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.

En français

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

En français

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.       “Funding through INL supported election security.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All grantee funding data is from USASpending.gov.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.       “Funding through INL supported election security.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All grantee funding data is from USASpending.gov.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following post is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections blog

Senate candidate and former paramilitary leader Guy Philippe has threatened a “civil war” if the Privert government fails to hold elections on April 24. Efforts to restart the electoral process have been stalled by a stand-off between interim President Jocelerme Privert and pro-Martelly legislators, who insist on quick elections without a verification of the vote. Philippe’s threat to resolve Haiti’s electoral crisis through violence would seem very real, given the recent parade of militiamen sympathetic to PHTK on February 5. Despite his bellicose comments and his name appearing on the U.S. government’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wanted list for drug trafficking, the international powers do not appear concerned by Philippe’s political involvement or his repeated threats of violence.

In a February 29 radio message commemorating the 12th anniversary of the 2004 coup d’État, Philippe accused President Privert of wanting to hold on to power beyond his 120-day term limit and warned of “a macabre plan, a Machiavellian plan to bring the country directly into a civil war.” Philippe called for “vigilance” on the part of former soldiers and others who had fought against the “dictatorship” of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, and declared that “there are people who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary.” Philippe concluded by saying:

Once more, we say no coup, no Machiavellian plan will pass. No one in power will be able to be my enemy. There’s an election that needs to happen, and it will happen. And if it doesn’t happen, neither Parliamentarians, nor the provisional president, nor anyone with any repressive force they know and have in their service, no one will be able to hold back this people, no one will be able to hold back these honest citizens, no one will be able to hold me, Guy Philippe, back. Thank you.

In a subsequent television interview at his home in Pestel, Philippe reiterated this message, stating that a civil war would break out if the “Lavalassian tendency” tried to stay in power. “I believe Privert has no choice; he must organize elections or he must leave power May 14.” Philippe also denounced Prime Minister Fritz Jean’s appointment as contrary to constitutional norms.

Philippe’s political position mirrors that of Youri Latortue and other PHTK-aligned figures, who have alleged that Jean, a former governor of Haiti’s central bank, is too close to Lavalas and is thus not qualified to handle the resumption of elections. At issue is whether or not the interim government will conduct a verification of vote on August 9 and October 25. Pro-Martelly candidates, including presidential candidate Jovenel Moïse, are widely suspected of having benefitted from fraudulent votes in previous rounds. 

Philippe ran for Senator of the Grand’Anse, finishing first with 22.5% of the vote on October 25. Violence, confrontations and allegations of ballot-stuffing were rife in the Grand’Anse during the first-round legislative elections on August 9. These disruptions meant that for the constituencies of Pestel, Anse-d’Hainault/Les Irois, Jérémie, Corail and Roseaux (5 out of 9 in the department) only 70.7% to 75.9% of tally sheets were received by the CEP’s Tabulation Center. The CEP ultimately decided to withhold publication of first-round results until after October 25, when Senate voting was re-run in Jérémie and Pestel (Philippe’s hometown). Philippe’s party, Consortium, ran candidates in the region and has two deputies in the new parliament. Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a notorious leader of the death squad FRAPH during the 1991-1994 coup, ran under the Consortium banner as a candidate in Les Anglais-Chardonnières, Sud. Chamblain served as Philippe’s lieutenant during the 2004 paramilitary insurgency and was acquitted of the 1993 murder of pro-democracy activist Antoine Izmery in a widely-denounced retrial after the coup.

Haitian human rights groups, election observers and opposition parties continue to call for a verification commission as an indispensible step before resuming the electoral process, even if this means extending the term of the transition government. Moïse and his parliamentary allies, on the other hand, insist that the elections be held on April 24, as called for in the political accord, and on the basis of the current results. They strongly oppose any verification commission. Philippe’s statements clearly place him in the latter camp. The political party he leads, Consortium, is reputed have had close relations with former President Michel Martelly. During the presidential campaign, Jovenel Moïse was photographed with Guy Philippe when he toured the Grand’Anse. 

