With no president-elect waiting, Martelly stepped down when his term ended in February. The legislature elected a provisional president from the political opposition – Senator Jocelerme Privert.

Privert, with the strong backing of civil society organizations, local elections observers and a wide swath of the political spectrum, created a verification commission to audit the previous election. The five-member panel found evidence of “zombie votes” — representing hundreds of thousands of votes — as well as widespread irregularities and recommended tossing the results. Haiti’s electoral council, heeding the recommendations, scheduled new presidential elections for October.

European Union election observers, disagreeing vehemently with the decision, pulled out of the country. The Organization of American States (OAS), after initially backing the results, pledged to respect the Haitian-led verification process and new electoral calendar. However the US suspension of electoral assistance may impact the OAS’ ability to continue monitoring the electoral process.

The US provided $1 million to the OAS for its electoral observation mission last year.

Some have expressed concern that the US suspension of assistance could have greater ramifications for the electoral process. “The fact that the US is pulling $2 million from the ‘election basket’ may be a sign that it is prepared to delegitimize the forthcoming elections if the results do not coincide with its interests,” Fatton said.

Asked prior to the announcement if the US was concerned that the withdrawal of funds could undermine the legitimacy of the elections, State Department Public Affairs Officer Joseph Crook did not immediately respond, later pointing to the Thursday press briefing. Kirby repeated that “these are decisions that [Haitian leaders] have to make, and we want to continue to urge them to make the right ones.” The State Department once again pointed to the press briefing when asked if they were discussing with other donor countries the possibility of pulling election funding.

The United Nations and “Core Group” countries previously warned that the decision to rerun elections and extend the electoral process could have implications for bilateral assistance. Organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, have stated that the ongoing electoral process would impact new funding decisions.

The suspension of US assistance could also have more immediate political ramifications in Haiti.  Provisional president Privert, initially given a 120-day mandate that expired in June, is awaiting a decision from parliament on whether he will be able to stay on until new elections are held or if a new interim leader will replace him. Though Privert seems to have majority support in parliament, certain members from the minority have maneuvered to block quorum and prevent a vote from taking place.

Martelly’s political party and its allies argue that Privert lacks legitimacy and must resign. The US decision will likely embolden those voices.  Any funds allocated from the Haitian state for the new elections would likely need to be approved by the parliament.

This week, the Washington DC-based Haiti Democracy Project brought two parliamentarians — both opposed to Privert — to the US for meetings with Congressional staff and US government representatives. The delegation is advocating for the holding of the scrapped second round election and the removal of Privert. James Morrell, the Executive Director of the Haiti Democracy Project, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Days before the June 14 end of provisional president Jocelerme Privert’s mandate, a coalition of political parties close to former president Michel Martelly formalized an alliance and began advocating for Privert’s removal. Led by former de facto prime minister under Marelly, Evans Paul, the “Entente Democratique” (ED) or “democratic agreement” as they have called themselves, have denounced the “totalitarian tendencies” of Privert and categorized the possible extension of his mandate as an illegal power grab.

Haitian parliamentarians were expected to vote earlier this week on extending or replacing Privert, who was appointed provisional president in early February after Martelly’s term ended with no elected replacement. The vote was delayed, as it has been previously.  

The creation of ED has formalized an alliance between Martelly’s political movement, PHTK, and Guy Philippe, a notorious paramilitary leader who is running for a seat in the Senate. Philippe was the head of a paramilitary force that helped destabilize the country in the run-up to the 2004 coup against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. From its bases in the Dominican Republic, the group mounted numerous attacks targeting police stations and government supporters. According to Human Rights Watch, Philippe also oversaw extrajudicial killings while a police chief in the late 90s. Facing a sealed indictment in the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking ties and money laundering, Philippe remains a DEA most wanted fugitive.

Philippe appeared alongside Martelly’s chosen successor Jovenel Moïse at a December political rally and has voiced his support for Moïse’s candidacy in radio broadcasts, but the formal alliance is an indication that those ties are now deepening. Philippe, a former police chief who received training from U.S. military forces in Ecuador, found an ally in Martelly, who made the army’s restoration a central plank of his presidency and his party. The army was disbanded under Aristide after a long history of human rights abuses and involvement in coup d’états. “The army has always been a part of our policy…There is no way to have Haiti without an army,” Roudy Chute, a PHTK party representative, stated during an August interview.

In February, Philippe warned of a “civil war” if Privert did not hold elections in April. The political accord that brought Privert to office called for elections in April, but after an electoral verification commission recommended scrapping the entire first round due to fraud, new presidential elections have been scheduled for October.

Last month, Philippe was allegedly tied to a paramilitary attack on a police station in the rural town of Cayes that killed 6, though he has denied involvement and refused to appear for questioning. Philippe had previously been prevented from running for office due to his ties to drug trafficking, but certain regulations were removed last year, allowing a number of candidates with criminal pasts to register. In 2006 Philippe ran for president, garnering less than two percent of the vote.

A DEA spokesperson confirmed that Philippe remains a fugitive, adding that he has proven to be “very elusive,” and that U.S. Marshalls had been given apprehension authority. A spokesperson for the Marshalls contested this, saying the DEA has “solid information about the subject’s whereabouts,” so there was no need for them to transfer apprehension authority. The DEA later acknowledged its responsibility for apprehending Philippe, but would not confirm if any active efforts to do so were underway.

Though the DEA has been involved in a number of high profile arrests in Haiti during the last five years, Philippe remains free.

In the meantime, the ED has called for an uprising against Privert. In a June 12 letter, the group called on Haitian National Police director-general Michel Ange Gédéon to disobey “any illegal order coming from a person stripped of legality and legitimacy,” referring to Privert. The ED also called on the international community to withhold recognition of Privert’s government after June 14.

These calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. The international community has urged parliament to meet to decide Privert’s future and U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Ken Merten offered a tepid recognition of Privert on a call with reporters last week. Anti-Privert protests planned for last week failed to materialize.

A former political advisor to Martelly, who requested anonymity, was critical of the ED, pointing out that “their own political ineptitude made [Privert] president.” They believe “international support for a second round…is all [Jovenel Moïse] needs, as if public opinion, or the ability of his detractors to ensure this does not happen, matters very little or not at all.” 

