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.

Second-round presidential and legislative runoffs, scheduled for Sunday January 24, were abruptly cancelled on Friday, less than 48 hours before polls were to open. Ruling-party backed Jovenel Moise was set to face off against Jude Celestin, who had pledged to boycott the race. Protests against the election increased throughout the week, culminating in a massive demonstration that made its way to the headquarters of the electoral council (CEP) on Friday morning.

“Jan. 24 is no longer opportune for having elections considering the threats against the electoral infrastructure and on the population who would have to go vote,” said CEP president Pierre Louis Opont in cancelling the election.

But if the threat of violence provided the necessary pretext, the writing was already on the wall. Since fraud and irregularity-marred first-round presidential elections in October (and really, since the violent August legislative elections), a growing chorus of Haitian civil society had spoken out against the continuation of the electoral process as is. An evaluation commission, created by the president, found that only eight percent of tally sheets were free from irregularities or manipulation.

“It is crazy to see that it was contemplated to hold a round in these conditions,” on January 24, said a western official working on election-related matters.

The nine-member electoral council had already seen two members resign and two more suspend their activities (one due to corruption allegations). But on Friday, as calls for the election’s cancellation increased and officials frantically rushed to reach a deal, another CEP member threatened to resign. It would have left the institution without a quorum, rendering it unable to legally sign off on election results.

Still, the large demonstration on Friday sent a message, particularly to the international backers of the election. Donors have financed the bulk of the $100 million electoral process, with the U.S. alone chipping in more than $30 million. Despite months of fraud allegations and calls from civil society, the so-called “Core Group,” consisting of the major foreign embassies, the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) had continued to insist on the completion of the electoral process on the 24th. “A few days ago some diplomats questioned the capacity of the opposition to mobilize,” the western official said, “obviously it does not look good now that they are on the streets.”

International actors have denounced the violent protests and called for the electoral process to be completed as soon as possible. The U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, said it “expects that persons responsible for organizing, financing, or participating in electoral intimidation and violence will be held accountable in accordance with Haitian law.”

There had been signs that some within the diplomatic community were reluctant to push forward with an election that would lack credibility. Earlier in the week, the OAS issued a statement acknowledging flaws in the process and that corrective measures “have not achieved the intended level of confidence.” With Martelly digging his heels in and conflicts on the streets increasing, the “Core Group” issued a statement Friday morning, for the first time making no mention of January 24 or February 7, and calling on all sides to dialogue. It was an implicit rejection of moving forward with the election.

In an interview with Le Monde, after the elections cancellation, the head of the OAS electoral observation mission and former Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, acknowledged, “behind the security concerns, there are also important political issues.” An election with one candidate, he said, “would not have been accepted by the majority.”

Amorim said that Haitians “must choose the best path, have a real negotiation without external interference.” But, Amorim also warned: “What I can say is that leaving a power vacuum for too long is dangerous.”

Just days earlier, backroom negotiations, spearheaded by powerful private sector actors and religious leaders, were on the cusp of a deal. But on Thursday morning, a combative Martelly took to the airwaves, doubling down on his insistence that elections take place and accusing his opponents of wanting to seize power by delaying elections.

“Martelly wanted to push for the 24th to get a compromise,” the western official said. But with CEP’s announcement and declining international support, Martelly’s hand was undercut. “Of course, Martelly is weaker now for dragging this out,” a presidential advisor said, adding that Martelly “misunderstood” the support of the U.S. and others in the international community. A member of parliament, speaking to Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, said “now January 24th, its over. The negotiations are for after February 7 and a new date for elections.”

But those close to the president contend that a deal would not have been accepted by all of the groups in the streets. Martelly is “negotiating his own surrender to people who don’t trust one another. So he’s between a proverbial rock and a hard place,” the presidential advisor commented.

Jocelerme Privert, the president of the newly installed Senate, who has quickly become one of the most influential Haitian politicians in the current crisis, has urged any dialogue to include more voices. “There was a weakness on the number of players involved” in previous discussions, Privert told John-Michel Caroit of Le Monde. “The solution that will emerge will not be unanimous, but to succeed there must be a critical mass of people who adhere to it.”

The election’s cancellation, however, has emboldened opposition groups, some of whom are now openly calling for Martelly to leave office before the end of his term. It has also highlighted other divisions within the opposition. Some groups would be more willing to accept reforms to the electoral apparatus before moving forward while others are insisting on a further investigation into the fraud from earlier rounds?—?opening the door to changing the runoff candidates or rerunning the presidential election entirely.

International officials have supported moving forward while keeping the same runoff candidates. After unflinchingly backing the process, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten has since acknowledged the new reality. “We may be looking at some sort of temporary solution until there is a handover to a new elected president,” he told Reuters, indicating that Martelly would step down on February 7. But, Merten added, “Our fear is that we go into a situation that is open ended.”

Further delays or investigations could reveal deeper problems with the elections, which could look bad for those who backed the process, both financially and politically. Any further investigation also raises the possibility of excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they [the international community] dread,” as a source told Le Nouvelliste last month. Jean-Charles, a former ally of twice-ousted former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, finished third in the October vote.

In response to the election’s cancellation and the large turnout of opposition protesters, pro-government supporters have begun mobilizing throughout the country. They are calling for elections as soon as possible and have raised concerns of violent confrontations between the two groups. “If Jovenel is excluded from the elections, there will be a civil war,” one protester told the AFP.

In the Grand-Anse, a sparsely populated department in southwestern Haiti, former paramilitary death squad leader Guy Philippe, a front runner in second round senatorial elections that had been scheduled for the 24th, threatened, “we are ready for war…We will divide the country.”

Philippe helped lead the 2004 coup against former president Jean Bertrand Aristide and is still listed as a fugitive by the DEA, wanted on drug-trafficking and money laundering charges. Last month he endorsed Martelly’s successor, Moise, and appeared at a campaign rally in his home region. Legislative elections in Philippe’s department were some of the most problematic in August, resulting in partial reruns in October that have yet to be settled.

Regardless of what happens with presidential elections, the deeply flawed legislative race appears set to stand, with its members playing an increasingly larger role in the current crisis. 24 of the 30 members of the senate have been sworn in, along with 92 of the 119 deputies in the lower house. Martelly allies won control over the lower house, but the senate presidency went to Privert, a former minister under Aristide and current representative of former-president Rene Preval’s political coalition. Privert is one of 10 elected officials who remained in office after Martelly failed to hold elections his first four years in power. Some opposition groups, however, have urged the recent legislative elections to also be scrapped.

Privert said he was “working with my colleagues” and was meeting with many “Haitian organizations “and “some diplomats” in order to solve the crisis. As negotiations continue for what comes after February 7, all sides are jostling for power and influence.

Prime Minister Evans Paul told the press that Martelly would be willing to step down on February 7, but others close to the president have suggested he could stay to hand over the presidential sash to his successor after new elections are held. Who who would take the reigns of government if Martelly does step down, however, remains a sticking point in negotiations. According to sources close to the negotiations, one option would have current Prime Minister Evans Paul stay on through the transition.

Paul became de facto prime minister in 2015, as he was never ratified by parliament, whose terms had recently expired. The political deal that brought Paul to office was brokered by many of the same actors involved in current negotiations, including the U.S., private sector groups and the Catholic Church. Though the agreement led to the current electoral process, it failed to ensure systemic changes that could lead to its credibility.

As negotiations drag out and street protests continue, the international community is tightly managing the fall out. For the last dozen years, explains Haitian poet Lyonel Trouillot, “all Haitian political decisions are made practically under the diktat of this nebula that is called the international community.”

A military presence under U.N. auspices has been in the country since the 2004 coup, backed by the U.S., France and others. The U.N. troops, responsible for a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 and numerous sexual abuse cases, are reviled by many Haitians but seen as a political necessity by international actors and many among the economic elite in Haiti. Billions of dollars have been spent on the mission, whose mandate includes political stability and security.

After directly intervening in the 2010 election and overturning the results, ensuring Martelly’s ascension to the presidency, international officials had hoped that a successful transfer of power at the end of his term could facilitate the departure of the politically and financially costly U.N. mission. In early October the mission’s mandate was extended by one, “possible final” year. The head of the mission, Sandra Honore, told the Security Council that an assessment would be conducted “after completion of the electoral cycle” to determine its future.

“Investing $ 100 million for elections that do not lead to political stability, it is wasteful,” Senate president Privert said. “Too bad the representatives of the international community have understood too late, we could have avoided many acts of violence.”

Ricardo Seitenfus, the OAS representative who blew the whistle on international intervention in the 2010 election, believes the Haiti electoral schedule was designed with U.S. politics in mind. 

“Since Mrs. Clinton was well involved in the 2010–2011 decisions, if we started badly, we must end well. That is to say, February 7 President Michel Martelly must leave, and (Haiti) should have a new president,” Seitenfus said on local radio.

“If I have any advice to give to the international community,” Seitenfus continued, “it is to listen to Haitian actors. Without a Haitian solution to the Haitian crisis, there is no salvation.”

Any deal must first a foremost provide for a credible and fair election, one that can restore Haitian’s trust in their political system. In the October elections, only a quarter of registered voters participated, a sign of the deep distrust in an electoral system seen as dominated by the international community, unaccountable politicians and their elite backers.

Second-round presidential and legislative runoffs, scheduled for Sunday January 24, were abruptly cancelled on Friday, less than 48 hours before polls were to open. Ruling-party backed Jovenel Moise was set to face off against Jude Celestin, who had pledged to boycott the race. Protests against the election increased throughout the week, culminating in a massive demonstration that made its way to the headquarters of the electoral council (CEP) on Friday morning.

“Jan. 24 is no longer opportune for having elections considering the threats against the electoral infrastructure and on the population who would have to go vote,” said CEP president Pierre Louis Opont in cancelling the election.

But if the threat of violence provided the necessary pretext, the writing was already on the wall. Since fraud and irregularity-marred first-round presidential elections in October (and really, since the violent August legislative elections), a growing chorus of Haitian civil society had spoken out against the continuation of the electoral process as is. An evaluation commission, created by the president, found that only eight percent of tally sheets were free from irregularities or manipulation.

“It is crazy to see that it was contemplated to hold a round in these conditions,” on January 24, said a western official working on election-related matters.

The nine-member electoral council had already seen two members resign and two more suspend their activities (one due to corruption allegations). But on Friday, as calls for the election’s cancellation increased and officials frantically rushed to reach a deal, another CEP member threatened to resign. It would have left the institution without a quorum, rendering it unable to legally sign off on election results.

Still, the large demonstration on Friday sent a message, particularly to the international backers of the election. Donors have financed the bulk of the $100 million electoral process, with the U.S. alone chipping in more than $30 million. Despite months of fraud allegations and calls from civil society, the so-called “Core Group,” consisting of the major foreign embassies, the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) had continued to insist on the completion of the electoral process on the 24th. “A few days ago some diplomats questioned the capacity of the opposition to mobilize,” the western official said, “obviously it does not look good now that they are on the streets.”

International actors have denounced the violent protests and called for the electoral process to be completed as soon as possible. The U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, said it “expects that persons responsible for organizing, financing, or participating in electoral intimidation and violence will be held accountable in accordance with Haitian law.”

There had been signs that some within the diplomatic community were reluctant to push forward with an election that would lack credibility. Earlier in the week, the OAS issued a statement acknowledging flaws in the process and that corrective measures “have not achieved the intended level of confidence.” With Martelly digging his heels in and conflicts on the streets increasing, the “Core Group” issued a statement Friday morning, for the first time making no mention of January 24 or February 7, and calling on all sides to dialogue. It was an implicit rejection of moving forward with the election.

In an interview with Le Monde, after the elections cancellation, the head of the OAS electoral observation mission and former Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, acknowledged, “behind the security concerns, there are also important political issues.” An election with one candidate, he said, “would not have been accepted by the majority.”

Amorim said that Haitians “must choose the best path, have a real negotiation without external interference.” But, Amorim also warned: “What I can say is that leaving a power vacuum for too long is dangerous.”

Just days earlier, backroom negotiations, spearheaded by powerful private sector actors and religious leaders, were on the cusp of a deal. But on Thursday morning, a combative Martelly took to the airwaves, doubling down on his insistence that elections take place and accusing his opponents of wanting to seize power by delaying elections.

“Martelly wanted to push for the 24th to get a compromise,” the western official said. But with CEP’s announcement and declining international support, Martelly’s hand was undercut. “Of course, Martelly is weaker now for dragging this out,” a presidential advisor said, adding that Martelly “misunderstood” the support of the U.S. and others in the international community. A member of parliament, speaking to Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, said “now January 24th, its over. The negotiations are for after February 7 and a new date for elections.”

But those close to the president contend that a deal would not have been accepted by all of the groups in the streets. Martelly is “negotiating his own surrender to people who don’t trust one another. So he’s between a proverbial rock and a hard place,” the presidential advisor commented.

Jocelerme Privert, the president of the newly installed Senate, who has quickly become one of the most influential Haitian politicians in the current crisis, has urged any dialogue to include more voices. “There was a weakness on the number of players involved” in previous discussions, Privert told John-Michel Caroit of Le Monde. “The solution that will emerge will not be unanimous, but to succeed there must be a critical mass of people who adhere to it.”

The election’s cancellation, however, has emboldened opposition groups, some of whom are now openly calling for Martelly to leave office before the end of his term. It has also highlighted other divisions within the opposition. Some groups would be more willing to accept reforms to the electoral apparatus before moving forward while others are insisting on a further investigation into the fraud from earlier rounds?—?opening the door to changing the runoff candidates or rerunning the presidential election entirely.

International officials have supported moving forward while keeping the same runoff candidates. After unflinchingly backing the process, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten has since acknowledged the new reality. “We may be looking at some sort of temporary solution until there is a handover to a new elected president,” he told Reuters, indicating that Martelly would step down on February 7. But, Merten added, “Our fear is that we go into a situation that is open ended.”

Further delays or investigations could reveal deeper problems with the elections, which could look bad for those who backed the process, both financially and politically. Any further investigation also raises the possibility of excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they [the international community] dread,” as a source told Le Nouvelliste last month. Jean-Charles, a former ally of twice-ousted former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, finished third in the October vote.

In response to the election’s cancellation and the large turnout of opposition protesters, pro-government supporters have begun mobilizing throughout the country. They are calling for elections as soon as possible and have raised concerns of violent confrontations between the two groups. “If Jovenel is excluded from the elections, there will be a civil war,” one protester told the AFP.