Philippe’s threats of a civil war may be a bluff to frighten the Privert government. But the danger cannot be lightly dismissed, given the apparent influence Philippe has over recently-mobilized paramilitaries seen in Port-au-Prince and other towns on February 5. After the cancellation of second-round elections by the CEP on January 22, Guy Philippe had denounced opposition protesters as “anarchists” and declared that he and his men were “ready for war.” Days later, nearly a hundred armed men in green military fatigues claiming to be members of Haiti’s disbanded military paraded menacingly through the streets of several Haitian cities, as negotiations over the creation of an interim government were unfolding. Clashes between the paramilitaries and anti-Martelly protesters left one paramilitary member dead. 

The international community has been surprisingly silent on Philippe’s calls to arms. U.S. representatives in Haiti have made no comments about the threat of armed rebellion by pro-Martelly paramilitary forces or the inflammatory calls to insurrection made by Philippe. When opposition protesters committed acts of vandalism in late January, however, State Department envoy Kenneth Merten reacted by strongly denouncing these incidents as “electoral intimidation” that was “not acceptable.” The UN, for its part, merely “noted with concern the organized presence of several dozen people in green uniforms, some armed.”

The complacency of the U.S. is all the more intriguing, given that Philippe is wanted by U.S. law enforcement for involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering. Philippe has been on a DEA fugitive list for years and has escaped numerous attempts to arrest him. A DEA spokesperson confirmed he remained a fugitive, adding that he has proven to be “very elusive,” and that the U.S. Marshalls had been given apprehension authority. However, a spokesperson for the Marshalls replied that this was not the case, stating given the “solid information” possessed by the DEA “about the subject’s whereabouts,” there was”no reason” to transfer apprehension authority. The DEA later acknowledged its sole responsibility for apprehending Philippe. Despite his rising public profile, however, Philippe has yet to be arrested.

Interestingly, the DEA has had the cooperation of the Martelly administration in other high-profile cases. In an interview with the New Yorker’s John Lee Anderson, a DEA informant said that no one was particularly concerned about allegations that Martelly’s associates were involved in drug trafficking or corruption, because “whatever else Martelly had done, he complied with the DEA’s local operations.”

Human rights groups worried prior to the start of the 2015 elections that Haiti’s next parliament could become a redoubt of drug dealers, criminals and human rights abusers. The political involvement of Guy Philippe, who is on the U.S. government’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wanted list for drug trafficking, and his political party Consortium underlines how real this concern is.

Transcript of Guy Philippe’s February 29 radio address (translated from Kreyol):

We greet every Haitian, everyone who loves their country. Today is an important day, February 29. Not only is it my birthday, but what’s more important is that it’s the day—in 2004—where Haitian men and women put their heads together to say “no” to a dictatorship. And they stood before a bloody regime that Jean Bertrand Artistide put in place to end it and give Haiti rest, to give the country another chance.

I know there are many things you were waiting for that haven’t been done. I also know, and everyone must know, that there are many Haitians who sacrificed their lives to make that day possible, like Clotaire Jean-Baptiste. Some citizens abandoned family, wealth and everything they had so they could fight for the country, for Haiti.

So I tell all those people, everyone in the private sector, everyone who’s in the universities, everyone who was in the military or ex-military as they call it, everyone who stood and fought to say “no” to that dictatorship that Jean Bertrand Aristide put in the country.

Today once more, the country is going through a difficult time, a hard time. Every Haitian always thinks that they are the clever one and another is the imbecile. Today, we see that there is a plan—a macabre plan, a Machiavellian plan to bring the country directly into a civil war. I’ll remind all the actors, all the people who are making these decisions like a crazy person: Remember what happened in 1915. Remember what brought us to the American occupation. It was exactly the obstinacy of the men who were making the decisions that brought us all the things we faced, provisional government after provisional government, and that made what happened happen: Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and then – occupation.