Pelegrín Castillo, a Dominican lawmaker with the Fuerza Nacional Progresista (FNP), claimed last week:  “In Haiti [groups] are arming in anticipation of an insurrectional conflict, around a well-known figure and the international organizations, and the United States in particular, know this.”

As the vote on Privert’s future looms, PHTK and its allies have indicated that elections may not be possible if Privert’s term is extended or if parliament fails to meet. An unstated but implicit part of the ED agenda has been reversing implementation of the verification commission recommendations. The U.S. and Spain have both expressed “regret” at the electoral council’s decision to rerun the first round and European Union election observers pulled out of the country after the electoral council’s decision.  

But in a move seen as giving legitimacy to the October election rerun, Moïse registered his candidacy yesterday with the electoral council.

After protests in January were held in opposition to the holding of second-round presidential elections because of allegations of fraud on behalf of the government, the U.S. called for those involved with “electoral intimidation and violence” to be held accountable. But the U.S. has been conspicuously silent on Philippe.

Asked if the U.S. had any reaction to Philippe’s candidacy and his comments about disrupting the electoral process given his status as a DEA fugitive, U.S. Special Coordinator Ken Merten responded, “Haiti’s authorities must hold its own citizens accountable for any kind of election-related intimidation, violence, or threat to the stability of the country.” He dismissed questions about Philippe likely taking a seat in the Senate as “hypothetical positing.”

The U.S. has been involved in at least two prior attempts to capture Philippe.  Some former Haitian government officials have, however, questioned the U.S. commitment to apprehending Philippe, describing the previous efforts involving helicopters and large shows of force as “theater.”

“If Philippe is in the Senate it will send a terrible signal,” one former Haitian government official said, requesting anonymity, “but Haiti cannot act. We don’t have the evidence; it’s all with the DEA.”

Days before the June 14 end of provisional president Jocelerme Privert’s mandate, a coalition of political parties close to former president Michel Martelly formalized an alliance and began advocating for Privert’s removal. Led by former de facto prime minister under Marelly, Evans Paul, the “Entente Democratique” (ED) or “democratic agreement” as they have called themselves, have denounced the “totalitarian tendencies” of Privert and categorized the possible extension of his mandate as an illegal power grab.

Haitian parliamentarians were expected to vote earlier this week on extending or replacing Privert, who was appointed provisional president in early February after Martelly’s term ended with no elected replacement. The vote was delayed, as it has been previously.  

The creation of ED has formalized an alliance between Martelly’s political movement, PHTK, and Guy Philippe, a notorious paramilitary leader who is running for a seat in the Senate. Philippe was the head of a paramilitary force that helped destabilize the country in the run-up to the 2004 coup against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. From its bases in the Dominican Republic, the group mounted numerous attacks targeting police stations and government supporters. According to Human Rights Watch, Philippe also oversaw extrajudicial killings while a police chief in the late 90s. Facing a sealed indictment in the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking ties and money laundering, Philippe remains a DEA most wanted fugitive.

Philippe appeared alongside Martelly’s chosen successor Jovenel Moïse at a December political rally and has voiced his support for Moïse’s candidacy in radio broadcasts, but the formal alliance is an indication that those ties are now deepening. Philippe, a former police chief who received training from U.S. military forces in Ecuador, found an ally in Martelly, who made the army’s restoration a central plank of his presidency and his party. The army was disbanded under Aristide after a long history of human rights abuses and involvement in coup d’états. “The army has always been a part of our policy…There is no way to have Haiti without an army,” Roudy Chute, a PHTK party representative, stated during an August interview.

In February, Philippe warned of a “civil war” if Privert did not hold elections in April. The political accord that brought Privert to office called for elections in April, but after an electoral verification commission recommended scrapping the entire first round due to fraud, new presidential elections have been scheduled for October.

Last month, Philippe was allegedly tied to a paramilitary attack on a police station in the rural town of Cayes that killed 6, though he has denied involvement and refused to appear for questioning. Philippe had previously been prevented from running for office due to his ties to drug trafficking, but certain regulations were removed last year, allowing a number of candidates with criminal pasts to register. In 2006 Philippe ran for president, garnering less than two percent of the vote.

A DEA spokesperson confirmed that Philippe remains a fugitive, adding that he has proven to be “very elusive,” and that U.S. Marshalls had been given apprehension authority. A spokesperson for the Marshalls contested this, saying the DEA has “solid information about the subject’s whereabouts,” so there was no need for them to transfer apprehension authority. The DEA later acknowledged its responsibility for apprehending Philippe, but would not confirm if any active efforts to do so were underway.

Though the DEA has been involved in a number of high profile arrests in Haiti during the last five years, Philippe remains free.

In the meantime, the ED has called for an uprising against Privert. In a June 12 letter, the group called on Haitian National Police director-general Michel Ange Gédéon to disobey “any illegal order coming from a person stripped of legality and legitimacy,” referring to Privert. The ED also called on the international community to withhold recognition of Privert’s government after June 14.

These calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. The international community has urged parliament to meet to decide Privert’s future and U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Ken Merten offered a tepid recognition of Privert on a call with reporters last week. Anti-Privert protests planned for last week failed to materialize.

A former political advisor to Martelly, who requested anonymity, was critical of the ED, pointing out that “their own political ineptitude made [Privert] president.” They believe “international support for a second round…is all [Jovenel Moïse] needs, as if public opinion, or the ability of his detractors to ensure this does not happen, matters very little or not at all.” 

Pelegrín Castillo, a Dominican lawmaker with the Fuerza Nacional Progresista (FNP), claimed last week:  “In Haiti [groups] are arming in anticipation of an insurrectional conflict, around a well-known figure and the international organizations, and the United States in particular, know this.”

As the vote on Privert’s future looms, PHTK and its allies have indicated that elections may not be possible if Privert’s term is extended or if parliament fails to meet. An unstated but implicit part of the ED agenda has been reversing implementation of the verification commission recommendations. The U.S. and Spain have both expressed “regret” at the electoral council’s decision to rerun the first round and European Union election observers pulled out of the country after the electoral council’s decision.  