In the Grand-Anse, a sparsely populated department in southwestern Haiti, former paramilitary death squad leader Guy Philippe, a front runner in second round senatorial elections that had been scheduled for the 24th, threatened, “we are ready for war…We will divide the country.”

Philippe helped lead the 2004 coup against former president Jean Bertrand Aristide and is still listed as a fugitive by the DEA, wanted on drug-trafficking and money laundering charges. Last month he endorsed Martelly’s successor, Moise, and appeared at a campaign rally in his home region. Legislative elections in Philippe’s department were some of the most problematic in August, resulting in partial reruns in October that have yet to be settled.

Regardless of what happens with presidential elections, the deeply flawed legislative race appears set to stand, with its members playing an increasingly larger role in the current crisis. 24 of the 30 members of the senate have been sworn in, along with 92 of the 119 deputies in the lower house. Martelly allies won control over the lower house, but the senate presidency went to Privert, a former minister under Aristide and current representative of former-president Rene Preval’s political coalition. Privert is one of 10 elected officials who remained in office after Martelly failed to hold elections his first four years in power. Some opposition groups, however, have urged the recent legislative elections to also be scrapped.

Privert said he was “working with my colleagues” and was meeting with many “Haitian organizations “and “some diplomats” in order to solve the crisis. As negotiations continue for what comes after February 7, all sides are jostling for power and influence.

Prime Minister Evans Paul told the press that Martelly would be willing to step down on February 7, but others close to the president have suggested he could stay to hand over the presidential sash to his successor after new elections are held. Who who would take the reigns of government if Martelly does step down, however, remains a sticking point in negotiations. According to sources close to the negotiations, one option would have current Prime Minister Evans Paul stay on through the transition.

Paul became de facto prime minister in 2015, as he was never ratified by parliament, whose terms had recently expired. The political deal that brought Paul to office was brokered by many of the same actors involved in current negotiations, including the U.S., private sector groups and the Catholic Church. Though the agreement led to the current electoral process, it failed to ensure systemic changes that could lead to its credibility.

As negotiations drag out and street protests continue, the international community is tightly managing the fall out. For the last dozen years, explains Haitian poet Lyonel Trouillot, “all Haitian political decisions are made practically under the diktat of this nebula that is called the international community.”

A military presence under U.N. auspices has been in the country since the 2004 coup, backed by the U.S., France and others. The U.N. troops, responsible for a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 and numerous sexual abuse cases, are reviled by many Haitians but seen as a political necessity by international actors and many among the economic elite in Haiti. Billions of dollars have been spent on the mission, whose mandate includes political stability and security.

After directly intervening in the 2010 election and overturning the results, ensuring Martelly’s ascension to the presidency, international officials had hoped that a successful transfer of power at the end of his term could facilitate the departure of the politically and financially costly U.N. mission. In early October the mission’s mandate was extended by one, “possible final” year. The head of the mission, Sandra Honore, told the Security Council that an assessment would be conducted “after completion of the electoral cycle” to determine its future.

“Investing $ 100 million for elections that do not lead to political stability, it is wasteful,” Senate president Privert said. “Too bad the representatives of the international community have understood too late, we could have avoided many acts of violence.”

Ricardo Seitenfus, the OAS representative who blew the whistle on international intervention in the 2010 election, believes the Haiti electoral schedule was designed with U.S. politics in mind. 

“Since Mrs. Clinton was well involved in the 2010–2011 decisions, if we started badly, we must end well. That is to say, February 7 President Michel Martelly must leave, and (Haiti) should have a new president,” Seitenfus said on local radio.

“If I have any advice to give to the international community,” Seitenfus continued, “it is to listen to Haitian actors. Without a Haitian solution to the Haitian crisis, there is no salvation.”

Any deal must first a foremost provide for a credible and fair election, one that can restore Haitian’s trust in their political system. In the October elections, only a quarter of registered voters participated, a sign of the deep distrust in an electoral system seen as dominated by the international community, unaccountable politicians and their elite backers.

Haiti’s government, opposition leaders and private sector groups were in negotiations late Wednesday night, seeking an end to the impasse over Haiti’s coming presidential runoff. On the table is a deal that would delay this Sunday’s elections until March and provide assurances on how to move forward.  But speaking on local radio Thursday morning, current president Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from running again, said everything was ready for the election Sunday and criticized groups who he said wanted to seize power by delaying elections.   

Less than 72 hours before polls are scheduled to open, it remains unclear if elections will take place or if a deal to re-schedule them can still be reached. Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the vote, alleging government interference and massive fraud in the October first round.

On the line now is not just the next president of Haiti, but how and if president Martelly will leave office and whether he will peacefully transfer power to his successor. Also at stake is the credibility of the international community that has backed the process with diplomatic support and millions of dollars.

An international official closely involved in the electoral process, who requested anonymity, said that moving forward with elections on January 24th would “ignore all improvements and lessons we have learnt … and will undermine once again the legitimacy of the president elect.” “More to the point, it is going to look bad for the international community.”

Yesterday the Haitian senate passed a non-binding resolution calling for the electoral process to be halted immediately. Senator Evalière Beauplan, who authored the resolution, told the Miami Herald that there was a broad recognition that “elections won’t work on Sunday. The actors are not ready, and there is too much turbulence.”

The move followed days of protests against the election.  A regular occurrence since the beginning of the electoral process in August, they have increased in size and intensity in the run up to the vote. Police have dispersed protesters with tear gas and a video showing officers beating and harassing detainees has been widely shared on social media.  Opposition groups have called for more protests in the coming days and denounced the police brutality. But in its address this morning, the government said protests would not be allowed ahead of Sunday’s election.

Amid the political crisis, the Haitian government announced the beginning of this year’s Carnival celebration: February 7, the date Martelly’s term ends.

In an ironic twist, a majority of the current Senators, who voted against the election, were themselves elected in violence and fraud-marred legislative elections in August. The elections, in which nearly a quarter of all ballots were never counted due to violence and other irregularities, set off the current crisis.

Martelly, who failed to organize elections during his first four years in office, was left to rule without legislative oversight following the expiration of parliament’s terms in January 2015. A few years earlier, thousands of local officials were replaced by political appointees. A political agreement, brokered with behind-the-scenes help from the U.S., led to the scheduling of three elections in 2015, offering the chance to reestablish institutional legitimacy.

Official results of October’s presidential election put Jovenel Moïse , of the ruling party in first place, followed by Jude Célestin. But the results were immediately contested. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) distributed more than 900,000 accreditation passes to political party observers, allowing them to vote wherever they were present and in many cases, enabling them to vote multiple times.

With 128 political parties competing in the elections, many with no resources to deploy thousands of observers, the system for monitoring the vote turned into a black market for vote buying, according to local observers. With only 1.6 million votes cast, these observers accounted for “probably half the people who voted,” according to Rosny Desroches, who leads a U.S.-financed local observation group. “Those who would do that are those with money…they could see beforehand how to use them,” he added in an interview at the time.

While local observer groups documented what they said amounted to “massive fraud,” international observers, led by the Organization of American States (OAS) backed the results.

After pressure from opposition groups and street protests, president Martelly announced the formation of a commission to evaluate the results just days before the originally scheduled runoff on December 27. The report, delivered in early January, found that there were indeed “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.” 92 percent of a sample of tally sheets of votes contained at least one “serious irregularity,” while more than 50 percent contained three or more, they found.

The commission’s report recommended sweeping changes to the electoral apparatus, including replacing certain members of the CEP, replacing and retraining poll workers and looking further into the irregularities that plagued the vote. The authors’ concluded: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.”

The commission said that the CEP had lost the needed credibility to run elections. Célestin is calling for the commission’s recommendations to be implemented before participating in any election.

Still, the government of Haiti and the CEP have pushed forward. Just days after the commission’s report was delivered, before any recommendations could be adopted, Martelly issued an executive decree establishing January 24 for the presidential runoff. The CEP had written to the president just days before, saying that it would be impossible to hold elections in time for a constitutional hand-over of power on February 7, but foreign embassies, including the U.S., pushed for the 24th.

Two of the nine members of the CEP have since resigned while another suspended his activities due to corruption allegations. A fourth member has ceased participating in meetings because he opposed the holding of the January 24 elections.

The winds appear to be shifting in Haiti’s ever changing political atmosphere. The influential Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Haiti, which includes many businessmen considered close to the government, came out against having the elections on the 24th. The group echoed calls from civil society, human rights groups, religious leaders and diaspora organizations calling for changes to be made in line with the evaluation commission’s report.

There are also growing signs of discontent within the international community. The OAS, one of the primary backers of moving forward with the election as recently as last week, issued a statement expressing concern about pushing forward without further dialogue. The statement acknowledged serious problems in the earlier elections and that measures taken to fix the system “have not achieved the intended level of confidence” desired.

The U.S., however, has maintained its support for Sunday’s elections and according to multiple sources, has been in close contact with the Haitian government, urging that the elections be held as scheduled. The U.S. has spent more than $30 million on the process so far. At least three members of Congress have written to Secretary of State Kerry urging support for free and fair elections and expressing concern over the vote.

The issue threatens to creep into the U.S. presidential race, given the close connection of Hillary Clinton to the current electoral impasse. In the 2010 elections, when Clinton was Secretary of State, Martelly was originally left out of the presidential runoff. Protests engulfed the capital and other major cities and after pressure from the U.S. and other actors, the Haitian government allowed a mission of foreign experts to analyze and eventually overturn the results. OAS whistleblower Ricardo Seitenfus, denouncing the behind the scenes machinations, termed it a “silent coup.”

The man kicked out of the race was Célestin. “Martelly owes his presidency to Hillary Clinton’s personal intervention in elections five years ago,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press Haiti correspondent at the time and the author of a book about post-earthquake international assistance. “The State Department has been backing him enthusiastically ever since.”

The main sticking point in negotiations, according to those close to each side, is what happens to Martelly after February 7. A proposal from the private sector and Catholic Church, floated last night, would have provided for a consensus Prime Minister to be named and oversee the government before elections in March. Martelly, however, is seeking to extend his term until a new president is named.

The government also wants assurances from Célestin that he will participate in March. Those assurances would also guarantee there is no change to the candidates participating in the runoff, meaning a further investigation into the October vote and the potential for sanctions would be off the table.

Martelly warned this morning that international partners would not accept a transitional government. “The country will be under embargo,” he cautioned. But in an interview last November, former Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive warned that pushing forward would carry its own risks. “If there is no legitimacy, there will be no stability, and without stability there will be no investment,” he said.  

All major local observer groups have pulled out of Sunday’s election, including Desroches’ group, OCID. That group received both training and financing from the U.S. and Canada, who are backing the process. “If the elections take place the results will be rejected and not credible,” the international official said.

Either way, it remains to be seen if any move can restore Haitian’s trust in the political system. More than 70 percent of registered voters stayed home in October.

“Even if the standoff over the presidential race is resolved,” said Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Voting Rights Associate with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “Haiti’s next government will still suffer from a serious deficit of democratic legitimacy, given how many parliamentarians got their seats through violence, fraud or bribery.”

Haiti’s government, opposition leaders and private sector groups were in negotiations late Wednesday night, seeking an end to the impasse over Haiti’s coming presidential runoff. On the table is a deal that would delay this Sunday’s elections until March and provide assurances on how to move forward.  But speaking on local radio Thursday morning, current president Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from running again, said everything was ready for the election Sunday and criticized groups who he said wanted to seize power by delaying elections.   

Less than 72 hours before polls are scheduled to open, it remains unclear if elections will take place or if a deal to re-schedule them can still be reached. Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the vote, alleging government interference and massive fraud in the October first round.

On the line now is not just the next president of Haiti, but how and if president Martelly will leave office and whether he will peacefully transfer power to his successor. Also at stake is the credibility of the international community that has backed the process with diplomatic support and millions of dollars.

An international official closely involved in the electoral process, who requested anonymity, said that moving forward with elections on January 24th would “ignore all improvements and lessons we have learnt … and will undermine once again the legitimacy of the president elect.” “More to the point, it is going to look bad for the international community.”

Yesterday the Haitian senate passed a non-binding resolution calling for the electoral process to be halted immediately. Senator Evalière Beauplan, who authored the resolution, told the Miami Herald that there was a broad recognition that “elections won’t work on Sunday. The actors are not ready, and there is too much turbulence.”

The move followed days of protests against the election.  A regular occurrence since the beginning of the electoral process in August, they have increased in size and intensity in the run up to the vote. Police have dispersed protesters with tear gas and a video showing officers beating and harassing detainees has been widely shared on social media.  Opposition groups have called for more protests in the coming days and denounced the police brutality. But in its address this morning, the government said protests would not be allowed ahead of Sunday’s election.

Amid the political crisis, the Haitian government announced the beginning of this year’s Carnival celebration: February 7, the date Martelly’s term ends.

In an ironic twist, a majority of the current Senators, who voted against the election, were themselves elected in violence and fraud-marred legislative elections in August. The elections, in which nearly a quarter of all ballots were never counted due to violence and other irregularities, set off the current crisis.

Martelly, who failed to organize elections during his first four years in office, was left to rule without legislative oversight following the expiration of parliament’s terms in January 2015. A few years earlier, thousands of local officials were replaced by political appointees. A political agreement, brokered with behind-the-scenes help from the U.S., led to the scheduling of three elections in 2015, offering the chance to reestablish institutional legitimacy.

Official results of October’s presidential election put Jovenel Moïse , of the ruling party in first place, followed by Jude Célestin. But the results were immediately contested. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) distributed more than 900,000 accreditation passes to political party observers, allowing them to vote wherever they were present and in many cases, enabling them to vote multiple times.

With 128 political parties competing in the elections, many with no resources to deploy thousands of observers, the system for monitoring the vote turned into a black market for vote buying, according to local observers. With only 1.6 million votes cast, these observers accounted for “probably half the people who voted,” according to Rosny Desroches, who leads a U.S.-financed local observation group. “Those who would do that are those with money…they could see beforehand how to use them,” he added in an interview at the time.

While local observer groups documented what they said amounted to “massive fraud,” international observers, led by the Organization of American States (OAS) backed the results.

After pressure from opposition groups and street protests, president Martelly announced the formation of a commission to evaluate the results just days before the originally scheduled runoff on December 27. The report, delivered in early January, found that there were indeed “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.” 92 percent of a sample of tally sheets of votes contained at least one “serious irregularity,” while more than 50 percent contained three or more, they found.