We’ll remind everyone that there’s an accord. And today we have the chance that the person who is president of the Republic is the one who discussed the accord, he’s the one who signed the accord, he’s the one who said everything the accord says is possible, and he’s the main beneficiary of the accord. So we are counting on his good faith. We are counting on his patriotic sense. We are counting on the love he might have for the country, so he doesn’t think like all the others that he can hold on power and perpetuate a regime that can’t be perpetuated.

We ask the Parliamentarians to take responsibility. The people have lost faith in everyone. The people have lost faith in all the leaders, because they think they can buy us. Because they know we have a price. We ask you to think about Haiti, think about the country.

I’m taking this opportunity to call for vigilance from all our soldiers, all our people, all the authentic Haitians who believe in Haiti, to stand strong and firm and if Haiti needs them, to answer the call. So today is a big day for me. I say “Congratulations” to all these soldiers, who stopped Jean Bertrand Aristide in his dictatorial tracks. And it’s a point of pride for me that I was the chief commander of this rebellion. And I say to all those people, “thank you.”

Twelve years later, we haven’t lost like everyone is saying. It’s not true: There’s been progress made, steps have been taken, there’s more liberty in the country. But it’s step-by-step. I tell them to believe in the country. And I tell my Haitian brothers and sisters: believe that there are people who still love Haiti and there are people who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary. Once more, we say no coup, no Machiavellian plan will pass. No one in power will be able to be my enemy. There’s an election that needs to happen, and it will happen. And if it doesn’t happen, neither Parliamentarians, nor the provisional president, nor anyone with any repressive force they know and have in their service, no one will be able to hold back this people, no one will be able to hold back these honest citizens, no one will be able to hold me, Guy Philippe, back. Thank you.

https://soundcloud.com/cyrus-sibert/message-de-guy-philippe-12e-anniversaire-du-renversement-daristide?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=facebook

Transcript of Guy Philippe’s March 7 interview with Radio Télévision Hirondelle (translated from French):

I don’t think Lavalas, or people from the Lavalassian tendency can take power– hold on to power, it will be difficult, it will be complicated, and if Privert stubbornly refuses to give up power, you’ll see, he’ll lose — Haiti as well.

But we must prepare ourselves to counter the derives of this regime. We have seen that from the start, Mr. Privert wanted to violate the laws of the Republic, that Mr. Privert chose a Prime Minister without taking into account the rules of the Constitution, we saw that Mr. Privert would like to hold on to power. So, my message was a message for vigilance, a call for vigilance to all authentic Haitians, Haitians who love their country, patriots to prepare themselves to defend Haiti if necessary.

I believe Privert has no choice; he must organize elections or he must leave power May 14.

If he is stubborn – if he really wants to hold on to power, I believe we are heading directly towards a civil war. That’s not what I want, but it is my assessment.

https://www.facebook.com/rtvh16/videos/1694598234151855/

The following post is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections blog

Senate candidate and former paramilitary leader Guy Philippe has threatened a “civil war” if the Privert government fails to hold elections on April 24. Efforts to restart the electoral process have been stalled by a stand-off between interim President Jocelerme Privert and pro-Martelly legislators, who insist on quick elections without a verification of the vote. Philippe’s threat to resolve Haiti’s electoral crisis through violence would seem very real, given the recent parade of militiamen sympathetic to PHTK on February 5. Despite his bellicose comments and his name appearing on the U.S. government’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wanted list for drug trafficking, the international powers do not appear concerned by Philippe’s political involvement or his repeated threats of violence.

In a February 29 radio message commemorating the 12th anniversary of the 2004 coup d’État, Philippe accused President Privert of wanting to hold on to power beyond his 120-day term limit and warned of “a macabre plan, a Machiavellian plan to bring the country directly into a civil war.” Philippe called for “vigilance” on the part of former soldiers and others who had fought against the “dictatorship” of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, and declared that “there are people who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary.” Philippe concluded by saying:

Once more, we say no coup, no Machiavellian plan will pass. No one in power will be able to be my enemy. There’s an election that needs to happen, and it will happen. And if it doesn’t happen, neither Parliamentarians, nor the provisional president, nor anyone with any repressive force they know and have in their service, no one will be able to hold back this people, no one will be able to hold back these honest citizens, no one will be able to hold me, Guy Philippe, back. Thank you.