But in a move seen as giving legitimacy to the October election rerun, Moïse registered his candidacy yesterday with the electoral council.

After protests in January were held in opposition to the holding of second-round presidential elections because of allegations of fraud on behalf of the government, the U.S. called for those involved with “electoral intimidation and violence” to be held accountable. But the U.S. has been conspicuously silent on Philippe.

Asked if the U.S. had any reaction to Philippe’s candidacy and his comments about disrupting the electoral process given his status as a DEA fugitive, U.S. Special Coordinator Ken Merten responded, “Haiti’s authorities must hold its own citizens accountable for any kind of election-related intimidation, violence, or threat to the stability of the country.” He dismissed questions about Philippe likely taking a seat in the Senate as “hypothetical positing.”

The U.S. has been involved in at least two prior attempts to capture Philippe.  Some former Haitian government officials have, however, questioned the U.S. commitment to apprehending Philippe, describing the previous efforts involving helicopters and large shows of force as “theater.”

“If Philippe is in the Senate it will send a terrible signal,” one former Haitian government official said, requesting anonymity, “but Haiti cannot act. We don’t have the evidence; it’s all with the DEA.”

Haiti’s electoral council announced yesterday that new first-round presidential elections would be held in October after a commission found widespread fraud and irregularities in the previous vote. The prospect of the new vote — to be held alongside dozens of parliamentary seats still up for grabs, has raised questions about how it could be funded. The previous elections — determined to be too marred by fraud and violence to count — cost upward of $100 million, with the bulk of the funding coming from international donors.

But now, donors are balking. Last week the State Department’s Haiti Special Coordinator Ken Merten said that if elections are redone “from scratch” than it would put U.S. assistance in jeopardy. It “could also call into question whether the U.S. will be able to continue to support financially Haiti’s electoral process,” Merten added. In a separate interview, Merten explained:

We still do not know what position we will adopt regarding our financial support. U.S. taxpayers have already spent more than $33 million and that is a lot. We can ask ourselves what was done with the money or what guarantees there are that the same thing will not happen again.

So, what was done with the money? Could the same thing happen again?

To begin with, that figure seems to include money allocated in 2012 – years before the electoral process began. Local and legislative elections, which former president Michel Martelly was constitutionally required to organize, failed to happen. A significant share of this early funding likely went to staffing and overhead costs as international organizations or grantees kept their Haiti programs running, despite the absence of elections. It’s also worth pointing out that many millions of that money never went to electoral authorities, but rather to U.S. programs in support of elections.  

In April 2013, USAID awarded a grant to the DC-based Consortium for Elections and Political Processes. In total, $7.23 million went to the consortium before the electoral process even began. An additional $4.95 million was awarded in July 2015, a month before legislative elections. The consortium consists of two DC-based organizations, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). In a January report to Congress, the State Department explained further what some this money went towards:

1.       “the creation and implementation of twenty-six Electoral Information Centers (EICs) … to provide information to the general public on the electoral process”

2.       “training more than 100 journalists in several departments on topics such as the international standards for elections …”

3.       “Funding through INL supported election security.”

4.       “USAID also supported the creation of a new domestic election observation platform that helped build greater transparency into the electoral process by establishing a grassroots coalition of reputable and well-trained domestic observers …”

Some funding also went to increasing women’s participation in the electoral process. But it’s questionable what the return on that $12.18 million really was. Not a single woman was elected to parliament — though it now appears as though at least one was elected, only to have her seat stolen through the bribing of an electoral judge. In terms of providing information to the public about the elections, participation in both the legislative and presidential elections was only about a fifth of the population. The money spent on local observers may have been more successful, but not for U.S. interests. The local observer group, the Citizen Observatory for the Institutionalization of Democracy, led by Rosny Desroches, agreed with other local observation missions that a verification commission (opposed by the U.S.) was needed to restore confidence in the elections. The U.S. spent millions training local observers, only to later ignore their analysis. Instead, the U.S. has consistently pointed to the observation work of international organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the EU. The U.S. also provided $1 million to the OAS for their observation work.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise the funding didn’t have the intended effect. A 2012 evaluation of NDI conducted by Norway’s foreign development agency found that about “4 out of every 10 dollars” went to overhead, staff in Washington DC or to the expatriate country director who made more than a quarter of a million dollars.

The U.S. contributed $9.7 million to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) “basket fund” for elections. The UNDP controlled the pooled donor funds and also funds contributed by the Haitian government (more than any other individual donor). Funds were used to print ballots, train workers, and for other logistical operations. However, it’s important to note that $3 million of these funds were distributed in 2012 and 2014, well before any election would take place.

An additional $7.57 million went to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for logistical operations for the elections, mainly distributing and picking up ballots before and after the election. After the August legislative elections were plagued by violent groups that shut down voting, UNOPS shifted strategy for the October election. In certain “hot spots,” ballots would not follow the normal procedures for transportation to the tabulation center, instead, UNOPS would bypass the chain, picking up electoral information at 67 voting centers and bringing the materials straight to Port-au-Prince. According to diplomatic sources, UNOPS threatened to pull out entirely if additional funds for this measure were not given. The U.S. awarded $1.8 million to UNOPS on September 29, 2015.

An additional $1.77 million was given to UNOPS in December, but the second-round presidential election never took place. Though it was clear to many that the elections would not be held given widespread condemnation by local observers and civil society groups, the U.S. and others in the international community insisted the second round go ahead. With protests increasing, they moved forward and distributed electoral materials for an election that was never going to happen. This strengthened Martelly’s bargaining power over the opposition, but meant millions of dollars were spent for no reason.

In total, funding to UNOPS, UNDP, OAS, IFES and NDI totaled $30.45 million. This is the vast majority of the $33 million the U.S. says it contributed to the electoral process. Additional funds were also awarded through the State Department for election-related security.