The commission’s report recommended sweeping changes to the electoral apparatus, including replacing certain members of the CEP, replacing and retraining poll workers and looking further into the irregularities that plagued the vote. The authors’ concluded: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.”

The commission said that the CEP had lost the needed credibility to run elections. Célestin is calling for the commission’s recommendations to be implemented before participating in any election.

Still, the government of Haiti and the CEP have pushed forward. Just days after the commission’s report was delivered, before any recommendations could be adopted, Martelly issued an executive decree establishing January 24 for the presidential runoff. The CEP had written to the president just days before, saying that it would be impossible to hold elections in time for a constitutional hand-over of power on February 7, but foreign embassies, including the U.S., pushed for the 24th.

Two of the nine members of the CEP have since resigned while another suspended his activities due to corruption allegations. A fourth member has ceased participating in meetings because he opposed the holding of the January 24 elections.

The winds appear to be shifting in Haiti’s ever changing political atmosphere. The influential Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Haiti, which includes many businessmen considered close to the government, came out against having the elections on the 24th. The group echoed calls from civil society, human rights groups, religious leaders and diaspora organizations calling for changes to be made in line with the evaluation commission’s report.

There are also growing signs of discontent within the international community. The OAS, one of the primary backers of moving forward with the election as recently as last week, issued a statement expressing concern about pushing forward without further dialogue. The statement acknowledged serious problems in the earlier elections and that measures taken to fix the system “have not achieved the intended level of confidence” desired.

The U.S., however, has maintained its support for Sunday’s elections and according to multiple sources, has been in close contact with the Haitian government, urging that the elections be held as scheduled. The U.S. has spent more than $30 million on the process so far. At least three members of Congress have written to Secretary of State Kerry urging support for free and fair elections and expressing concern over the vote.

The issue threatens to creep into the U.S. presidential race, given the close connection of Hillary Clinton to the current electoral impasse. In the 2010 elections, when Clinton was Secretary of State, Martelly was originally left out of the presidential runoff. Protests engulfed the capital and other major cities and after pressure from the U.S. and other actors, the Haitian government allowed a mission of foreign experts to analyze and eventually overturn the results. OAS whistleblower Ricardo Seitenfus, denouncing the behind the scenes machinations, termed it a “silent coup.”

The man kicked out of the race was Célestin. “Martelly owes his presidency to Hillary Clinton’s personal intervention in elections five years ago,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press Haiti correspondent at the time and the author of a book about post-earthquake international assistance. “The State Department has been backing him enthusiastically ever since.”

The main sticking point in negotiations, according to those close to each side, is what happens to Martelly after February 7. A proposal from the private sector and Catholic Church, floated last night, would have provided for a consensus Prime Minister to be named and oversee the government before elections in March. Martelly, however, is seeking to extend his term until a new president is named.

The government also wants assurances from Célestin that he will participate in March. Those assurances would also guarantee there is no change to the candidates participating in the runoff, meaning a further investigation into the October vote and the potential for sanctions would be off the table.

Martelly warned this morning that international partners would not accept a transitional government. “The country will be under embargo,” he cautioned. But in an interview last November, former Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive warned that pushing forward would carry its own risks. “If there is no legitimacy, there will be no stability, and without stability there will be no investment,” he said.  

All major local observer groups have pulled out of Sunday’s election, including Desroches’ group, OCID. That group received both training and financing from the U.S. and Canada, who are backing the process. “If the elections take place the results will be rejected and not credible,” the international official said.

Either way, it remains to be seen if any move can restore Haitian’s trust in the political system. More than 70 percent of registered voters stayed home in October.

“Even if the standoff over the presidential race is resolved,” said Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Voting Rights Associate with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “Haiti’s next government will still suffer from a serious deficit of democratic legitimacy, given how many parliamentarians got their seats through violence, fraud or bribery.”

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Sunday 3 January, the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission released its report on the 25 October presidential elections. Appointed on 22 December by President Martelly in response to demands for an independent investigation, the Evaluation Commission met over the holidays with electoral council members, government officials, election observers, candidates and other concerned groups, and conducted a verification of 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets. 

The report concluded that the October 25 vote was indeed marked by “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.”

The testimonies gathered were unanimous in recognizing that the 25 October 2015 elections were tainted by irregularities, and that several candidates benefitted, through their representatives at polling stations,from these irregularities comparable to fraud. (p. 10)

The sample of tally sheets examined by the Evaluation Commission painted a picture of a deeply flawed electoral process. 92% of the 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets examined by the commission had at least one “serious irregularity” and 54.1% had three or more serious irregularities. According to statistics compiled by the Commission, 56.7% of tally sheets showed evidence of erasure and modification (“rature avec modification“), while 28.3% of tally sheets had not been plasticised, a measure meant to prevent post-vote alterations.

The Commission also found that that many votes had been cast without the proper documentation. 57.1% of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8% of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid CIN number, 30.6% of tally sheets had votes that lacked a CIN number altogether. The scale of these irregularities are potentially massive. Commission member Rosny Desroches stated in a radio interview with Radio Vision 2000 that at one polling station in La Saline, 200 people voted without providing CIN numbers, while only 25 voted with a voting card.

The report confirmed the accusations of a number of observer groups that the system ofmandataires (political party representatives) was systematically exploited to cast fraudulent votes on election day:

The mobilization of an exaggerated number of mandataires (more than 900,000) who were able to vote outside of their polling stations … was the cause of many irregularities or fairly serious problems during the electoral activities of 25 October 2015. This led, above all in polling stations in urban areas, to themanipulation of votes and the purchasing of accreditation cards by political parties having the financial means. Many mandataires, benefiting from the complicity or negligence of polling station workers, voted at multiple polling stations. (p. 6)

The impact of these fraudulent votes cast by mandataires and other “off-list” voters was potentially quite large. In over a quarter (27.2%) of the tally sheets in the Commission’s sample, off-list votes accounted for more than 15% of total votes.

Due to the short timeframe of its operations, many questions were left unanswered by the Commission. The Commission, for instance, could not dispel the “rumours” concerning UNOPS’ alleged role in manipulating or destroying tally sheets that it was tasked with transporting: “The commission would need more time to examine this question and to uncover the whole truth concerning this point.” (p. 6) The UN contracting agency was tasked with organizing election logistics on 25 October and Sylvain Coté, one of its employees, was accused by a PHTK deputy candidate of involvement in a massive operation of fraud.

Unfortunately, the Commission shied away from evaluating the full scope of the problems on 25 October in its report. The report never clearly establishes the degree to which the presidential election results were compromised by such “irregularities akin to fraud.” Nor does the report ever identify the candidates that benefitted the most from these irregularities, only timidly noting that political parties in general revealed themselves to be “potential sources of irregularities, fraud and corruption in electoral competition.” (p. 6) The Commission’s report was often ambiguous about whether the widespread and serious irregularities it found actually constituted “fraud.” The Commission said its findings from the analysis of tally sheets, for instance, “could be attributable to the incompetence or lack of training of polling station workers or to serious attempts of fraud.” (p. 9)

The Commission concluded that these irregularities required a response from the nation’s authorities, while carefully limiting the scope of its recommendations. “Corrective and dissuasive measures are therefore necessary for the continuation of the electoral process, knowing that there are no perfect solutions in the present circumstances.” (p. 10) The report recommended the resignation of CEP members who have lost credibility due to accusations of corruption, and the creation of political dialogue between all concerned actors to find a way out of the impasse. The report also called for polling station workers to receive better training in the second round, and eventually to be made permanent employees of the electoral council rather than temporary staff selected on a political basis.

The electoral body admits that more than 60% of voting bureau members were not able to accomplish correctly the work required. … Many irregularities that resulted in the quarantining of numerous tally sheets were due to their carelessness and their lack of general and specific training. (p. 5)

The Commission thinks that polling station workers must no longer be temporary personnel subject to the relentless influence of certain political actors. (p. 12)

The Commission also recommended reviewing accusations of corruption in the electoral complaints process related to the legislative races. Although it was not tasked with evaluating the legislative elections, the Commission received more than 50 cases of “complaints, contestations, accusations of fraud that were not properly dealt with”:

During the entire time the Commission was sitting, it received a significant number of complaints and denunciations from candidates during the last legislative elections about the injustices they claim to have suffered. There were even public disturbances related to some of these cases. The electoral institution cannot tolerate injustices committed through the BCED or the BCEN, whose judges have been so heavily criticized. There has even been talk of corruption. The Commission recommends a re-evaluation and an in-depth examination of these dossiers. (p. 11)

The report included in its recommendation an ambiguous call for “a more in-depth examination on the technical level of the responsibility of the electoral apparatus for irregularities often described as massive fraud.” (p.12) Its recommendations, however, avoided calling for a full recount of the vote or the rerunning of elections, an omission that prompted Commissioner Gédéon Jean of RNDDH to refuse to sign the final document.

Since early November, the Group of Eight (G-8) candidates, civil society organizations, religious groups and countless demonstrators have demanded an Investigative Commission to look into allegations of fraud on October 25. Instead of a full investigation of electoral fraud, the opposition got something more akin to a Guarantees Commission, an idea floated by OCID’s Rosny Desroches in early December that was roundly rejected by the G-8 but embraced by the U.S. and other Core Group embassies. The restrictive way in which the Evaluation Commission interpreted its mandate and the modest recommendations it limited itself to means that its report has not satisfied these sectors, many of which have issued denunciations of the report and its recommendations and called for mobilizations against electoral fraud to continue.

The Evaluation Commission noted in its report that the preponderant role of foreign powers had damaged Haitians’ confidence in the electoral process. “The perception of meddling by international actors in the major decisions of the nation causes confusion and discredits the country’s established authorities.” (p. 2) The Commission’s report, and Desroches’ obvious influence on its outlook, will only make it harder to dispel such perceptions. Desroches, who became the Commission’s spokesman, has long enjoyed close relations with the international community; his organization OCID received the lion’s share of a $4 million grant from the U.S. and Canada to monitor the elections.

Overall, the report is a contradictory document will likely deepen rather than resolve the electoral crisis. The Commission itself is clear about what going forward without correcting the results of previous elections means: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.” (p. 1) Yet beyond a general statement that violations of the electoral law should be punished, the Commission makes no recommendations for rectifying the presidential elections, even while admitting that 25 October was marred by serious irregularities.

Full text of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission (in French) is available here.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Sunday 3 January, the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission released its report on the 25 October presidential elections. Appointed on 22 December by President Martelly in response to demands for an independent investigation, the Evaluation Commission met over the holidays with electoral council members, government officials, election observers, candidates and other concerned groups, and conducted a verification of 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets. 

The report concluded that the October 25 vote was indeed marked by “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.”

The testimonies gathered were unanimous in recognizing that the 25 October 2015 elections were tainted by irregularities, and that several candidates benefitted, through their representatives at polling stations,from these irregularities comparable to fraud. (p. 10)

The sample of tally sheets examined by the Evaluation Commission painted a picture of a deeply flawed electoral process. 92% of the 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets examined by the commission had at least one “serious irregularity” and 54.1% had three or more serious irregularities. According to statistics compiled by the Commission, 56.7% of tally sheets showed evidence of erasure and modification (“rature avec modification“), while 28.3% of tally sheets had not been plasticised, a measure meant to prevent post-vote alterations.

The Commission also found that that many votes had been cast without the proper documentation. 57.1% of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8% of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid CIN number, 30.6% of tally sheets had votes that lacked a CIN number altogether. The scale of these irregularities are potentially massive. Commission member Rosny Desroches stated in a radio interview with Radio Vision 2000 that at one polling station in La Saline, 200 people voted without providing CIN numbers, while only 25 voted with a voting card.

The report confirmed the accusations of a number of observer groups that the system ofmandataires (political party representatives) was systematically exploited to cast fraudulent votes on election day:

The mobilization of an exaggerated number of mandataires (more than 900,000) who were able to vote outside of their polling stations … was the cause of many irregularities or fairly serious problems during the electoral activities of 25 October 2015. This led, above all in polling stations in urban areas, to themanipulation of votes and the purchasing of accreditation cards by political parties having the financial means. Many mandataires, benefiting from the complicity or negligence of polling station workers, voted at multiple polling stations. (p. 6)

The impact of these fraudulent votes cast by mandataires and other “off-list” voters was potentially quite large. In over a quarter (27.2%) of the tally sheets in the Commission’s sample, off-list votes accounted for more than 15% of total votes.

Due to the short timeframe of its operations, many questions were left unanswered by the Commission. The Commission, for instance, could not dispel the “rumours” concerning UNOPS’ alleged role in manipulating or destroying tally sheets that it was tasked with transporting: “The commission would need more time to examine this question and to uncover the whole truth concerning this point.” (p. 6) The UN contracting agency was tasked with organizing election logistics on 25 October and Sylvain Coté, one of its employees, was accused by a PHTK deputy candidate of involvement in a massive operation of fraud.

Unfortunately, the Commission shied away from evaluating the full scope of the problems on 25 October in its report. The report never clearly establishes the degree to which the presidential election results were compromised by such “irregularities akin to fraud.” Nor does the report ever identify the candidates that benefitted the most from these irregularities, only timidly noting that political parties in general revealed themselves to be “potential sources of irregularities, fraud and corruption in electoral competition.” (p. 6) The Commission’s report was often ambiguous about whether the widespread and serious irregularities it found actually constituted “fraud.” The Commission said its findings from the analysis of tally sheets, for instance, “could be attributable to the incompetence or lack of training of polling station workers or to serious attempts of fraud.” (p. 9)

The Commission concluded that these irregularities required a response from the nation’s authorities, while carefully limiting the scope of its recommendations. “Corrective and dissuasive measures are therefore necessary for the continuation of the electoral process, knowing that there are no perfect solutions in the present circumstances.” (p. 10) The report recommended the resignation of CEP members who have lost credibility due to accusations of corruption, and the creation of political dialogue between all concerned actors to find a way out of the impasse. The report also called for polling station workers to receive better training in the second round, and eventually to be made permanent employees of the electoral council rather than temporary staff selected on a political basis.