In a subsequent television interview at his home in Pestel, Philippe reiterated this message, stating that a civil war would break out if the “Lavalassian tendency” tried to stay in power. “I believe Privert has no choice; he must organize elections or he must leave power May 14.” Philippe also denounced Prime Minister Fritz Jean’s appointment as contrary to constitutional norms.

Philippe’s political position mirrors that of Youri Latortue and other PHTK-aligned figures, who have alleged that Jean, a former governor of Haiti’s central bank, is too close to Lavalas and is thus not qualified to handle the resumption of elections. At issue is whether or not the interim government will conduct a verification of vote on August 9 and October 25. Pro-Martelly candidates, including presidential candidate Jovenel Moïse, are widely suspected of having benefitted from fraudulent votes in previous rounds. 

Philippe ran for Senator of the Grand’Anse, finishing first with 22.5% of the vote on October 25. Violence, confrontations and allegations of ballot-stuffing were rife in the Grand’Anse during the first-round legislative elections on August 9. These disruptions meant that for the constituencies of Pestel, Anse-d’Hainault/Les Irois, Jérémie, Corail and Roseaux (5 out of 9 in the department) only 70.7% to 75.9% of tally sheets were received by the CEP’s Tabulation Center. The CEP ultimately decided to withhold publication of first-round results until after October 25, when Senate voting was re-run in Jérémie and Pestel (Philippe’s hometown). Philippe’s party, Consortium, ran candidates in the region and has two deputies in the new parliament. Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a notorious leader of the death squad FRAPH during the 1991-1994 coup, ran under the Consortium banner as a candidate in Les Anglais-Chardonnières, Sud. Chamblain served as Philippe’s lieutenant during the 2004 paramilitary insurgency and was acquitted of the 1993 murder of pro-democracy activist Antoine Izmery in a widely-denounced retrial after the coup.

Haitian human rights groups, election observers and opposition parties continue to call for a verification commission as an indispensible step before resuming the electoral process, even if this means extending the term of the transition government. Moïse and his parliamentary allies, on the other hand, insist that the elections be held on April 24, as called for in the political accord, and on the basis of the current results. They strongly oppose any verification commission. Philippe’s statements clearly place him in the latter camp. The political party he leads, Consortium, is reputed have had close relations with former President Michel Martelly. During the presidential campaign, Jovenel Moïse was photographed with Guy Philippe when he toured the Grand’Anse. 

Philippe’s threats of a civil war may be a bluff to frighten the Privert government. But the danger cannot be lightly dismissed, given the apparent influence Philippe has over recently-mobilized paramilitaries seen in Port-au-Prince and other towns on February 5. After the cancellation of second-round elections by the CEP on January 22, Guy Philippe had denounced opposition protesters as “anarchists” and declared that he and his men were “ready for war.” Days later, nearly a hundred armed men in green military fatigues claiming to be members of Haiti’s disbanded military paraded menacingly through the streets of several Haitian cities, as negotiations over the creation of an interim government were unfolding. Clashes between the paramilitaries and anti-Martelly protesters left one paramilitary member dead. 

The international community has been surprisingly silent on Philippe’s calls to arms. U.S. representatives in Haiti have made no comments about the threat of armed rebellion by pro-Martelly paramilitary forces or the inflammatory calls to insurrection made by Philippe. When opposition protesters committed acts of vandalism in late January, however, State Department envoy Kenneth Merten reacted by strongly denouncing these incidents as “electoral intimidation” that was “not acceptable.” The UN, for its part, merely “noted with concern the organized presence of several dozen people in green uniforms, some armed.”

The complacency of the U.S. is all the more intriguing, given that Philippe is wanted by U.S. law enforcement for involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering. Philippe has been on a DEA fugitive list for years and has escaped numerous attempts to arrest him. A DEA spokesperson confirmed he remained a fugitive, adding that he has proven to be “very elusive,” and that the U.S. Marshalls had been given apprehension authority. However, a spokesperson for the Marshalls replied that this was not the case, stating given the “solid information” possessed by the DEA “about the subject’s whereabouts,” there was”no reason” to transfer apprehension authority. The DEA later acknowledged its sole responsibility for apprehending Philippe. Despite his rising public profile, however, Philippe has yet to be arrested.