So yes, the U.S. spent over $30 million on Haiti’s elections, but not all of that went directly to the elections or was even spent wisely in supporting them. It’s clear it would take far less for the U.S. to support a Haitian-led electoral process next October. And perhaps the best reason for the U.S. to continue to fund the election, if Haiti requests such support, is that it was the U.S. and other actors in the international community that pushed ahead and put millions of dollars into a fatally flawed electoral process that Haitians have now determined was irreparably marred by fraud. The problem is not that Haitian’s wasted U.S. taxpayer dollars by scrapping the election results; it’s that the U.S. was throwing good money after bad. That’s something that can be fixed.

All grantee funding data is from USASpending.gov.

Haiti’s electoral council announced yesterday that new first-round presidential elections would be held in October after a commission found widespread fraud and irregularities in the previous vote. The prospect of the new vote — to be held alongside dozens of parliamentary seats still up for grabs, has raised questions about how it could be funded. The previous elections — determined to be too marred by fraud and violence to count — cost upward of $100 million, with the bulk of the funding coming from international donors.

But now, donors are balking. Last week the State Department’s Haiti Special Coordinator Ken Merten said that if elections are redone “from scratch” than it would put U.S. assistance in jeopardy. It “could also call into question whether the U.S. will be able to continue to support financially Haiti’s electoral process,” Merten added. In a separate interview, Merten explained:

We still do not know what position we will adopt regarding our financial support. U.S. taxpayers have already spent more than $33 million and that is a lot. We can ask ourselves what was done with the money or what guarantees there are that the same thing will not happen again.

So, what was done with the money? Could the same thing happen again?

To begin with, that figure seems to include money allocated in 2012 – years before the electoral process began. Local and legislative elections, which former president Michel Martelly was constitutionally required to organize, failed to happen. A significant share of this early funding likely went to staffing and overhead costs as international organizations or grantees kept their Haiti programs running, despite the absence of elections. It’s also worth pointing out that many millions of that money never went to electoral authorities, but rather to U.S. programs in support of elections.  

In April 2013, USAID awarded a grant to the DC-based Consortium for Elections and Political Processes. In total, $7.23 million went to the consortium before the electoral process even began. An additional $4.95 million was awarded in July 2015, a month before legislative elections. The consortium consists of two DC-based organizations, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). In a January report to Congress, the State Department explained further what some this money went towards:

1.       “the creation and implementation of twenty-six Electoral Information Centers (EICs) … to provide information to the general public on the electoral process”

2.       “training more than 100 journalists in several departments on topics such as the international standards for elections …”

3.       “Funding through INL supported election security.”

4.       “USAID also supported the creation of a new domestic election observation platform that helped build greater transparency into the electoral process by establishing a grassroots coalition of reputable and well-trained domestic observers …”

Some funding also went to increasing women’s participation in the electoral process. But it’s questionable what the return on that $12.18 million really was. Not a single woman was elected to parliament — though it now appears as though at least one was elected, only to have her seat stolen through the bribing of an electoral judge. In terms of providing information to the public about the elections, participation in both the legislative and presidential elections was only about a fifth of the population. The money spent on local observers may have been more successful, but not for U.S. interests. The local observer group, the Citizen Observatory for the Institutionalization of Democracy, led by Rosny Desroches, agreed with other local observation missions that a verification commission (opposed by the U.S.) was needed to restore confidence in the elections. The U.S. spent millions training local observers, only to later ignore their analysis. Instead, the U.S. has consistently pointed to the observation work of international organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the EU. The U.S. also provided $1 million to the OAS for their observation work.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise the funding didn’t have the intended effect. A 2012 evaluation of NDI conducted by Norway’s foreign development agency found that about “4 out of every 10 dollars” went to overhead, staff in Washington DC or to the expatriate country director who made more than a quarter of a million dollars.

The U.S. contributed $9.7 million to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) “basket fund” for elections. The UNDP controlled the pooled donor funds and also funds contributed by the Haitian government (more than any other individual donor). Funds were used to print ballots, train workers, and for other logistical operations. However, it’s important to note that $3 million of these funds were distributed in 2012 and 2014, well before any election would take place.

An additional $7.57 million went to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for logistical operations for the elections, mainly distributing and picking up ballots before and after the election. After the August legislative elections were plagued by violent groups that shut down voting, UNOPS shifted strategy for the October election. In certain “hot spots,” ballots would not follow the normal procedures for transportation to the tabulation center, instead, UNOPS would bypass the chain, picking up electoral information at 67 voting centers and bringing the materials straight to Port-au-Prince. According to diplomatic sources, UNOPS threatened to pull out entirely if additional funds for this measure were not given. The U.S. awarded $1.8 million to UNOPS on September 29, 2015.

An additional $1.77 million was given to UNOPS in December, but the second-round presidential election never took place. Though it was clear to many that the elections would not be held given widespread condemnation by local observers and civil society groups, the U.S. and others in the international community insisted the second round go ahead. With protests increasing, they moved forward and distributed electoral materials for an election that was never going to happen. This strengthened Martelly’s bargaining power over the opposition, but meant millions of dollars were spent for no reason.

In total, funding to UNOPS, UNDP, OAS, IFES and NDI totaled $30.45 million. This is the vast majority of the $33 million the U.S. says it contributed to the electoral process. Additional funds were also awarded through the State Department for election-related security.

So yes, the U.S. spent over $30 million on Haiti’s elections, but not all of that went directly to the elections or was even spent wisely in supporting them. It’s clear it would take far less for the U.S. to support a Haitian-led electoral process next October. And perhaps the best reason for the U.S. to continue to fund the election, if Haiti requests such support, is that it was the U.S. and other actors in the international community that pushed ahead and put millions of dollars into a fatally flawed electoral process that Haitians have now determined was irreparably marred by fraud. The problem is not that Haitian’s wasted U.S. taxpayer dollars by scrapping the election results; it’s that the U.S. was throwing good money after bad. That’s something that can be fixed.

All grantee funding data is from USASpending.gov.

This Sunday the month-long verification commission that is analyzing Haiti’s elections is expected to release its results. No matter the outcome, Haiti and the international community are bracing for the worst. The U.S. embassy warned yesterday that protests are expected both on Sunday and on Tuesday, when the electoral council said it will announce a new electoral calendar. Rosny Desroches, who led a U.S.-financed local observation mission, predicted a “climate of tension and pressure” after the verification report is released, according to Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles.