The electoral body admits that more than 60% of voting bureau members were not able to accomplish correctly the work required. … Many irregularities that resulted in the quarantining of numerous tally sheets were due to their carelessness and their lack of general and specific training. (p. 5)

The Commission thinks that polling station workers must no longer be temporary personnel subject to the relentless influence of certain political actors. (p. 12)

The Commission also recommended reviewing accusations of corruption in the electoral complaints process related to the legislative races. Although it was not tasked with evaluating the legislative elections, the Commission received more than 50 cases of “complaints, contestations, accusations of fraud that were not properly dealt with”:

During the entire time the Commission was sitting, it received a significant number of complaints and denunciations from candidates during the last legislative elections about the injustices they claim to have suffered. There were even public disturbances related to some of these cases. The electoral institution cannot tolerate injustices committed through the BCED or the BCEN, whose judges have been so heavily criticized. There has even been talk of corruption. The Commission recommends a re-evaluation and an in-depth examination of these dossiers. (p. 11)

The report included in its recommendation an ambiguous call for “a more in-depth examination on the technical level of the responsibility of the electoral apparatus for irregularities often described as massive fraud.” (p.12) Its recommendations, however, avoided calling for a full recount of the vote or the rerunning of elections, an omission that prompted Commissioner Gédéon Jean of RNDDH to refuse to sign the final document.

Since early November, the Group of Eight (G-8) candidates, civil society organizations, religious groups and countless demonstrators have demanded an Investigative Commission to look into allegations of fraud on October 25. Instead of a full investigation of electoral fraud, the opposition got something more akin to a Guarantees Commission, an idea floated by OCID’s Rosny Desroches in early December that was roundly rejected by the G-8 but embraced by the U.S. and other Core Group embassies. The restrictive way in which the Evaluation Commission interpreted its mandate and the modest recommendations it limited itself to means that its report has not satisfied these sectors, many of which have issued denunciations of the report and its recommendations and called for mobilizations against electoral fraud to continue.

The Evaluation Commission noted in its report that the preponderant role of foreign powers had damaged Haitians’ confidence in the electoral process. “The perception of meddling by international actors in the major decisions of the nation causes confusion and discredits the country’s established authorities.” (p. 2) The Commission’s report, and Desroches’ obvious influence on its outlook, will only make it harder to dispel such perceptions. Desroches, who became the Commission’s spokesman, has long enjoyed close relations with the international community; his organization OCID received the lion’s share of a $4 million grant from the U.S. and Canada to monitor the elections.

Overall, the report is a contradictory document will likely deepen rather than resolve the electoral crisis. The Commission itself is clear about what going forward without correcting the results of previous elections means: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.” (p. 1) Yet beyond a general statement that violations of the electoral law should be punished, the Commission makes no recommendations for rectifying the presidential elections, even while admitting that 25 October was marred by serious irregularities.

Full text of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission (in French) is available here.

After increasing pressure from opposition politicians, human rights organizations, religious leaders and diaspora organizations, Haitian president Michel Martelly has issued a decree forming a commission to evaluate the recent first-round presidential elections, held in October. Backed by the international community, the move is a last-ditch effort to save the December 27 run-off election.

Consisting of five individuals who were named in the presidential decree, the body will have three days to carry out its work and make recommendations to the electoral council and government. The election, set to be held next weekend, is expected to be delayed until January 2016, though no formal announcement has been made.

Contacted by HRRW, Rosny Desroches, a leader of a local observation group funded by the U.S. and Canada and a member of the commission, said that the exact terms of reference were still being debated and the commission likely wouldn’t get started until Friday or Saturday. Specifically, there was still debate about the time frame, as three days seemed too short, he said. “The main idea is to improve the process so that what happened on the 25th [of October] will not be repeated,” Desroches added.

The October election, in which 70 percent of registered voters stayed home, was plagued by widespread fraud and other irregularities according to local and international observer groups. Following the election, a group of eight presidential candidates, known as the G8, questioned the legitimacy of the results and demanded an independent verification commission to analyze the votes.  

Martelly has been ruling by decree since January 2015, when the terms of most of the legislative branch expired. On Wednesday, the 10 remaining Senators wrote to Martelly and the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) requesting a suspension of the electoral process and the formation of a verification commission. Shortly after midnight, Prime Minister Evans Paul sent a letter to Martelly requesting a commission with a more limited scope, setting the stage for this morning’s announcement.

As momentum built over the previous week, even those close to the government acknowledged that something would have to be done. “You can’t stop a runaway train,” an advisor to President Martelly quipped, “It’s inevitable.”

But asked if this commission satisfied the request of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert, one of the 10 who remain, wrote curtly, “No way.” And already, there has been pushback to the commission from within the G8.

In a statement this morning, Renmen Ayiti, whose presidential candidate Jean Henry Céant is part of the G8, denounced the commission as “contrary to the request” of the G8. The party also called on one of its members, Euvonie Georges Auguste, who had been placed on the commission, to not participate.

Other commission members are Patrick Aris of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti; former Port-au-Prince Mayor Joseph Emmanuel Charlemagne; and Anthony Pascal, a journalist and TV personality.

Moïse Jean Charles, another member of the G8 who finished third according to official results, also expressed concerns over the new commission. It “doesn’t look to be shaping up like what we’ve been asking for,” he said. “What we demand is an independent commission that won’t be biased toward anyone,” he added, pointing out that it appeared some commission members were close associates of Martelly.

But key among the group is Jude Célestin, who placed second according to official results behind Jovenel Moïse of the ruling party. Despite increasing pressure from the international community, he has held firm on conditioning his participation in the second round on the formation of a verification commission.  

Célestin ran for the presidency in 2010 but was removed from the race after an internationally backed verification mission suggested he really came in third. That decision, which was accepted only after the revocation of visas and other pressure from the U.S., paved the way for Martelly’s ascension to the presidency.

Now, the international community finds itself on the other side of the equation, needing Célestin to participate in order for the election to have legitimacy. U.S. State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten, who was the U.S. Ambassador during the 2010 election, was dispatched to Haiti in early December to meet with the stakeholders and reach a deal that would allow Célestin to participate and the process to continue on schedule.

The international community has balked at the prospect of a verification commission, as demanded by the G8, thinking that it would be too time consuming and threaten the handover of power on February 7, when Martelly’s term expires. A verification commission could also end up excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they dread,” as a source told Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste last week. Jean-Charles, a former senator, has been an outspoken critic of Martelly and has been associated with Fanmi Lavalas, the party of twice-ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Instead, Merten presented a different proposal: a “commission of guarantee” to make improvements and ensure a better-run election for the second round. The commission announced today is broadly in line with this proposal. The commission has just 72 hours to operate, and the decree gives both candidates who have secured a spot in the second round an opportunity to participate in the process, indicating that the commission’s work will not impact the results.

Desroches confirmed that the “goal” of the commission is not so much to look backwards, but to improve the process going forward.

The commission will also receive technical assistance from the European Union and the Organization of American states, both of which have signed off on the elections despite the reports of massive fraud from local observers.

“Anything that brings transparency and moves the process forward is a good thing,” Merten commented to HRRW this morning, adding that he had yet to see the specifics of the commission. “Hopefully this gives Jude the confidence to engage in the process and feels that this will provide a level playing field” for the second round, he said. Merten met with Célestin during his trip to Haiti.

But the G8 already rejected proposals for the watered-down commission earlier this week. In a separate letter to the electoral council released Tuesday, Célestin wrote that an “evaluation commission is obligatory in order to save the electoral process.” Célestin has yet to respond to the latest developments, but if he approves of the commission he risks alienating himself from other members in the G8, whose support he is courting for a potential second round. Hinting that the commission may divide the G8, Desroches commented, “some people are more interested in continuing the process than others…not everyone has the same agenda.”

While the focus has been on the presidential race, also at stake are more than 130 legislative seats and thousands of local offices. On Wednesday, multiple legislative candidates took to Haitian radio revealing that they had been asked to pay bribes to electoral council and electoral court members in order to ensure a seat in the next legislature. The CEP was set to announce final legislative results, still pending from the October election, today.

In comments to local press, Sauvier Pierre Etienne, another G8 member, said the group would meet soon to adopt a formal position on the commission, but added, “Today more than ever, the resignation of the CEP is necessary.”

After increasing pressure from opposition politicians, human rights organizations, religious leaders and diaspora organizations, Haitian president Michel Martelly has issued a decree forming a commission to evaluate the recent first-round presidential elections, held in October. Backed by the international community, the move is a last-ditch effort to save the December 27 run-off election.

Consisting of five individuals who were named in the presidential decree, the body will have three days to carry out its work and make recommendations to the electoral council and government. The election, set to be held next weekend, is expected to be delayed until January 2016, though no formal announcement has been made.

Contacted by HRRW, Rosny Desroches, a leader of a local observation group funded by the U.S. and Canada and a member of the commission, said that the exact terms of reference were still being debated and the commission likely wouldn’t get started until Friday or Saturday. Specifically, there was still debate about the time frame, as three days seemed too short, he said. “The main idea is to improve the process so that what happened on the 25th [of October] will not be repeated,” Desroches added.

The October election, in which 70 percent of registered voters stayed home, was plagued by widespread fraud and other irregularities according to local and international observer groups. Following the election, a group of eight presidential candidates, known as the G8, questioned the legitimacy of the results and demanded an independent verification commission to analyze the votes.  

Martelly has been ruling by decree since January 2015, when the terms of most of the legislative branch expired. On Wednesday, the 10 remaining Senators wrote to Martelly and the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) requesting a suspension of the electoral process and the formation of a verification commission. Shortly after midnight, Prime Minister Evans Paul sent a letter to Martelly requesting a commission with a more limited scope, setting the stage for this morning’s announcement.

As momentum built over the previous week, even those close to the government acknowledged that something would have to be done. “You can’t stop a runaway train,” an advisor to President Martelly quipped, “It’s inevitable.”

But asked if this commission satisfied the request of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert, one of the 10 who remain, wrote curtly, “No way.” And already, there has been pushback to the commission from within the G8.

In a statement this morning, Renmen Ayiti, whose presidential candidate Jean Henry Céant is part of the G8, denounced the commission as “contrary to the request” of the G8. The party also called on one of its members, Euvonie Georges Auguste, who had been placed on the commission, to not participate.

Other commission members are Patrick Aris of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti; former Port-au-Prince Mayor Joseph Emmanuel Charlemagne; and Anthony Pascal, a journalist and TV personality.

Moïse Jean Charles, another member of the G8 who finished third according to official results, also expressed concerns over the new commission. It “doesn’t look to be shaping up like what we’ve been asking for,” he said. “What we demand is an independent commission that won’t be biased toward anyone,” he added, pointing out that it appeared some commission members were close associates of Martelly.

But key among the group is Jude Célestin, who placed second according to official results behind Jovenel Moïse of the ruling party. Despite increasing pressure from the international community, he has held firm on conditioning his participation in the second round on the formation of a verification commission.  

Célestin ran for the presidency in 2010 but was removed from the race after an internationally backed verification mission suggested he really came in third. That decision, which was accepted only after the revocation of visas and other pressure from the U.S., paved the way for Martelly’s ascension to the presidency.

Now, the international community finds itself on the other side of the equation, needing Célestin to participate in order for the election to have legitimacy. U.S. State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten, who was the U.S. Ambassador during the 2010 election, was dispatched to Haiti in early December to meet with the stakeholders and reach a deal that would allow Célestin to participate and the process to continue on schedule.

The international community has balked at the prospect of a verification commission, as demanded by the G8, thinking that it would be too time consuming and threaten the handover of power on February 7, when Martelly’s term expires. A verification commission could also end up excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they dread,” as a source told Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste last week. Jean-Charles, a former senator, has been an outspoken critic of Martelly and has been associated with Fanmi Lavalas, the party of twice-ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Instead, Merten presented a different proposal: a “commission of guarantee” to make improvements and ensure a better-run election for the second round. The commission announced today is broadly in line with this proposal. The commission has just 72 hours to operate, and the decree gives both candidates who have secured a spot in the second round an opportunity to participate in the process, indicating that the commission’s work will not impact the results.

Desroches confirmed that the “goal” of the commission is not so much to look backwards, but to improve the process going forward.

The commission will also receive technical assistance from the European Union and the Organization of American states, both of which have signed off on the elections despite the reports of massive fraud from local observers.

“Anything that brings transparency and moves the process forward is a good thing,” Merten commented to HRRW this morning, adding that he had yet to see the specifics of the commission. “Hopefully this gives Jude the confidence to engage in the process and feels that this will provide a level playing field” for the second round, he said. Merten met with Célestin during his trip to Haiti.

But the G8 already rejected proposals for the watered-down commission earlier this week. In a separate letter to the electoral council released Tuesday, Célestin wrote that an “evaluation commission is obligatory in order to save the electoral process.” Célestin has yet to respond to the latest developments, but if he approves of the commission he risks alienating himself from other members in the G8, whose support he is courting for a potential second round. Hinting that the commission may divide the G8, Desroches commented, “some people are more interested in continuing the process than others…not everyone has the same agenda.”

While the focus has been on the presidential race, also at stake are more than 130 legislative seats and thousands of local offices. On Wednesday, multiple legislative candidates took to Haitian radio revealing that they had been asked to pay bribes to electoral council and electoral court members in order to ensure a seat in the next legislature. The CEP was set to announce final legislative results, still pending from the October election, today.

In comments to local press, Sauvier Pierre Etienne, another G8 member, said the group would meet soon to adopt a formal position on the commission, but added, “Today more than ever, the resignation of the CEP is necessary.”

This past weekend, the editorial boards of both the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about the current electoral crisis in Haiti, though the solutions recommended differ greatly. Unlike the Times, which backed calls from Haitian civil society and political parties for further verification of the vote, the Post editorial pushes a line decidedly in tune with the U.S. State Department.

Both the Times and the Post acknowledge that “the balloting, which featured 54 candidates, was marked by fraud, vote-buying and repeat voting,” as the Post wrote. The Post editorial continues:

With the runoff to elect a president set for Dec. 27, significant parts of Haitian civil society, including human rights organizations and the clergy, have called for a postponement to recount and verify the first-round results. So has the second-place finisher, Jude Celestin, who says he will not take part in the runoff without an independent review of the first-round results.

But while the Post concedes that the concerns are “partly justified,” the editorial authors conclude that actually having a verification of the vote could lead to the process starting from scratch or delaying the December 27 vote. This would be a “recipe for ongoing upheaval and more violence,” the Post writes. Rather, the Post suggests a “better way out of the impasse is to proceed with the runoff with guarantees of enhanced scrutiny by international election observers from the Organization of American States [OAS] and elsewhere, including the United States.”