Interestingly, the DEA has had the cooperation of the Martelly administration in other high-profile cases. In an interview with the New Yorker’s John Lee Anderson, a DEA informant said that no one was particularly concerned about allegations that Martelly’s associates were involved in drug trafficking or corruption, because “whatever else Martelly had done, he complied with the DEA’s local operations.”

Human rights groups worried prior to the start of the 2015 elections that Haiti’s next parliament could become a redoubt of drug dealers, criminals and human rights abusers. The political involvement of Guy Philippe, who is on the U.S. government’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wanted list for drug trafficking, and his political party Consortium underlines how real this concern is.

Transcript of Guy Philippe’s February 29 radio address (translated from Kreyol):

We greet every Haitian, everyone who loves their country. Today is an important day, February 29. Not only is it my birthday, but what’s more important is that it’s the day—in 2004—where Haitian men and women put their heads together to say “no” to a dictatorship. And they stood before a bloody regime that Jean Bertrand Artistide put in place to end it and give Haiti rest, to give the country another chance.

I know there are many things you were waiting for that haven’t been done. I also know, and everyone must know, that there are many Haitians who sacrificed their lives to make that day possible, like Clotaire Jean-Baptiste. Some citizens abandoned family, wealth and everything they had so they could fight for the country, for Haiti.

So I tell all those people, everyone in the private sector, everyone who’s in the universities, everyone who was in the military or ex-military as they call it, everyone who stood and fought to say “no” to that dictatorship that Jean Bertrand Aristide put in the country.

Today once more, the country is going through a difficult time, a hard time. Every Haitian always thinks that they are the clever one and another is the imbecile. Today, we see that there is a plan—a macabre plan, a Machiavellian plan to bring the country directly into a civil war. I’ll remind all the actors, all the people who are making these decisions like a crazy person: Remember what happened in 1915. Remember what brought us to the American occupation. It was exactly the obstinacy of the men who were making the decisions that brought us all the things we faced, provisional government after provisional government, and that made what happened happen: Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and then – occupation.

We’ll remind everyone that there’s an accord. And today we have the chance that the person who is president of the Republic is the one who discussed the accord, he’s the one who signed the accord, he’s the one who said everything the accord says is possible, and he’s the main beneficiary of the accord. So we are counting on his good faith. We are counting on his patriotic sense. We are counting on the love he might have for the country, so he doesn’t think like all the others that he can hold on power and perpetuate a regime that can’t be perpetuated.

We ask the Parliamentarians to take responsibility. The people have lost faith in everyone. The people have lost faith in all the leaders, because they think they can buy us. Because they know we have a price. We ask you to think about Haiti, think about the country.

I’m taking this opportunity to call for vigilance from all our soldiers, all our people, all the authentic Haitians who believe in Haiti, to stand strong and firm and if Haiti needs them, to answer the call. So today is a big day for me. I say “Congratulations” to all these soldiers, who stopped Jean Bertrand Aristide in his dictatorial tracks. And it’s a point of pride for me that I was the chief commander of this rebellion. And I say to all those people, “thank you.”

Twelve years later, we haven’t lost like everyone is saying. It’s not true: There’s been progress made, steps have been taken, there’s more liberty in the country. But it’s step-by-step. I tell them to believe in the country. And I tell my Haitian brothers and sisters: believe that there are people who still love Haiti and there are people who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary. Once more, we say no coup, no Machiavellian plan will pass. No one in power will be able to be my enemy. There’s an election that needs to happen, and it will happen. And if it doesn’t happen, neither Parliamentarians, nor the provisional president, nor anyone with any repressive force they know and have in their service, no one will be able to hold back this people, no one will be able to hold back these honest citizens, no one will be able to hold me, Guy Philippe, back. Thank you.

https://soundcloud.com/cyrus-sibert/message-de-guy-philippe-12e-anniversaire-du-renversement-daristide?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=facebook

Transcript of Guy Philippe’s March 7 interview with Radio Télévision Hirondelle (translated from French):

I don’t think Lavalas, or people from the Lavalassian tendency can take power– hold on to power, it will be difficult, it will be complicated, and if Privert stubbornly refuses to give up power, you’ll see, he’ll lose — Haiti as well.