Provisional president Jocelerme Privert, who took office after ex-president Michel Martelly’s term ended, created the verification commission after widespread condemnation of fraud following August’s legislative elections and October’s first-round presidential elections. After virtually all of Haiti’s opposition political parties and civil society organizations denounced the continuation of the electoral process without such a commission, Privert said it was needed to restore confidence and credibility to the elections. The U.S. and other actors in the international community, after first trying to prevent the verification, have largely accepted it, while still trying to limit the possible outcomes.

“We hope it is very, very quick and does not change the results of the election,” State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten said on a trip to Haiti in late April.

Though little information has come out about the verification commission’s work, it has been analyzing records at the Central Tabulation Center, where tally sheets and other elections materials were counted and archived, for the last few weeks. The Organization of American States (OAS), previously the most vocal proponent of the election’s credibility, is monitoring the commission’s work.

While the exact outcome is unknown, there are three main scenarios which could result from the commission’s work. It could largely confirm the findings of a previous evaluation that found widespread irregularities and fraud, but recommended moving forward with the cancelled second round between PHTK’s Jovenel Moise (the hand-picked successor to Martelly) and Jude Celestin of LAPEH. It could exclude one or more candidates due to fraud, opening the runoff to third-place finisher Moise Jean Charles of Pitit Dessalines or it could determine that due to the magnitude of the problems a new first round election should be held. Either way, certain political factions and their supporters are bound to be aggrieved, fueling the expectation that the commission’s conclusions will provoke “tension and pressure.”

If the first-round is simply ratified and a second round between the top two finishers in the October vote is called for, the same actors who took to the streets and denounced widespread fraud will likely remobilize. On the other side, PHTK will try to resist either a first round rerun or, more importantly, the exclusion of its candidate due to fraud. From the beginning, PHTK has denounced the verification as a smokescreen to oust Jovenel Moise.

For the international community, led predominantly by the U.S., there remain a few primary objectives; containing any widespread violence and political instability, especially with U.S. presidential elections upcoming and blocking a return of Lavalas to the presidency. After helping to overturn the 2010 election results and ushering Martelly into the presidency, then backing him and his PHTK party for the last five years with billions in aid and diplomatic cover, the U.S. has invested quite a bit in the party’s political success. Still, the threat of similar protests to what occurred in late 2015 and early 2016 from opposition parties and civil society also weighs heavily.

“It seems the primary concern [of the U.S.] is Pitit Dessalines and Fanmi Lavalas…they are seen as a greater danger because of presumed popular support,” an international official involved in the elections recently told me. The U.S. has consistently maintained they favor no particular candidate or party.

The biggest fear at this point, for PHTK and its supporters, would be an exclusion of their candidate, Jovenel Moise. Pitit Dessalines, who has been monitoring the work of the verification commission, has called for his exclusion under the electoral law, but it remains to be seen if the commission will report proof of significant fraud. It is also likely that more candidates than just Moise benefitted from at least some level of fraud.

For Jude Celestin and the G8 (a coalition of candidates that emerged after the October vote), the verification commission’s report will be a test of their unity. After failing to rally around a single opposition candidate before the election, the G8’s formation showed the possibilities of a united opposition. Still, Celestin’s LAPEH party has suggested they may find themselves in the streets with PHTK if new elections are called. Reports of the group’s demise have been frequent, but they have publicly maintained a mostly united front. That may not still be the case next week.

Once the commission releases its report, the next steps will fall to the recently installed electoral council (CEP). It will be up to the CEP to set the electoral schedule, though Privert has previously indicated that elections in October would make the most sense. This is at least partially because the terms of one-third of the Senate expire at the end of 2016, meaning that if elections are held late this year, they could include those Senators whose terms are ending, rather than hold separate elections.

The international community, especially the U.S., European Union and the United Nations Security Council, have all called for elections to be held as soon as possible, but a former Haitian government official recently told me that he believed the U.S. and others would support October elections, as long as the dates were set before the end of Privert’s mandate in June. While their preference is clearly for a second round with the same candidates, their ability to determine what comes next has been diminished over the last few months, despite the likelihood of international funding for any election.

If there is a new first round presidential elections, the CEP will also have to make a decision on if the registration for candidates will be reopened, or if all 54 who ran the first time will be eligible to participate. Some are definitely hoping that Jacky Lumarque, the preferred candidate of former president Rene Preval, who was excluded from participating in the October vote, will be allowed to re-enter the race.

Perhaps the only thing that is clear at this point, however, is that the commission’s work will not impact the currently sitting parliament, most of which was elected in the deeply flawed August vote. The political accord that paved the way for Privert’s ascension to the presidency gave the former Senator 120 days to organize elections – a deadline that is now just weeks away. With the commission still working and no electoral calendar set, this deadline is sure to be missed (this much has been clear for months already). The accord also stipulates that it is the legislature that will vote on extending the term of the provisional president, or selecting a replacement. Picking a fight with the legislature by reviewing its members’ legitimacy, right before they decide on Privert’s mandate, is likely politically untenable for the provisional leader.

The most likely scenario remains Privert staying in office until new elections are held, even though PHTK and its allies, including former paramilitary leader and wanted drug trafficker Guy Philippe, have made various threats of violence and political instability if Privert’s mandate is extended. No election (either first or second round) is likely to be held immediately, and throwing Haiti back into a political fight for the provisional presidency and the formation of a new government is not in the interest of the international community, or anybody hoping for prompt elections. However, depending on the verification commission results, PHTK may ramp up efforts to oust Privert.  

For now, however, everyone will await the work of the verification commission and the electoral council. While the politics appear to favor a rerun of the first-round, it must be based on the technical analysis of the independent verification commission and the electoral council’s analysis.

No matter the outcome of the commission, political players on all sides will continue to posture, threatening greater political instability and violence. But those actions are as much about securing more favorable positions for an eventual election than anything else.