Of course, both the OAS and the United States have hailed the vote as successful, and have yet to denounce the fraud and other irregularities that took place, according to Haitian and U.S. observers. Last week, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti Kenneth Merten traveled to Haiti to seek a solution to the crisis. The route forward that the U.S. is pushing is remarkably similar to what the Post suggests. Rather than a verification commission, the U.S. and other actors in the international community are instead recommending a “warranty” commission that will work to ensure the next election is better than the first.

On the other hand, the New York Times, after diagnosing many of the problems with the previous election, backs calls from Haitian civil society and political leaders, calling for the U.S. to “instead be pressing for an independent, Haitian-led inquiry to examine the October vote.” The U.S. “should know that it’s impossible to build a legitimate government on a rotten foundation,” the editorial states. It concludes:

But anyone who cares about democracy in a country whose fate is so closely tied to the wandering and sometimes malign attentions of the United States and the rest of the world should pay attention. Haitians deserve better than this.

So, with similar acknowledgements of the magnitude of the problems, why such divergent suggestions from these two leading newspapers?

A look through the most recent batch of e-mails released from the private server of Hillary Clinton may provide some answers. In July 2012, Deborah Sontag of the New York Times wrote a front-page article on U.S. relief efforts in Haiti, focusing on the flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol industrial park. The article was critical of the efforts by the U.S. and by the U.S. State Department in particular, led at the time by Clinton.

A top aide to Clinton, Cheryl Mills, wrote to a number of State Department employees just days after publication, forwarding a message from a contractor about the article and the need for an organized pushback effort. Mill’s comments are entirely redacted, but she then forwarded it to Clinton, whose response (PDF) illuminates the sometimes nefarious connection between the government and our news media.

“What’s been fallout and how’s our pushback working? Can we use WPost to respond …?” Clinton wrote. It wasn’t just hypothetical; Clinton continues: “… the way we did on summer work program?”

Perhaps it is of little surprise then that the Washington Post is pushing such a decidedly State Department line regarding the elections in Haiti.

This past weekend, the editorial boards of both the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about the current electoral crisis in Haiti, though the solutions recommended differ greatly. Unlike the Times, which backed calls from Haitian civil society and political parties for further verification of the vote, the Post editorial pushes a line decidedly in tune with the U.S. State Department.

Both the Times and the Post acknowledge that “the balloting, which featured 54 candidates, was marked by fraud, vote-buying and repeat voting,” as the Post wrote. The Post editorial continues:

With the runoff to elect a president set for Dec. 27, significant parts of Haitian civil society, including human rights organizations and the clergy, have called for a postponement to recount and verify the first-round results. So has the second-place finisher, Jude Celestin, who says he will not take part in the runoff without an independent review of the first-round results.

But while the Post concedes that the concerns are “partly justified,” the editorial authors conclude that actually having a verification of the vote could lead to the process starting from scratch or delaying the December 27 vote. This would be a “recipe for ongoing upheaval and more violence,” the Post writes. Rather, the Post suggests a “better way out of the impasse is to proceed with the runoff with guarantees of enhanced scrutiny by international election observers from the Organization of American States [OAS] and elsewhere, including the United States.”

Of course, both the OAS and the United States have hailed the vote as successful, and have yet to denounce the fraud and other irregularities that took place, according to Haitian and U.S. observers. Last week, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti Kenneth Merten traveled to Haiti to seek a solution to the crisis. The route forward that the U.S. is pushing is remarkably similar to what the Post suggests. Rather than a verification commission, the U.S. and other actors in the international community are instead recommending a “warranty” commission that will work to ensure the next election is better than the first.

On the other hand, the New York Times, after diagnosing many of the problems with the previous election, backs calls from Haitian civil society and political leaders, calling for the U.S. to “instead be pressing for an independent, Haitian-led inquiry to examine the October vote.” The U.S. “should know that it’s impossible to build a legitimate government on a rotten foundation,” the editorial states. It concludes:

But anyone who cares about democracy in a country whose fate is so closely tied to the wandering and sometimes malign attentions of the United States and the rest of the world should pay attention. Haitians deserve better than this.

So, with similar acknowledgements of the magnitude of the problems, why such divergent suggestions from these two leading newspapers?

A look through the most recent batch of e-mails released from the private server of Hillary Clinton may provide some answers. In July 2012, Deborah Sontag of the New York Times wrote a front-page article on U.S. relief efforts in Haiti, focusing on the flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol industrial park. The article was critical of the efforts by the U.S. and by the U.S. State Department in particular, led at the time by Clinton.

A top aide to Clinton, Cheryl Mills, wrote to a number of State Department employees just days after publication, forwarding a message from a contractor about the article and the need for an organized pushback effort. Mill’s comments are entirely redacted, but she then forwarded it to Clinton, whose response (PDF) illuminates the sometimes nefarious connection between the government and our news media.

“What’s been fallout and how’s our pushback working? Can we use WPost to respond …?” Clinton wrote. It wasn’t just hypothetical; Clinton continues: “… the way we did on summer work program?”

Perhaps it is of little surprise then that the Washington Post is pushing such a decidedly State Department line regarding the elections in Haiti.

The following is written by Beatrice Lindstrom, Staff Attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and has been cross-posted from Medium.

“It is with great sadness that I write you this letter to remind you that human rights are something that all people must respect no matter how powerful you are.”

So reads the opening line of a letter from Viengeméne Ulisse, one of over 2,000 cholera victims who have handwritten letters to the UN Security Council to demand that the world body take action and provide justice and reparations for the suffering they have experienced due to cholera introduced by UN peacekeepers in 2010.

Viengeméne lives in Thomazeau, Haiti. In May of 2011, he suddenly fell ill with cholera and was hospitalized for eight days. “I learned that it was MINUSTAH that brought this disease to my country. In this sense, I ask the president of the United Nations and all of its allies to compensate us and bring justice and reparations,” he writes.

UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti in 2010 by discharging untreated human waste into Haiti’s largest river. Haiti now has the world’s worst cholera epidemic?—?over 9,000 people have died and over 760,000 have sought hospital care.

The victims are delivering their letters in connection with Human Rights Day. The UN celebrates Human Rights Day every December 10th, the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Using slogans like “rights for all,” it is an opportunity for the UN draw attention to the universality and equality that underpin the modern human rights system.

But to Haitians who have been employing every advocacy tool in the book to enforce their rights against the UN itself?—?including holding press conferences, demonstrating, filing lawsuits, and now, writing letters?—? these UN campaigns ring hollow.

“How does the UN have the moral standing to promote respect for human rights and dignity in Haiti when it is violating cholera victims’ rights?” asks Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who has been championing the victims fight for justice for over four years.

The victims do not stand alone in their calls for rights to be upheld. A broad chorus of influential human rights leaders have joined their pleas. In October, on the five year anniversary of the UN’s introduction of cholera, Amnesty International issued a statement imploring the UN that it “must not just wash its hands of the human suffering and pain that it has caused,” and reminding the UN of its obligations to provide remedies under human rights law.

Many human rights leaders within the UN system itself have echoed the same call. Last year, four UN Special Rapporteurs sent an unprecedented allegation letter to the Secretary-General, setting forth allegations that the UN was violating human rights and asking the UN to justify its refusal to engage with victims’ demand for remedies. The UN’s 33-page response artfully sidestepped the question as to why victims had never received an apology or compensation for their harm

Even the UN’s top human rights officer, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she “stand[s] by the call for compensation.”

So far, the UN has not listened. But if it wants to show that human rights mean something, it will have to. As Amnesty concluded, “Failing to take action will only undermine the UN’s credibility and responsibility as a promoter of human rights across the world.”

The victims are far from giving up. When they went to the UN office in Port-au-Prince to deliver the letters, they were told to wait. “We can wait,” responded Mario Joseph. “We’ve been waiting since 2010.”

Louis Olice, who survived a cholera episode so severe that she lost consciousness, wrote in her letter, “I still believe the authorities of the United Nations will respond to the people.”

Now, it’s on the UN to turn words into action and show that “human rights for all” means Haitians too.

The letters can be read here.

The following is written by Beatrice Lindstrom, Staff Attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and has been cross-posted from Medium.

“It is with great sadness that I write you this letter to remind you that human rights are something that all people must respect no matter how powerful you are.”

So reads the opening line of a letter from Viengeméne Ulisse, one of over 2,000 cholera victims who have handwritten letters to the UN Security Council to demand that the world body take action and provide justice and reparations for the suffering they have experienced due to cholera introduced by UN peacekeepers in 2010.

Viengeméne lives in Thomazeau, Haiti. In May of 2011, he suddenly fell ill with cholera and was hospitalized for eight days. “I learned that it was MINUSTAH that brought this disease to my country. In this sense, I ask the president of the United Nations and all of its allies to compensate us and bring justice and reparations,” he writes.

UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti in 2010 by discharging untreated human waste into Haiti’s largest river. Haiti now has the world’s worst cholera epidemic?—?over 9,000 people have died and over 760,000 have sought hospital care.

The victims are delivering their letters in connection with Human Rights Day. The UN celebrates Human Rights Day every December 10th, the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Using slogans like “rights for all,” it is an opportunity for the UN draw attention to the universality and equality that underpin the modern human rights system.

But to Haitians who have been employing every advocacy tool in the book to enforce their rights against the UN itself?—?including holding press conferences, demonstrating, filing lawsuits, and now, writing letters?—? these UN campaigns ring hollow.

“How does the UN have the moral standing to promote respect for human rights and dignity in Haiti when it is violating cholera victims’ rights?” asks Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who has been championing the victims fight for justice for over four years.

The victims do not stand alone in their calls for rights to be upheld. A broad chorus of influential human rights leaders have joined their pleas. In October, on the five year anniversary of the UN’s introduction of cholera, Amnesty International issued a statement imploring the UN that it “must not just wash its hands of the human suffering and pain that it has caused,” and reminding the UN of its obligations to provide remedies under human rights law.

Many human rights leaders within the UN system itself have echoed the same call. Last year, four UN Special Rapporteurs sent an unprecedented allegation letter to the Secretary-General, setting forth allegations that the UN was violating human rights and asking the UN to justify its refusal to engage with victims’ demand for remedies. The UN’s 33-page response artfully sidestepped the question as to why victims had never received an apology or compensation for their harm

Even the UN’s top human rights officer, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she “stand[s] by the call for compensation.”

So far, the UN has not listened. But if it wants to show that human rights mean something, it will have to. As Amnesty concluded, “Failing to take action will only undermine the UN’s credibility and responsibility as a promoter of human rights across the world.”

The victims are far from giving up. When they went to the UN office in Port-au-Prince to deliver the letters, they were told to wait. “We can wait,” responded Mario Joseph. “We’ve been waiting since 2010.”

Louis Olice, who survived a cholera episode so severe that she lost consciousness, wrote in her letter, “I still believe the authorities of the United Nations will respond to the people.”

Now, it’s on the UN to turn words into action and show that “human rights for all” means Haitians too.

The letters can be read here.

A new survey from the Brazilian Igarape Institute, released today, indicates that official results from Haiti’s October 25 presidential election may not reflect the will of the voters. In the wake of the election, local observers and political leaders have denounced what they claim was massive fraud in favor of the governing party’s candidate, Jovenel Moïse, who came in first place with 32.8 percent of the vote according to the preliminary results. In second place was Jude Célestin with 25.3 percent and in third and fourth respectively were Moïse Jean Charles with 14.3 percent and Dr. Maryse Narcisse with 7 percent. Final results are expected this week.

But the survey, which is based on interviews with over 1,800 voters from 135 voting centers throughout all of Haiti’s ten departments, reveals a vastly different voting pattern than the official results. 37.5 percent of respondents indicated they had voted for Célestin while 30.6 percent voted for Jean Charles and 19.4 percent for Narcisse. The governing party’s Jovenel Moïse was the choice of just 6.3 percent of survey respondents. (See an AP story about the survey here.)

The official results have set up a potential runoff between Jovenel Moïse and Célestin on December 27, but Célestin has so far refused to recognize the results or accept his second-place position ahead of the second round of the elections. A coalition of eight candidates has labeled the results “unacceptable” and called on the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to form an independent commission to audit the results and investigate allegations of fraud. After a meeting on Monday between the CEP and the G8, as the opposition coalition is known, the CEP formally rejected the proposition, claiming that the electoral decree did not allow it. Opposition groups responded by pledging to continue a growing protest movement that has seen many thousands take the streets since results were announced, threatening to derail the costly and internationally backed electoral process.

A large protest was broken up by police on Wednesday near the CEP headquarters. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets and Steven Benoit, one of the opposition presidential candidates challenging the results, suffered injuries to his head. Moïse Jean Charles, who was riding on horseback, was also reportedly injured, and yet another presidential candidate, Jean Henry Céant, was reportedly detained and threatened with arrest.  

The survey appears to support calls for greater transparency in the vote counting process, which has come from not just protestors but a diverse section of Haitian society. Though the CEP has held its ground, it is facing a dire credibility crisis. Last week, a coalition of local civil society organizations released a 50-page report on the October 25 election, terming what occurred a “vast operation of planned electoral fraud.” The group, which had observers present in some 50 percent of voting centers across the country, found that the fraud primarily benefitted the governing party and its allies, but added that it “could not have been achieved without the active participation of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).” The coalition is backing calls for an independent commission to investigate further.

Jacceus Joseph, one of nine members of the CEP, refused to sign the official results, later telling the press that there were too many doubts about the credibility of the vote for him to do so. This week, Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul, whose party, the Konvasyon Inite Demokratik, is seen as a close government ally, indicated in an interview with the Miami Herald that he would be open to the idea of a commission. “For me we are obliged to engage in a political discussion to find a solution to the problem in the elections,” Paul told the Herald’s Jacqueline Charles, adding that he was beginning to reach out to opposition candidates.

The fraud allegations are wide-ranging but most focus on mandataires, or political party monitors. The CEP has said it distributed more than 900,000 accreditation passes to political parties for these monitors. With the passes, monitors could vote wherever they were present, even if they were not on the electoral list. In the run-up to the election, a black market developed around these passes, selling for as little as $2.00 on the morning of the election. Local observers documented numerous instances of multiple voting and the European Union observation mission also noted that not all procedures to prevent multiple voting were followed. With only 1.6 million people voting in the election, in some areas these political party monitors made up nearly 50 percent of voters.

The true impact of these party monitors and other forms of ballot stuffing remains unknown, however. In a letter to the CEP from presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker released this week by the Miami Herald, he describes in detail how the tabulation center did not perform adequate checks to ensure that these types of fraud were detected. Monitors and poll workers were able to vote without being on the list and their names were to be recorded on a separate sheet of paper; however Baker, who visited the tabulation center multiple times, reveals that these were not properly evaluated to ensure fraud had not taken place.