But we must prepare ourselves to counter the derives of this regime. We have seen that from the start, Mr. Privert wanted to violate the laws of the Republic, that Mr. Privert chose a Prime Minister without taking into account the rules of the Constitution, we saw that Mr. Privert would like to hold on to power. So, my message was a message for vigilance, a call for vigilance to all authentic Haitians, Haitians who love their country, patriots to prepare themselves to defend Haiti if necessary.

I believe Privert has no choice; he must organize elections or he must leave power May 14.

If he is stubborn – if he really wants to hold on to power, I believe we are heading directly towards a civil war. That’s not what I want, but it is my assessment.

https://www.facebook.com/rtvh16/videos/1694598234151855/

On Sunday, in what had increasingly become inevitable, Fritz Jean, the provisional president’s choice for prime minister, was rejected by Haiti’s chamber of deputies. Needing 60 votes to gain approval of his governmental program, only 38 voted in favor; 36 voted against, one abstained and more than a dozen stayed home. 60 votes would be an absolute majority in the Chamber, but more than 20 seats are empty, awaiting reruns of flawed elections.

Appointed by Haiti’s temporary leader, Jocelerme Privert over three weeks ago, Jean’s rejection has all but eliminated any chance that elections can be held next month. Privert, who came to office on February 14 with a mandate of 120 days, has yet to form a new government or a new electoral council.

Why was Jean’s platform rejected and where do things go from here? It’s as much about political control as it is about elections.

The opposition to Fritz Jean’s approval as prime minister was led by the pro-Martelly bloc in the chamber of deputies. Deputy Gary Bodeau explained to Reuters after the vote that “We rejected the program of Fritz Jean because his nomination by President Privert did not meet the consensus requirements which should characterize the prime minister.”

The political accord signed on February 5 called for a “consensus” prime minister, to be chosen after consultations with both chambers of parliament as well as civil society. After 10 days of meetings, Privert chose Fritz Jean, who was promptly sworn in while awaiting parliament’s approval of his government program.

Despite having broad support among the main private sector actors, the pro-Martelly bloc (including former PM Evans Paul) almost immediately signaled its rejection of Jean.

There are a few theories as to why.

Privert, who is a member of former-president Rene Preval’s political party and was a minister under Aristide in the early 2000s, chose a prime minister from a similar political current; Jean was head of the Central Bank under Aristide.

Though much of the criticism, such as branding this a Fanmi Lavalas “coup,” was clearly classic red-baiting, the pro-Martelly lawmakers had reason to worry.

After benefitting from the deep pockets of running a campaign while controlling the presidency, the Martelly bloc saw itself being excluded from the government. The provisional government would exert control over the continuation of the electoral process; whether or not there would be an electoral verification commission and the composition of the new electoral council.

Pressure was continuing to build from civil society and many political parties for an independent verification commission. Privert has signaled his opening to such an endeavor. The only political movement that has opposed such a commission is the one supporting Jovenel Moise, Martelly’s handpicked successor. Official results showed Moise in first place, but he has been dogged by allegations of fraud ever since.

If the pro-Martelly bloc failed to maintain some control over the government, the likelihood of a verification commission taking place, and either removing Moise from the race, or calling for entirely new first-round elections, would be significantly greater.

But it’s not all about the elections.

When Privert was sworn in as provisional president, very few political actors in Haiti believed he would be able to accomplish all that was needed in just 120 days. Many saw, from the beginning, that there would need to be either a new provisional leader after 120 days, or a new political agreement that would extend the mandate.