While these political hunger games continue, for most Haitians, a far more real hunger is setting in. Inflation is at its highest level in years, a crippling drought hammered crops, followed by torrential rains that led to mass flooding and further crop devastation. The economy has ground to a virtual halt. It will take credible elections and a representative government to address these more fundamental concerns over the long run.

The irony in all of this is that Haiti is facing the exact situation that the U.S. and other actors have long feared. In its ill-fated quest for “political stability”, the U.S.’ vocal support for Martelly and then for elections that Haitian civil society rejected, has crippled its own credibility and pushed Haiti to the brink. The continuing turmoil is the natural result of 5 years with a government of questionable legitimacy, with the strong backing of the U.S. and the international community. As the international official told me, “They have been fueling the mess and political instability…while they feared it at the same time.”

This Sunday the month-long verification commission that is analyzing Haiti’s elections is expected to release its results. No matter the outcome, Haiti and the international community are bracing for the worst. The U.S. embassy warned yesterday that protests are expected both on Sunday and on Tuesday, when the electoral council said it will announce a new electoral calendar. Rosny Desroches, who led a U.S.-financed local observation mission, predicted a “climate of tension and pressure” after the verification report is released, according to Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles.

Provisional president Jocelerme Privert, who took office after ex-president Michel Martelly’s term ended, created the verification commission after widespread condemnation of fraud following August’s legislative elections and October’s first-round presidential elections. After virtually all of Haiti’s opposition political parties and civil society organizations denounced the continuation of the electoral process without such a commission, Privert said it was needed to restore confidence and credibility to the elections. The U.S. and other actors in the international community, after first trying to prevent the verification, have largely accepted it, while still trying to limit the possible outcomes.

“We hope it is very, very quick and does not change the results of the election,” State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten said on a trip to Haiti in late April.

Though little information has come out about the verification commission’s work, it has been analyzing records at the Central Tabulation Center, where tally sheets and other elections materials were counted and archived, for the last few weeks. The Organization of American States (OAS), previously the most vocal proponent of the election’s credibility, is monitoring the commission’s work.

While the exact outcome is unknown, there are three main scenarios which could result from the commission’s work. It could largely confirm the findings of a previous evaluation that found widespread irregularities and fraud, but recommended moving forward with the cancelled second round between PHTK’s Jovenel Moise (the hand-picked successor to Martelly) and Jude Celestin of LAPEH. It could exclude one or more candidates due to fraud, opening the runoff to third-place finisher Moise Jean Charles of Pitit Dessalines or it could determine that due to the magnitude of the problems a new first round election should be held. Either way, certain political factions and their supporters are bound to be aggrieved, fueling the expectation that the commission’s conclusions will provoke “tension and pressure.”

If the first-round is simply ratified and a second round between the top two finishers in the October vote is called for, the same actors who took to the streets and denounced widespread fraud will likely remobilize. On the other side, PHTK will try to resist either a first round rerun or, more importantly, the exclusion of its candidate due to fraud. From the beginning, PHTK has denounced the verification as a smokescreen to oust Jovenel Moise.

For the international community, led predominantly by the U.S., there remain a few primary objectives; containing any widespread violence and political instability, especially with U.S. presidential elections upcoming and blocking a return of Lavalas to the presidency. After helping to overturn the 2010 election results and ushering Martelly into the presidency, then backing him and his PHTK party for the last five years with billions in aid and diplomatic cover, the U.S. has invested quite a bit in the party’s political success. Still, the threat of similar protests to what occurred in late 2015 and early 2016 from opposition parties and civil society also weighs heavily.

“It seems the primary concern [of the U.S.] is Pitit Dessalines and Fanmi Lavalas…they are seen as a greater danger because of presumed popular support,” an international official involved in the elections recently told me. The U.S. has consistently maintained they favor no particular candidate or party.

The biggest fear at this point, for PHTK and its supporters, would be an exclusion of their candidate, Jovenel Moise. Pitit Dessalines, who has been monitoring the work of the verification commission, has called for his exclusion under the electoral law, but it remains to be seen if the commission will report proof of significant fraud. It is also likely that more candidates than just Moise benefitted from at least some level of fraud.

For Jude Celestin and the G8 (a coalition of candidates that emerged after the October vote), the verification commission’s report will be a test of their unity. After failing to rally around a single opposition candidate before the election, the G8’s formation showed the possibilities of a united opposition. Still, Celestin’s LAPEH party has suggested they may find themselves in the streets with PHTK if new elections are called. Reports of the group’s demise have been frequent, but they have publicly maintained a mostly united front. That may not still be the case next week.

Once the commission releases its report, the next steps will fall to the recently installed electoral council (CEP). It will be up to the CEP to set the electoral schedule, though Privert has previously indicated that elections in October would make the most sense. This is at least partially because the terms of one-third of the Senate expire at the end of 2016, meaning that if elections are held late this year, they could include those Senators whose terms are ending, rather than hold separate elections.

The international community, especially the U.S., European Union and the United Nations Security Council, have all called for elections to be held as soon as possible, but a former Haitian government official recently told me that he believed the U.S. and others would support October elections, as long as the dates were set before the end of Privert’s mandate in June. While their preference is clearly for a second round with the same candidates, their ability to determine what comes next has been diminished over the last few months, despite the likelihood of international funding for any election.

If there is a new first round presidential elections, the CEP will also have to make a decision on if the registration for candidates will be reopened, or if all 54 who ran the first time will be eligible to participate. Some are definitely hoping that Jacky Lumarque, the preferred candidate of former president Rene Preval, who was excluded from participating in the October vote, will be allowed to re-enter the race.

Perhaps the only thing that is clear at this point, however, is that the commission’s work will not impact the currently sitting parliament, most of which was elected in the deeply flawed August vote. The political accord that paved the way for Privert’s ascension to the presidency gave the former Senator 120 days to organize elections – a deadline that is now just weeks away. With the commission still working and no electoral calendar set, this deadline is sure to be missed (this much has been clear for months already). The accord also stipulates that it is the legislature that will vote on extending the term of the provisional president, or selecting a replacement. Picking a fight with the legislature by reviewing its members’ legitimacy, right before they decide on Privert’s mandate, is likely politically untenable for the provisional leader.