The new survey, however, may be able to shed some light on how big the impact of party monitor fraud was. The survey excluded monitors from the sample, meaning that the discrepancy could be caused by the massive number of monitors who participated, legally or illegally, in the election. With hundreds of thousands of passes circulating, the impact is potentially enormous and, based on the survey results, could have impacted who is headed to the December runoff.

Despite the concerns from local observer groups and political parties, the international community has largely stayed silent after initially backing the results. The Organization of American States (OAS) indicated that the official results were consistent with a quick count it had performed on Election Day and said it would send observers for the second round vote in December. The so-called “Core Group” that is made up of large donor countries, including the United States, as well as the United Nations and OAS, also issued a statement supporting the holding of a second round between Jovenel Moïse and Célestin.

Still, another coalition of local observers, l’Observatoire Citoyen pour l’Institutionnalisation de la Démocratie, whose work is funded by the U.S. and Canada, have backed calls for greater transparency. In a statement released this week, the group urged the electoral authorities to make every effort to prevent the electoral crisis from continuing and to restore faith in the process.

The Igarape Institute survey also sheds light on how voters’ perceptions of democracy and elections have been impacted by the current process. On Election Day, over 20 percent of respondents said they were “completely” in agreement with the statement that their vote counts, but after results were announced, this dropped to just 5 percent. A similar phenomenon was observed in response to the question of whether voting determines who leads the country; the number of respondents agreeing completely dropped from 22 percent to 4 percent. “Perceived electoral corruption has a corrosive effect on Haitian citizen attitudes and faith in the democratic process,” said the survey’s lead author, Dr. Athena Kolbe.

A new survey from the Brazilian Igarape Institute, released today, indicates that official results from Haiti’s October 25 presidential election may not reflect the will of the voters. In the wake of the election, local observers and political leaders have denounced what they claim was massive fraud in favor of the governing party’s candidate, Jovenel Moïse, who came in first place with 32.8 percent of the vote according to the preliminary results. In second place was Jude Célestin with 25.3 percent and in third and fourth respectively were Moïse Jean Charles with 14.3 percent and Dr. Maryse Narcisse with 7 percent. Final results are expected this week.

But the survey, which is based on interviews with over 1,800 voters from 135 voting centers throughout all of Haiti’s ten departments, reveals a vastly different voting pattern than the official results. 37.5 percent of respondents indicated they had voted for Célestin while 30.6 percent voted for Jean Charles and 19.4 percent for Narcisse. The governing party’s Jovenel Moïse was the choice of just 6.3 percent of survey respondents. (See an AP story about the survey here.)

The official results have set up a potential runoff between Jovenel Moïse and Célestin on December 27, but Célestin has so far refused to recognize the results or accept his second-place position ahead of the second round of the elections. A coalition of eight candidates has labeled the results “unacceptable” and called on the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to form an independent commission to audit the results and investigate allegations of fraud. After a meeting on Monday between the CEP and the G8, as the opposition coalition is known, the CEP formally rejected the proposition, claiming that the electoral decree did not allow it. Opposition groups responded by pledging to continue a growing protest movement that has seen many thousands take the streets since results were announced, threatening to derail the costly and internationally backed electoral process.

A large protest was broken up by police on Wednesday near the CEP headquarters. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets and Steven Benoit, one of the opposition presidential candidates challenging the results, suffered injuries to his head. Moïse Jean Charles, who was riding on horseback, was also reportedly injured, and yet another presidential candidate, Jean Henry Céant, was reportedly detained and threatened with arrest.  

The survey appears to support calls for greater transparency in the vote counting process, which has come from not just protestors but a diverse section of Haitian society. Though the CEP has held its ground, it is facing a dire credibility crisis. Last week, a coalition of local civil society organizations released a 50-page report on the October 25 election, terming what occurred a “vast operation of planned electoral fraud.” The group, which had observers present in some 50 percent of voting centers across the country, found that the fraud primarily benefitted the governing party and its allies, but added that it “could not have been achieved without the active participation of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).” The coalition is backing calls for an independent commission to investigate further.

Jacceus Joseph, one of nine members of the CEP, refused to sign the official results, later telling the press that there were too many doubts about the credibility of the vote for him to do so. This week, Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul, whose party, the Konvasyon Inite Demokratik, is seen as a close government ally, indicated in an interview with the Miami Herald that he would be open to the idea of a commission. “For me we are obliged to engage in a political discussion to find a solution to the problem in the elections,” Paul told the Herald’s Jacqueline Charles, adding that he was beginning to reach out to opposition candidates.

The fraud allegations are wide-ranging but most focus on mandataires, or political party monitors. The CEP has said it distributed more than 900,000 accreditation passes to political parties for these monitors. With the passes, monitors could vote wherever they were present, even if they were not on the electoral list. In the run-up to the election, a black market developed around these passes, selling for as little as $2.00 on the morning of the election. Local observers documented numerous instances of multiple voting and the European Union observation mission also noted that not all procedures to prevent multiple voting were followed. With only 1.6 million people voting in the election, in some areas these political party monitors made up nearly 50 percent of voters.

The true impact of these party monitors and other forms of ballot stuffing remains unknown, however. In a letter to the CEP from presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker released this week by the Miami Herald, he describes in detail how the tabulation center did not perform adequate checks to ensure that these types of fraud were detected. Monitors and poll workers were able to vote without being on the list and their names were to be recorded on a separate sheet of paper; however Baker, who visited the tabulation center multiple times, reveals that these were not properly evaluated to ensure fraud had not taken place.

The new survey, however, may be able to shed some light on how big the impact of party monitor fraud was. The survey excluded monitors from the sample, meaning that the discrepancy could be caused by the massive number of monitors who participated, legally or illegally, in the election. With hundreds of thousands of passes circulating, the impact is potentially enormous and, based on the survey results, could have impacted who is headed to the December runoff.

Despite the concerns from local observer groups and political parties, the international community has largely stayed silent after initially backing the results. The Organization of American States (OAS) indicated that the official results were consistent with a quick count it had performed on Election Day and said it would send observers for the second round vote in December. The so-called “Core Group” that is made up of large donor countries, including the United States, as well as the United Nations and OAS, also issued a statement supporting the holding of a second round between Jovenel Moïse and Célestin.

Still, another coalition of local observers, l’Observatoire Citoyen pour l’Institutionnalisation de la Démocratie, whose work is funded by the U.S. and Canada, have backed calls for greater transparency. In a statement released this week, the group urged the electoral authorities to make every effort to prevent the electoral crisis from continuing and to restore faith in the process.

The Igarape Institute survey also sheds light on how voters’ perceptions of democracy and elections have been impacted by the current process. On Election Day, over 20 percent of respondents said they were “completely” in agreement with the statement that their vote counts, but after results were announced, this dropped to just 5 percent. A similar phenomenon was observed in response to the question of whether voting determines who leads the country; the number of respondents agreeing completely dropped from 22 percent to 4 percent. “Perceived electoral corruption has a corrosive effect on Haitian citizen attitudes and faith in the democratic process,” said the survey’s lead author, Dr. Athena Kolbe.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On November 5, the CEP released preliminary results for the first-round presidential election held on October 25, which prescribed a presidential run-off between PHTK’s Jovenel Moïse and LAPEH’s Jude Celestin on December 27. The November 8 release of results for the second-round legislative elections, also held on October 25, occurred with much less fanfare. While most attention has been fixed on the contested presidential results, the legislative results may be even more significant for the political future of Haiti.

Presidential Race

According to the CEP’s results, PHTK’s Jovenel Moise (32.81%) and LAPEH’s Jude Celestin (25.27%) were the top two finishers, while Moise Jean-Charles of Pitit Dessalines finished third (14.27%) and Fanmi Lavalas’ Maryse Narcisse came in fourth (7.05%). 

Broken down by region, Jovenel Moise’s strongest showing was in the north of the country; his share of the vote in the Nord Est, Nord Ouest and Nord departments was 62.6%, 54.6% and 48.6%, respectively. His worst results came from the Sud Est, where he received only 14.9% of the vote. For runner-up Jude Celestin, his popularity was highest in the Sud Est, where he won 46.7% of the vote while in the Nord it was lowest at 9.9%. Celestin’s share of the vote in this department was likely squeezed by the strong appeal of Jovenel Moïse and Moïse Jean-Charles. Pitit Dessalines’ Jean-Charles finished third and scored highest in the Artibonite (17.1%) and the Nord (29.1%), which Jean-Charles represented as a Senator for many years. Prior to that, under the Aristide government, Jean-Charles was the mayor of Milot, just outside the capital of the Nord, Cap-Haïtien. Fourth-place finisher Maryse Narcisse did the best in the Ouest (14.7%) and the Sud (11.8%).

The presidential tallies released by the CEP cannot necessarily be taken at face value. While OAS, EU observers and the Core Group have endorsed the results, Haitian civil society groups have denounced the massive fraud they claim occurred on October 25 and called for an independent investigation. Seven presidential candidates have added their voice to this call, including Celestin and third- and fourth-place finishers Moïse Jean-Charles and Maryse Narcisse. Accusations that political party mandataires were able to vote multiple times, ballot-box stuffing, and manipulation of results at the Tabulation Center have undermined many Haitians’ confidence in the announced results. Haiti appears to be on the cusp of a post-electoral crisis, whose outcome is far from determined.

If the preliminary results are allowed to stand, Haiti’s next president will possess an extremely weak mandate to govern. According to the CEP’s figures, over 73% of registered Haitian voters deciding to stay home on October 25, a percentage which may in reality be higher if multiple voting by mandataires was as widespread as many suspect. Repeating the pattern of the August 9 vote, the turnout for October 25’s presidential race was again lowest in the Ouest department at 20.3%. Turnout was highest in the Nord Est (38.8%) and Nippes (37.2%) departments. Jovenel Moise was thus able to finish first with the support of only 8.7% of registered voters, while Jude Celestin came in second with only 6.7% of registered voters backing him. In the second round scheduled for December 27, Haitians could be asked to choose between two candidates who were the first choice of less than 16% of registered voters.

The proportion of tally sheets (procès verbaux) not recuperated by the CEP after October 25 was 2.2%. Overall, tally sheets from 296 polling stations were not received by the CEP. This is much lower than after the first round vote in August, when nearly 18% of tally sheets never arrived at the Tabulation Center. Undoubtedly, this was due in large part to violence and disorder occurring on a much smaller scale during the presidential balloting. In only two places – Borgne (Nord) and Cotes-des-Fer (Sud Est)– was voting severely disrupted. Limonade was another constituency where a high proportion of tally sheets (38%) were not counted.At the regional level, most departments had only 1-2% of presidential tally sheets go missing. However, one region – the Sud Est – stands out, with 9.4% of tally sheets not received. This is also the department where Jude Celestin got the highest proportion of the vote. 

The higher proportion of recuperated tally sheets may also be due to improvements in election day logistics. On both August 9 and October 25, UNOPS was responsible for picking up tally sheets and others sensitive electoral materials collected at the Bureau Electoral Departementaux (BEDs) and transporting it to the Tabulation Center. Members of the CEP, however, have accused UNOPS of poor disorganization and a lack of planning on August 9, resulting in numerous tally sheets being lost. UNOPS reportedly received increased funding from international donors and made several improvements prior to the October 25 vote. On the other hand, PHTK candidate Antoine Rodon Bien Aimé recently accused UNOPS of orchestrating a massive fraud on October 25, involving real tally sheets being switched for counterfeit ones during transportation.

The CEP also excluded from the presidential vote totals 490 tally sheets, amounting to 3.6% of the total, either due to fraud, tampering or clerical errors. Intriguingly, the two regions where PHTK’s Moïse received the most support are also those that recorded the highest number of quarantined tally sheets: the Nord Est (9.8%) and the Nord Ouest (6.4%). It is difficult to know, however, where the biggest problems were on October 25 since the CEP has not provided any breakdown of reasons why the tally sheets were quarantined.

This lack of transparency concerning decisions made at the Tabulation Center has been a major criticism of Haitian observer groups, who have demanded more information about the decision-making procedures used to quarantine tally sheets. Given that far fewer tally sheets were quarantined during the 2010 elections (312), which the U.S. alleged were plagued by fraud, greater clarity on this issue seems like an eminently reasonable demand.

Legislative Races

With all eyes fixed on the outcome of the presidential races, far less attention has been given to what is perhaps the most significant story told by the preliminary results: Haiti’s next legislature will feature a formidable pro-Martelly bloc, regardless of who becomes president.

In the Chamber of Deputies, 93 races have already been decided. The 25 races that had to be rerun on October 25 due to violence in August will have a second round on December 27 to determine the winners, while the legislative race in Cote-de-Fer will also have to be rerun. President Martelly’s PHTK leads all parties with 26 deputies, while allied parties – namely Prime Minister Evans Paul’s KID, Martelly advisor Youri Latortue’s AAA, Steeve Khawly’s Bouclier and former paramilitary leader Guy Philippe’s Consortium – have claimed a further 19 deputy seats.

Pro-Martelly parties thus already have a combined 45 of 93 seats locked in, and another 21 candidates going to the second round. The second political force will be parties with roots in René Preval’s 2006 Lespwa coalition. Vérité (15 deputies), Inite (4 deputies) and LAPEH (4 deputies) will hold a total of 23 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and have another 10 candidates in the second round. Parties that claim support from the historic Lavalas base – Fanmi Lavalas (5 deputies), Renmen Ayiti (2 deputies), Pitit Dessalines (1 deputy) – have a total of 8 seats and 8 candidates in the second round.

The dominance of Martelly-aligned parties is less marked in the Senate, but that could change after the 6 second-round races set for December 27 (due to the level of irregularities in August, senate races in 3 departments had to be rerun in October). KID (3 Senators), PHTK (2 Senators) and AAA (1 Senator) hold a total of 6 out of 14 Senate seats already decided, while Vérité holds 3 seats and Fanmi Lavalas and Pitit Dessalines hold one seat each. With 9 Senate candidates from pro-Martelly parties going to the second round, this bloc is bound to increase its representation in the Senate by at least 3 seats, and could conceivably take all 6 seats in the three regions (Grand’Anse, Nord, Centre) when the second round is held. If so, Tet Kale-aligned parties would hold 12 of the 20 Senate seats. Of the 10 Senators with two years still remaining for their terms in office, 4 are from Inite, 3 from OPL, 2 from Steven Benoît’s Alternative, and one from Fanmi Lavalas.