The most likely scenario remains Privert staying in office until new elections are held, even though PHTK and its allies, including former paramilitary leader and wanted drug trafficker Guy Philippe, have made various threats of violence and political instability if Privert’s mandate is extended. No election (either first or second round) is likely to be held immediately, and throwing Haiti back into a political fight for the provisional presidency and the formation of a new government is not in the interest of the international community, or anybody hoping for prompt elections. However, depending on the verification commission results, PHTK may ramp up efforts to oust Privert.  

For now, however, everyone will await the work of the verification commission and the electoral council. While the politics appear to favor a rerun of the first-round, it must be based on the technical analysis of the independent verification commission and the electoral council’s analysis.

No matter the outcome of the commission, political players on all sides will continue to posture, threatening greater political instability and violence. But those actions are as much about securing more favorable positions for an eventual election than anything else.

While these political hunger games continue, for most Haitians, a far more real hunger is setting in. Inflation is at its highest level in years, a crippling drought hammered crops, followed by torrential rains that led to mass flooding and further crop devastation. The economy has ground to a virtual halt. It will take credible elections and a representative government to address these more fundamental concerns over the long run.

The irony in all of this is that Haiti is facing the exact situation that the U.S. and other actors have long feared. In its ill-fated quest for “political stability”, the U.S.’ vocal support for Martelly and then for elections that Haitian civil society rejected, has crippled its own credibility and pushed Haiti to the brink. The continuing turmoil is the natural result of 5 years with a government of questionable legitimacy, with the strong backing of the U.S. and the international community. As the international official told me, “They have been fueling the mess and political instability…while they feared it at the same time.”

Interim President Jocelerme Privert has announced his intention to move forward with the creation of an electoral verification commission. But the commission faces significant pushback from both international actors who provide the bulk of the funding for Haiti’s elections and Haitian politicians connected to former president Michel Martelly.

Responding to the “unanimous expression” of civil society and political leaders, Privert declared on Monday that a new round of consultations would be held this week, aimed at establishing common terms of reference and identifying potential members for a verification commission. The body, which has yet to be formally organized, would be tasked with reviewing previous election results and electoral court decisions before moving forward with the as-yet-unfinished electoral process. A verification process is necessary, Privert said, to establish confidence and encourage “players to trust the [electoral council] and to participate in the upcoming elections.”

Political and civil society leaders have long demanded a verification commission, after earlier elections in 2015 were marred by violence and widespread reports of fraud. Official results from the first round of voting put then-President Martelly’s handpicked successor, Jovenel Moise, in first place, followed by Jude Celestin in second place. Celestin joined with other opposition candidates, demanding a verification and other changes to the electoral system before agreeing to participate in a runoff. On April 6, the coordinator of Celestin’s party LAPEH told the Haitian press that they would not participate in any second-round election without a verification commission first being established.

In response to Privert’s announcement of the commission, supporters of Moise have taken to the streets to denounce the move. They argue that the process will be used as a smokescreen to remove their candidate from the race. Moise’s hostility to a verification is shared by the U.S., the European Union and United Nations, all of which have come out against the verification commission and have urged Haitian authorities to complete the electoral process as soon as possible. “That’s one reason why the U.S. did not want to hear about verification … they know it will create fears” among Martelly’s supporters, an international official involved in the electoral process told me last week. Last week, some 60 leaders and organizations in the Haitian diaspora wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the U.S. to support a verification.

“We believe … a new assessment, or even verification, is not necessary,” U.S. Ambassador Peter F. Mulrean told the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste last week, adding that additional financing for Haiti’s electoral process would be reassessed after seeing how the question of a verification commission was answered. “The last card to avoid a verification: no money,” said the international official. International donors have also withheld budget support from financial institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank.

The stance of the international powers leaves many in Haiti puzzled. Pierre Esperance, the director of a prominent human rights organization and head of a local electoral observation mission team, wondered, “how can Haiti go to the second round without a verification?” Trying to push forward without a verification is likely to lead to a repeat of the street protests that rocked the capital almost daily in late 2015 and early 2016, and that contributed to the election’s cancellation in the first place.

“The verification process must take place. There is an awful lot of suspicions that there was fraud in that election process, and it would not suit any government that is elected without a verification process because there would always be that suspicion,” Sir Ronald Sanders, an Antiguan diplomat, told the Miami Herald last week.

Sanders led an Organization of American States (OAS) mission to Haiti that helped broker the political accord in early February, though he made it clear he was not speaking on behalf of the organization. In 2010, a similar OAS special mission had overturned the election results, putting Martelly into the second round and eventually the presidency.

“If we go ahead and force Privert to hold elections without it, an election that is not ultimately acceptable to the majority of Haitians, we are courting trouble,” Sanders added. “We are going to let a possibly fraud process deliver a government? In which country would we accept that? Can you tell us the U.S. would allow that? The English-speaking Caribbean?”

Ambassador Mulrean has tried to reassure skeptics by arguing that Haiti’s elections have already been verified by an evaluation commission appointed by Martelly in late December, making a second verification unnecessary. Yet the conclusions of the report were hardly reassuring: accreditations passes had been used to cast multiple fraudulent votes and some 50 percent of voting booth tally sheets contained what the commission deemed “grave irregularities,” including missing voter signatures and identification and evidence of tampering.

The commission called for a further examination of the records and warned that accepting the outcomes of “elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.” But before the recommendations could be adopted, Martelly issued a decree scheduling the final round of elections for January 2016. That date was also indefinitely postponed and a political agreement designed to fill the constitutional void was signed on Martelly’s way out of office, which resulted in Privert becoming provisional president.

Rony Desroches, the head of a local election observation mission primarily funded by the U.S. and Canada was a member of that initial commission. “We did not have enough time to determine if the results were acceptable,” he told me during an interview in early February. He anticipated a further investigation would be necessary before elections could be held. “We asked for an investigation two days after the October 25 election,” Pierre Esperance noted. The international community resisted at the time, but now, “they can’t say, ‘we were wrong.’”

Esperance’s organization, along with a number of other prominent civil society organizations have put forth their recommendations for what the verification commission should be tasked with doing and a timeline for achieving the completion of the elections. The groups believe the conditions will not be in place to do so until the end of 2016, with a new government taking office in February 2017. Yet such a long timetable would require either a new political agreement or an extension of Privert’s term past its May 14 expiry date, something the Martelly-aligned legislature is not likely to grant.

Behind closed doors, according to the international elections official, it was becoming increasingly clear that a verification would take place, with the terms of reference being the main sticking point. Given their stance throughout Haiti’s electoral crisis, the international powers in Haiti can be expected to fight for the verification process to be as quick and as superficial as possible.

“If you need a verification commission, have it and do it quickly,” U.S. State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten explained yesterday, reacting to the new reality on the ground. “If this verification commission takes time … it will force us to reconsider the support we give to elections.”

Interim President Jocelerme Privert has announced his intention to move forward with the creation of an electoral verification commission. But the commission faces significant pushback from both international actors who provide the bulk of the funding for Haiti’s elections and Haitian politicians connected to former president Michel Martelly.

Responding to the “unanimous expression” of civil society and political leaders, Privert declared on Monday that a new round of consultations would be held this week, aimed at establishing common terms of reference and identifying potential members for a verification commission. The body, which has yet to be formally organized, would be tasked with reviewing previous election results and electoral court decisions before moving forward with the as-yet-unfinished electoral process. A verification process is necessary, Privert said, to establish confidence and encourage “players to trust the [electoral council] and to participate in the upcoming elections.”

Political and civil society leaders have long demanded a verification commission, after earlier elections in 2015 were marred by violence and widespread reports of fraud. Official results from the first round of voting put then-President Martelly’s handpicked successor, Jovenel Moise, in first place, followed by Jude Celestin in second place. Celestin joined with other opposition candidates, demanding a verification and other changes to the electoral system before agreeing to participate in a runoff. On April 6, the coordinator of Celestin’s party LAPEH told the Haitian press that they would not participate in any second-round election without a verification commission first being established.

In response to Privert’s announcement of the commission, supporters of Moise have taken to the streets to denounce the move. They argue that the process will be used as a smokescreen to remove their candidate from the race. Moise’s hostility to a verification is shared by the U.S., the European Union and United Nations, all of which have come out against the verification commission and have urged Haitian authorities to complete the electoral process as soon as possible. “That’s one reason why the U.S. did not want to hear about verification … they know it will create fears” among Martelly’s supporters, an international official involved in the electoral process told me last week. Last week, some 60 leaders and organizations in the Haitian diaspora wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the U.S. to support a verification.

“We believe … a new assessment, or even verification, is not necessary,” U.S. Ambassador Peter F. Mulrean told the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste last week, adding that additional financing for Haiti’s electoral process would be reassessed after seeing how the question of a verification commission was answered. “The last card to avoid a verification: no money,” said the international official. International donors have also withheld budget support from financial institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank.

The stance of the international powers leaves many in Haiti puzzled. Pierre Esperance, the director of a prominent human rights organization and head of a local electoral observation mission team, wondered, “how can Haiti go to the second round without a verification?” Trying to push forward without a verification is likely to lead to a repeat of the street protests that rocked the capital almost daily in late 2015 and early 2016, and that contributed to the election’s cancellation in the first place.

“The verification process must take place. There is an awful lot of suspicions that there was fraud in that election process, and it would not suit any government that is elected without a verification process because there would always be that suspicion,” Sir Ronald Sanders, an Antiguan diplomat, told the Miami Herald last week.

Sanders led an Organization of American States (OAS) mission to Haiti that helped broker the political accord in early February, though he made it clear he was not speaking on behalf of the organization. In 2010, a similar OAS special mission had overturned the election results, putting Martelly into the second round and eventually the presidency.

“If we go ahead and force Privert to hold elections without it, an election that is not ultimately acceptable to the majority of Haitians, we are courting trouble,” Sanders added. “We are going to let a possibly fraud process deliver a government? In which country would we accept that? Can you tell us the U.S. would allow that? The English-speaking Caribbean?”

Ambassador Mulrean has tried to reassure skeptics by arguing that Haiti’s elections have already been verified by an evaluation commission appointed by Martelly in late December, making a second verification unnecessary. Yet the conclusions of the report were hardly reassuring: accreditations passes had been used to cast multiple fraudulent votes and some 50 percent of voting booth tally sheets contained what the commission deemed “grave irregularities,” including missing voter signatures and identification and evidence of tampering.

The commission called for a further examination of the records and warned that accepting the outcomes of “elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.” But before the recommendations could be adopted, Martelly issued a decree scheduling the final round of elections for January 2016. That date was also indefinitely postponed and a political agreement designed to fill the constitutional void was signed on Martelly’s way out of office, which resulted in Privert becoming provisional president.

Rony Desroches, the head of a local election observation mission primarily funded by the U.S. and Canada was a member of that initial commission. “We did not have enough time to determine if the results were acceptable,” he told me during an interview in early February. He anticipated a further investigation would be necessary before elections could be held. “We asked for an investigation two days after the October 25 election,” Pierre Esperance noted. The international community resisted at the time, but now, “they can’t say, ‘we were wrong.’”

Esperance’s organization, along with a number of other prominent civil society organizations have put forth their recommendations for what the verification commission should be tasked with doing and a timeline for achieving the completion of the elections. The groups believe the conditions will not be in place to do so until the end of 2016, with a new government taking office in February 2017. Yet such a long timetable would require either a new political agreement or an extension of Privert’s term past its May 14 expiry date, something the Martelly-aligned legislature is not likely to grant.

Behind closed doors, according to the international elections official, it was becoming increasingly clear that a verification would take place, with the terms of reference being the main sticking point. Given their stance throughout Haiti’s electoral crisis, the international powers in Haiti can be expected to fight for the verification process to be as quick and as superficial as possible.

“If you need a verification commission, have it and do it quickly,” U.S. State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten explained yesterday, reacting to the new reality on the ground. “If this verification commission takes time … it will force us to reconsider the support we give to elections.”

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