Whether or not Jovenel Moïse ultimately wins the presidency, if the current results stand Michel Martelly’s political succession is assured. The ascendancy of Martelly’s Tet Kale party and its allies, however, represents less a growth in popularity than an ability to consolidate the ill-gotten gains of August 9. All of which does not augur well for political stability in Haiti.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On November 5, the CEP released preliminary results for the first-round presidential election held on October 25, which prescribed a presidential run-off between PHTK’s Jovenel Moïse and LAPEH’s Jude Celestin on December 27. The November 8 release of results for the second-round legislative elections, also held on October 25, occurred with much less fanfare. While most attention has been fixed on the contested presidential results, the legislative results may be even more significant for the political future of Haiti.

Presidential Race

According to the CEP’s results, PHTK’s Jovenel Moise (32.81%) and LAPEH’s Jude Celestin (25.27%) were the top two finishers, while Moise Jean-Charles of Pitit Dessalines finished third (14.27%) and Fanmi Lavalas’ Maryse Narcisse came in fourth (7.05%). 

Broken down by region, Jovenel Moise’s strongest showing was in the north of the country; his share of the vote in the Nord Est, Nord Ouest and Nord departments was 62.6%, 54.6% and 48.6%, respectively. His worst results came from the Sud Est, where he received only 14.9% of the vote. For runner-up Jude Celestin, his popularity was highest in the Sud Est, where he won 46.7% of the vote while in the Nord it was lowest at 9.9%. Celestin’s share of the vote in this department was likely squeezed by the strong appeal of Jovenel Moïse and Moïse Jean-Charles. Pitit Dessalines’ Jean-Charles finished third and scored highest in the Artibonite (17.1%) and the Nord (29.1%), which Jean-Charles represented as a Senator for many years. Prior to that, under the Aristide government, Jean-Charles was the mayor of Milot, just outside the capital of the Nord, Cap-Haïtien. Fourth-place finisher Maryse Narcisse did the best in the Ouest (14.7%) and the Sud (11.8%).

The presidential tallies released by the CEP cannot necessarily be taken at face value. While OAS, EU observers and the Core Group have endorsed the results, Haitian civil society groups have denounced the massive fraud they claim occurred on October 25 and called for an independent investigation. Seven presidential candidates have added their voice to this call, including Celestin and third- and fourth-place finishers Moïse Jean-Charles and Maryse Narcisse. Accusations that political party mandataires were able to vote multiple times, ballot-box stuffing, and manipulation of results at the Tabulation Center have undermined many Haitians’ confidence in the announced results. Haiti appears to be on the cusp of a post-electoral crisis, whose outcome is far from determined.

If the preliminary results are allowed to stand, Haiti’s next president will possess an extremely weak mandate to govern. According to the CEP’s figures, over 73% of registered Haitian voters deciding to stay home on October 25, a percentage which may in reality be higher if multiple voting by mandataires was as widespread as many suspect. Repeating the pattern of the August 9 vote, the turnout for October 25’s presidential race was again lowest in the Ouest department at 20.3%. Turnout was highest in the Nord Est (38.8%) and Nippes (37.2%) departments. Jovenel Moise was thus able to finish first with the support of only 8.7% of registered voters, while Jude Celestin came in second with only 6.7% of registered voters backing him. In the second round scheduled for December 27, Haitians could be asked to choose between two candidates who were the first choice of less than 16% of registered voters.

The proportion of tally sheets (procès verbaux) not recuperated by the CEP after October 25 was 2.2%. Overall, tally sheets from 296 polling stations were not received by the CEP. This is much lower than after the first round vote in August, when nearly 18% of tally sheets never arrived at the Tabulation Center. Undoubtedly, this was due in large part to violence and disorder occurring on a much smaller scale during the presidential balloting. In only two places – Borgne (Nord) and Cotes-des-Fer (Sud Est)– was voting severely disrupted. Limonade was another constituency where a high proportion of tally sheets (38%) were not counted.At the regional level, most departments had only 1-2% of presidential tally sheets go missing. However, one region – the Sud Est – stands out, with 9.4% of tally sheets not received. This is also the department where Jude Celestin got the highest proportion of the vote. 

The higher proportion of recuperated tally sheets may also be due to improvements in election day logistics. On both August 9 and October 25, UNOPS was responsible for picking up tally sheets and others sensitive electoral materials collected at the Bureau Electoral Departementaux (BEDs) and transporting it to the Tabulation Center. Members of the CEP, however, have accused UNOPS of poor disorganization and a lack of planning on August 9, resulting in numerous tally sheets being lost. UNOPS reportedly received increased funding from international donors and made several improvements prior to the October 25 vote. On the other hand, PHTK candidate Antoine Rodon Bien Aimé recently accused UNOPS of orchestrating a massive fraud on October 25, involving real tally sheets being switched for counterfeit ones during transportation.

The CEP also excluded from the presidential vote totals 490 tally sheets, amounting to 3.6% of the total, either due to fraud, tampering or clerical errors. Intriguingly, the two regions where PHTK’s Moïse received the most support are also those that recorded the highest number of quarantined tally sheets: the Nord Est (9.8%) and the Nord Ouest (6.4%). It is difficult to know, however, where the biggest problems were on October 25 since the CEP has not provided any breakdown of reasons why the tally sheets were quarantined.

This lack of transparency concerning decisions made at the Tabulation Center has been a major criticism of Haitian observer groups, who have demanded more information about the decision-making procedures used to quarantine tally sheets. Given that far fewer tally sheets were quarantined during the 2010 elections (312), which the U.S. alleged were plagued by fraud, greater clarity on this issue seems like an eminently reasonable demand.

Legislative Races

With all eyes fixed on the outcome of the presidential races, far less attention has been given to what is perhaps the most significant story told by the preliminary results: Haiti’s next legislature will feature a formidable pro-Martelly bloc, regardless of who becomes president.

In the Chamber of Deputies, 93 races have already been decided. The 25 races that had to be rerun on October 25 due to violence in August will have a second round on December 27 to determine the winners, while the legislative race in Cote-de-Fer will also have to be rerun. President Martelly’s PHTK leads all parties with 26 deputies, while allied parties – namely Prime Minister Evans Paul’s KID, Martelly advisor Youri Latortue’s AAA, Steeve Khawly’s Bouclier and former paramilitary leader Guy Philippe’s Consortium – have claimed a further 19 deputy seats.

Pro-Martelly parties thus already have a combined 45 of 93 seats locked in, and another 21 candidates going to the second round. The second political force will be parties with roots in René Preval’s 2006 Lespwa coalition. Vérité (15 deputies), Inite (4 deputies) and LAPEH (4 deputies) will hold a total of 23 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and have another 10 candidates in the second round. Parties that claim support from the historic Lavalas base – Fanmi Lavalas (5 deputies), Renmen Ayiti (2 deputies), Pitit Dessalines (1 deputy) – have a total of 8 seats and 8 candidates in the second round.

The dominance of Martelly-aligned parties is less marked in the Senate, but that could change after the 6 second-round races set for December 27 (due to the level of irregularities in August, senate races in 3 departments had to be rerun in October). KID (3 Senators), PHTK (2 Senators) and AAA (1 Senator) hold a total of 6 out of 14 Senate seats already decided, while Vérité holds 3 seats and Fanmi Lavalas and Pitit Dessalines hold one seat each. With 9 Senate candidates from pro-Martelly parties going to the second round, this bloc is bound to increase its representation in the Senate by at least 3 seats, and could conceivably take all 6 seats in the three regions (Grand’Anse, Nord, Centre) when the second round is held. If so, Tet Kale-aligned parties would hold 12 of the 20 Senate seats. Of the 10 Senators with two years still remaining for their terms in office, 4 are from Inite, 3 from OPL, 2 from Steven Benoît’s Alternative, and one from Fanmi Lavalas.

Whether or not Jovenel Moïse ultimately wins the presidency, if the current results stand Michel Martelly’s political succession is assured. The ascendancy of Martelly’s Tet Kale party and its allies, however, represents less a growth in popularity than an ability to consolidate the ill-gotten gains of August 9. All of which does not augur well for political stability in Haiti.

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced preliminary results from the October 25 presidential elections yesterday evening, showing the government-backed Jovenel Moïse and former state construction company director Jude Célestin in the top two places, paving the way for a face-off between the two candidates in the second round of the elections scheduled for December 27.

Of the roughly 1.6 million Haitians who voted (roughly 26 percent of registered voters), Moïse received 32.8 percent of the vote while Célestin received 25.3 percent, according to the preliminary results announced by the CEP. Moïse Jean-Charles, an opposition leader, received 14.3 percent to finish in third while Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party of twice-ousted Jean Bertrand Aristide came in fourth with just over 7 percent of the vote.

After violence and fraud plagued first-round legislative elections in August, more than 73 percent of registered voters stayed home on election day this time – a similar rate as what was seen in the flawed 2010 presidential elections, but far below turnout in previous presidential elections such as in 2000 and 2006, which was closer to 60 percent.

Nearly as soon as the CEP press conference ended, many leading candidates, including Jude Célestin, denounced the results and pledged to mobilize supporters in the coming days against what they allege was massive fraud in favor of the government. Small protests erupted around the capital and one supporter of Jean-Charles was killed outside of his party’s headquarters. The party has blamed the Haitian police for the death.

On Friday, all of the top four candidates held morning press conferences to state their position on the results. Jovenel Moïse, of the ruling PHTK party, was the only one not to question the results announced by the CEP. Célestin, together with seven other presidential candidates, had sent a letter to the CEP days before results were announced, denouncing massive fraud in the elections and calling for an independent commission to investigate. “We are working on this with all the candidates because we are all saying the same thing: ‘This is not the people’s vote and they are trying to steal the vote of the population,’” the Associated Press reported Célestin as saying at this morning’s press conference. Afterwards, supporters of his party, LAPEH, began protesting throughout the capital.

Followers of Jean-Charles’ Pitit Dessalines platform and Narcisse’s Fanmi Lavalas party also took to the streets. Haitian police have responded with tear gas to break up the protests, which are expected to continue over the coming days.

The fraud allegations have been wide-ranging but many have focused on the problem with political party monitors; some 900,000 accreditation passes were distributed before the election which may have allowed monitors to place fraudulent votes. Local observers and party representatives have denounced a black market that developed for the passes in the days leading up to the vote, with passes going for as much as $30, and as little as $2 on election day. In the West department, where over 40 percent of registered voters live, these monitors accounted for upwards of 50 percent of voters, according to observer groups.

The day before results were announced, a local observer group noted that a lack of transparency and other problems at the tabulation center where votes are counted, “helped create a general atmosphere of suspicion and generate legitimate fears that the reality of the ballot boxes or the expression of the will of the people are being altered, in whole or in part.”

In a statement released today, the group of presidential candidates termed the announced results “unacceptable,” and again called for an independent commission to investigate fraud. The announced results only reinforce the perception that “those who vote decide nothing,” the candidates said in the statement. The group characterized the current process as a “dangerous return to the past” when dictators organized elections and warned that it “threatens the stability of the country.”

Fanmi Lavalas, which is not a signatory to the statement, released a separate press note, referring to the “electoral scheme” of October 25 as a “political crime,” and giving support to a previously announced transportation worker strike that is slated to begin on Monday.

There is now a 72-hour period for parties to submit complaints to Haiti’s electoral courts, which will then be handled over the coming weeks. Final results are not expected until late November or early December.  For a candidate to avoid a runoff, they must receive more than 50 percent of the vote or have a 25 percent lead over the nearest competitor, meaning that Célestin and Moïse are likely to face off in the December 27 second round, according to the released results.

But that is not a sure thing either at this point, regardless of if candidates protesting the results are successful in having their voices heard by the CEP.

The international community appears worried about a different scenario: the ruling party using a controversial interpretation of electoral rules to claim an outright victory in the first round.

In a statement released today, the Organization of American States (OAS) said that the announced results “are consistent with what the OAS Mission observed on October 25.” However, the OAS statement specifically stated that a second-round runoff was necessary. While no statement was immediately released by the Core Group of donor countries or the U.S. Embassy, a tweet sent out this morning from the embassy’s account sent a similar message. “The USA supports a second round presidential election on December 27,” the tweet read.

Nevertheless, sources inside the ruling PHTK expressed confidence that they could be able to win in the first round and at his press conference today, Moïse continually referred to himself as “president.” Once again, the deeply flawed election in August is impacting the current race. Jean Renel Senatus, a popular former prosecutor who ran for the senate seat in the West department, was awarded a first-round victory following a successful challenge with the electoral courts, which could provide precedent for the government’s challenge, according to government supporters.

The ruling came down to an interpretation of the 25-percent lead requirement. Though in every other legislative race the rule was interpreted as meaning a 25-percentage-point lead, in the case of Senatus, the courts ruled that he only needed  25 percent more votes than the second place contender. Supporters of Moïse, the government candidate, believe that because his lead over Célestin (117,602 votes) is more than 25 percent of Célestin’s total, it would allow Moïse to win outright. Complaints in the presidential race will be heard by the electoral court in the West department, the same body that ruled in favor of Senatus’ first-round win.

If this is truly the plan, however, government supporters’ math may be off. If the same calculation is applied to the presidential race as was applied to Senatus, Jovenel Moïse would only have a 23-percent lead, not enough to win outright. However from the statements of the international community, it is clear they are acting to prevent this from becoming a possibility.

While the wait for preliminary presidential election results has finally ended, the race appears far from over. 

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced preliminary results from the October 25 presidential elections yesterday evening, showing the government-backed Jovenel Moïse and former state construction company director Jude Célestin in the top two places, paving the way for a face-off between the two candidates in the second round of the elections scheduled for December 27.

Of the roughly 1.6 million Haitians who voted (roughly 26 percent of registered voters), Moïse received 32.8 percent of the vote while Célestin received 25.3 percent, according to the preliminary results announced by the CEP. Moïse Jean-Charles, an opposition leader, received 14.3 percent to finish in third while Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party of twice-ousted Jean Bertrand Aristide came in fourth with just over 7 percent of the vote.

After violence and fraud plagued first-round legislative elections in August, more than 73 percent of registered voters stayed home on election day this time – a similar rate as what was seen in the flawed 2010 presidential elections, but far below turnout in previous presidential elections such as in 2000 and 2006, which was closer to 60 percent.

Nearly as soon as the CEP press conference ended, many leading candidates, including Jude Célestin, denounced the results and pledged to mobilize supporters in the coming days against what they allege was massive fraud in favor of the government. Small protests erupted around the capital and one supporter of Jean-Charles was killed outside of his party’s headquarters. The party has blamed the Haitian police for the death.

On Friday, all of the top four candidates held morning press conferences to state their position on the results. Jovenel Moïse, of the ruling PHTK party, was the only one not to question the results announced by the CEP. Célestin, together with seven other presidential candidates, had sent a letter to the CEP days before results were announced, denouncing massive fraud in the elections and calling for an independent commission to investigate. “We are working on this with all the candidates because we are all saying the same thing: ‘This is not the people’s vote and they are trying to steal the vote of the population,’” the Associated Press reported Célestin as saying at this morning’s press conference. Afterwards, supporters of his party, LAPEH, began protesting throughout the capital.

Followers of Jean-Charles’ Pitit Dessalines platform and Narcisse’s Fanmi Lavalas party also took to the streets. Haitian police have responded with tear gas to break up the protests, which are expected to continue over the coming days.

The fraud allegations have been wide-ranging but many have focused on the problem with political party monitors; some 900,000 accreditation passes were distributed before the election which may have allowed monitors to place fraudulent votes. Local observers and party representatives have denounced a black market that developed for the passes in the days leading up to the vote, with passes going for as much as $30, and as little as $2 on election day. In the West department, where over 40 percent of registered voters live, these monitors accounted for upwards of 50 percent of voters, according to observer groups.

The day before results were announced, a local observer group noted that a lack of transparency and other problems at the tabulation center where votes are counted, “helped create a general atmosphere of suspicion and generate legitimate fears that the reality of the ballot boxes or the expression of the will of the people are being altered, in whole or in part.”

In a statement released today, the group of presidential candidates termed the announced results “unacceptable,” and again called for an independent commission to investigate fraud. The announced results only reinforce the perception that “those who vote decide nothing,” the candidates said in the statement. The group characterized the current process as a “dangerous return to the past” when dictators organized elections and warned that it “threatens the stability of the country.”

Fanmi Lavalas, which is not a signatory to the statement, released a separate press note, referring to the “electoral scheme” of October 25 as a “political crime,” and giving support to a previously announced transportation worker strike that is slated to begin on Monday.

There is now a 72-hour period for parties to submit complaints to Haiti’s electoral courts, which will then be handled over the coming weeks. Final results are not expected until late November or early December.  For a candidate to avoid a runoff, they must receive more than 50 percent of the vote or have a 25 percent lead over the nearest competitor, meaning that Célestin and Moïse are likely to face off in the December 27 second round, according to the released results.

But that is not a sure thing either at this point, regardless of if candidates protesting the results are successful in having their voices heard by the CEP.

The international community appears worried about a different scenario: the ruling party using a controversial interpretation of electoral rules to claim an outright victory in the first round.

In a statement released today, the Organization of American States (OAS) said that the announced results “are consistent with what the OAS Mission observed on October 25.” However, the OAS statement specifically stated that a second-round runoff was necessary. While no statement was immediately released by the Core Group of donor countries or the U.S. Embassy, a tweet sent out this morning from the embassy’s account sent a similar message. “The USA supports a second round presidential election on December 27,” the tweet read.

Nevertheless, sources inside the ruling PHTK expressed confidence that they could be able to win in the first round and at his press conference today, Moïse continually referred to himself as “president.” Once again, the deeply flawed election in August is impacting the current race. Jean Renel Senatus, a popular former prosecutor who ran for the senate seat in the West department, was awarded a first-round victory following a successful challenge with the electoral courts, which could provide precedent for the government’s challenge, according to government supporters.

The ruling came down to an interpretation of the 25-percent lead requirement. Though in every other legislative race the rule was interpreted as meaning a 25-percentage-point lead, in the case of Senatus, the courts ruled that he only needed  25 percent more votes than the second place contender. Supporters of Moïse, the government candidate, believe that because his lead over Célestin (117,602 votes) is more than 25 percent of Célestin’s total, it would allow Moïse to win outright. Complaints in the presidential race will be heard by the electoral court in the West department, the same body that ruled in favor of Senatus’ first-round win.

If this is truly the plan, however, government supporters’ math may be off. If the same calculation is applied to the presidential race as was applied to Senatus, Jovenel Moïse would only have a 23-percent lead, not enough to win outright. However from the statements of the international community, it is clear they are acting to prevent this from becoming a possibility.

While the wait for preliminary presidential election results has finally ended, the race appears far from over. 

On Monday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that the preliminary results of the October 25 presidential and legislative elections, expected to be announced today, would be delayed until Thursday. The delay has been attributed to the formation of a committee by the CEP to investigate allegations of fraud coming from political parties and local observer groups. The committee consists of five members of the electoral council. Of the 162 complaints received, the committee says 43 are being followed up on, though few are placing their trust in the process. 

The elections were praised after there were only a few sporadic outbursts of violence, leading many in the international community to quickly conclude that there were few problems. Just as it had done in August, the Organization of American States (OAS) proclaimed the day after the vote that any problems “did not affect the overall course of the election.” After violence shut down nearly one out of every six voting centers in the August legislative elections, this was apparently the new standard by which to judge the elections.

At least a half-dozen leading presidential candidates have come out before results are even announced to denounce widespread fraud in favor of the government’s candidate, Jovenèl Moïse. The allegations have been wide ranging: replacement of ballot boxes with fakes distributed by ambulances, mass ballot box stuffing, and burning of ballots for opposition candidates. Little proof has been provided to back up these claims. But the most blatant example was there for everyone to see on election day, and was in fact anticipated by electoral officials and international observers.

In Haiti’s elections, political party monitors, called mandataires, are allowed inside voting areas in order to ensure the impartiality of electoral officials and to sign off on the count at the end of the day. In August’s first-round legislative election, these party monitors cried foul, as not enough accreditation passes were printed and only some were allowed in during the vote.

In response, the CEP flooded the parties with passes. In total, over 916,000 were distributed according to the organization’s president, Pierre Louis Opont. Unlike average voters, whose identification must be checked with the electoral list at the polling center where they are registered, monitors are allowed to vote wherever they are present. This became, in many ways, an election of mandataires.

International and local observers have estimated turnout at between 25 and 30 percent, meaning there were roughly 1.6 million voters. With over 900,000 accreditation passes for monitors, and thousands more for observation groups (whose members are subject to the same open voting rules), it means over 50 percent of votes could come from these groups.

All 54 candidates vying for the presidency received more than 13,700 passes, enough to be present at each voting booth in the country. Few, however, had the capacity or the money to actually use them. The result was that parties sold them to the highest bidder in the days leading up to the vote. Local observers said passes were going for as much as $30. By Sunday, they were going for as little as a few dollars.

The system for monitoring the vote had turned into a black market for vote buying, where those with the most money were most able to take advantage. And it was entirely predictable.

Recognizing the potential problem, there was an effort in the weeks before the vote to have the mandataires register with specific voting centers, allowing poll workers to better monitor and track their votes. It never happened. Instead, mandataires’ information was taken down on a blank sheet of paper by poll workers. Sometimes even this didn’t happen.

While monitors’ accreditation passes were supposed to be marked after voting and their fingers marked with indelible ink, local observers found that these measures were not always taken, “allowing certain representatives to vote several times.” 

It wasn’t just through the black market that parties could use this to their advantage, however. There is also a problem stemming from the law regulating political party formation, which allows parties to form with as few as 20 members. This led to a proliferation of parties over the past couple of years culminating in 128 parties registering candidates for legislative, local and presidential elections.

Opposition parties and political observers estimate that at least a dozen parties are participating only as proxies for the government. Though any actor could benefit from these flaws, it’s only the larger parties with resources who truly could take advantage of them.

Now, all eyes are turned on the Central Tabulation Center, located in an industrial park in Haiti’s capital, where the 13,725 tally sheets from each voting booth across the country are being inputted into the system and checked for fraud.  With more than 99 percent finalized, 489 have been quarantined for irregularities, 3.6 percent of the total. It is unclear, though, how many were fraudulent and how many simply suffered from clerical errors, rendering them void.

Local observers have called for transparency at the tabulation center and are requesting an audit be performed to determine the “degree and extent of the involvement of people who used political party representative or observer cards to vote.” Relatedly, the observers are requesting the CEP to investigate “The quantity and legality of the number of votes cast by voters whose names were not listed at the polling station where they voted.”

On Tuesday, eight presidential candidates backed up the calls from local human rights groups and asked the CEP to allow the formation of an independent committee to investigate these issues.

But actually doing this is no simple task. Each of the 13,725 voting booths in Haiti produces a tally sheet at the end of the day. These sheets are then brought to the central tabulation center where they are scanned into the computer system. Technicians can check and ensure that voters from the electoral list correspond with those who voted and can perform other checks for irregularities.

Checking for fraud in off-list voting is more complex. Because the names were written down on a blank sheet of paper, technicians would need to manually enter all of these, likely hundreds of thousands. These would then need to be cross-checked to ensure that monitors with the same ID were not voting at multiple locations. Even with this, it is likely that only a fraction of these voters were ever accounted for on election day by poll workers. With pressure to release the results as soon as possible, and with over 99 percent already entered into the system, it is unlikely that the hard work of actually accounting for all of these voters will ever be done.

With up to hundreds of thousands of voting passes for sale, it’s not hard to see how Haiti’s presidential election could be won by those with the fattest pockets.  

On Monday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that the preliminary results of the October 25 presidential and legislative elections, expected to be announced today, would be delayed until Thursday. The delay has been attributed to the formation of a committee by the CEP to investigate allegations of fraud coming from political parties and local observer groups. The committee consists of five members of the electoral council. Of the 162 complaints received, the committee says 43 are being followed up on, though few are placing their trust in the process. 

The elections were praised after there were only a few sporadic outbursts of violence, leading many in the international community to quickly conclude that there were few problems. Just as it had done in August, the Organization of American States (OAS) proclaimed the day after the vote that any problems “did not affect the overall course of the election.” After violence shut down nearly one out of every six voting centers in the August legislative elections, this was apparently the new standard by which to judge the elections.

At least a half-dozen leading presidential candidates have come out before results are even announced to denounce widespread fraud in favor of the government’s candidate, Jovenèl Moïse. The allegations have been wide ranging: replacement of ballot boxes with fakes distributed by ambulances, mass ballot box stuffing, and burning of ballots for opposition candidates. Little proof has been provided to back up these claims. But the most blatant example was there for everyone to see on election day, and was in fact anticipated by electoral officials and international observers.

In Haiti’s elections, political party monitors, called mandataires, are allowed inside voting areas in order to ensure the impartiality of electoral officials and to sign off on the count at the end of the day. In August’s first-round legislative election, these party monitors cried foul, as not enough accreditation passes were printed and only some were allowed in during the vote.

In response, the CEP flooded the parties with passes. In total, over 916,000 were distributed according to the organization’s president, Pierre Louis Opont. Unlike average voters, whose identification must be checked with the electoral list at the polling center where they are registered, monitors are allowed to vote wherever they are present. This became, in many ways, an election of mandataires.

International and local observers have estimated turnout at between 25 and 30 percent, meaning there were roughly 1.6 million voters. With over 900,000 accreditation passes for monitors, and thousands more for observation groups (whose members are subject to the same open voting rules), it means over 50 percent of votes could come from these groups.

All 54 candidates vying for the presidency received more than 13,700 passes, enough to be present at each voting booth in the country. Few, however, had the capacity or the money to actually use them. The result was that parties sold them to the highest bidder in the days leading up to the vote. Local observers said passes were going for as much as $30. By Sunday, they were going for as little as a few dollars.

The system for monitoring the vote had turned into a black market for vote buying, where those with the most money were most able to take advantage. And it was entirely predictable.

Recognizing the potential problem, there was an effort in the weeks before the vote to have the mandataires register with specific voting centers, allowing poll workers to better monitor and track their votes. It never happened. Instead, mandataires’ information was taken down on a blank sheet of paper by poll workers. Sometimes even this didn’t happen.

While monitors’ accreditation passes were supposed to be marked after voting and their fingers marked with indelible ink, local observers found that these measures were not always taken, “allowing certain representatives to vote several times.” 

It wasn’t just through the black market that parties could use this to their advantage, however. There is also a problem stemming from the law regulating political party formation, which allows parties to form with as few as 20 members. This led to a proliferation of parties over the past couple of years culminating in 128 parties registering candidates for legislative, local and presidential elections.

Opposition parties and political observers estimate that at least a dozen parties are participating only as proxies for the government. Though any actor could benefit from these flaws, it’s only the larger parties with resources who truly could take advantage of them.

Now, all eyes are turned on the Central Tabulation Center, located in an industrial park in Haiti’s capital, where the 13,725 tally sheets from each voting booth across the country are being inputted into the system and checked for fraud.  With more than 99 percent finalized, 489 have been quarantined for irregularities, 3.6 percent of the total. It is unclear, though, how many were fraudulent and how many simply suffered from clerical errors, rendering them void.

Local observers have called for transparency at the tabulation center and are requesting an audit be performed to determine the “degree and extent of the involvement of people who used political party representative or observer cards to vote.” Relatedly, the observers are requesting the CEP to investigate “The quantity and legality of the number of votes cast by voters whose names were not listed at the polling station where they voted.”

On Tuesday, eight presidential candidates backed up the calls from local human rights groups and asked the CEP to allow the formation of an independent committee to investigate these issues.

But actually doing this is no simple task. Each of the 13,725 voting booths in Haiti produces a tally sheet at the end of the day. These sheets are then brought to the central tabulation center where they are scanned into the computer system. Technicians can check and ensure that voters from the electoral list correspond with those who voted and can perform other checks for irregularities.

Checking for fraud in off-list voting is more complex. Because the names were written down on a blank sheet of paper, technicians would need to manually enter all of these, likely hundreds of thousands. These would then need to be cross-checked to ensure that monitors with the same ID were not voting at multiple locations. Even with this, it is likely that only a fraction of these voters were ever accounted for on election day by poll workers. With pressure to release the results as soon as possible, and with over 99 percent already entered into the system, it is unlikely that the hard work of actually accounting for all of these voters will ever be done.

With up to hundreds of thousands of voting passes for sale, it’s not hard to see how Haiti’s presidential election could be won by those with the fattest pockets.  

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