Both sides have accused the other of wanting to stall the process so as to force this next move. The pro-Martelly bloc accuses Privert of purposely choosing a prime minister that had little chance of success, in order to avoid any possibility of having elections in April and to extend his mandate. On the other hand, those supportive of Privert accuse the pro-Martelly bloc of blocking the prime minister in order to run out Privert’s 120 days, with the hope of taking control of the provisional presidency for themselves.

While the prime minister post remains unfilled, so too does the presidency of the Senate. When Privert resigned his senate seat to become provisional president, it left an opening at the top of the institution. The fight for that seat provides important context. Youri Latortue, who tried and failed to become Senate president in January (Privert got the votes), still aspires to the leadership position. If Latortue presided over the Senate, and with his political ally Chancy Cholzer leading the lower house, the pro-Martelly bloc would be in a stronger position to determine the next provisional president. The accord states that if the mandate expires, “Where appropriate, the National Assembly will take the necessary decisions.”

If Latortue had been given the Senate presidency, it’s likely that Jean would have been approved as prime minister. But, the provisional government refused, recognizing the threat that Latortue could pose in that position. The usual horse-trading didn’t work, though accusations that Jean’s backers tried to buy support in parliament have emerged. If they did, it wasn’t a great investment.

Controlling the government also includes control over demands for an audit of the finances of the Martelly administration. Privert and Jean at times indicted they were favorable to such an audit, and at others said it was best left to an elected government. The economy is stagnant and public finances have deteriorated to a dangerous level. Whether legitimate or not, calls for an audit have only heightened the political tension; some of those supporting it are clearly interested in political revenge, while some opposed clearly are trying to protect themselves from greater scrutiny.

So then where do things go from here?

It seems likely, though not assured, that Privert will have to come up with a new choice for prime minister. Some backers of Jean argue that he remains the legitimate prime minister because his nomination was published in the government’s official gazette, but this is unlikely to satisfy his opponents. The new nominee will almost certainly be someone more likely to garner the support of the pro-Martelly parliamentary bloc, but even so, the timeline for holding elections before Privert’s mandate ends looks to be too tight.

The latest an election could be held is the end of May, with the swearing in of a new president in mid-June, just when Privert’s term ends. However, given the divergent interests of the main players and previous deadlock, it seems unlikely that the electoral process could be put back on track in just two months. And certainly not if a verification commission takes places. 

At the same time, Privert has begun conversations with political parties and civil society about a new political accord to replace the one signed in February, likely extending the provisional president’s mandate. Those negotiations have so far not included pro-Martelly political parties though, meaning that it is unlikely to garner support from all stakeholders.

A key player in all of this remains the major private sector business associations. Thus far they have largely backed Privert and his choice for prime minister, but their interests are potentially different. Many in the private sector regard a longer transitional government as an opportunity to push through economic and other reforms that might be less likely to be passed by a democratically-elected government.

How the main political blocs react in the coming weeks will determine what comes next.

First there is Jude Celestin, who came in second during the first-round presidential vote, according to official results. After boycotting the second-round and allying with other candidates to form the G8 opposition movement, Celestin’s interests are slowly diverging. While the G8 and Fanmi Lavalas continue to demand a verification commission before moving forward, Celestin might be willing to accept an election based on the official first-round results, provided the CEP and the interim authorities are not politically compromised, as was the case under Martelly. Will he move further from the G8 and ally with the pro-Martelly bloc?

It might make sense, but it’s still unlikely for a number of reasons. Celestin would need support from the other G8 candidates and parties in order to win the election, support that he’d be unlikely to obtain if he comes out against a verification. Further, Celestin has benefitted from the exclusion of Vérité’s Jacky Lumarque from the electoral process. But organizing a new first round presidential election would open the door to reviewing decisions of the previous CEP such as the Lumarque exclusion, which would threaten Celestin with the loss of some of his institutional – and financial – support.  After running a very expensive first round campaign, Celestin may not have the funds needed to mount a serious campaign while alienating a section of his supporters.  

Street protests, most often led by Pitit Dessalines (whose presidential candidate Moise Jean-Charles is a G8 member) and Fanmi Lavalas, have been muted since Privert’s ascension to the presidency. But if Privert’s lukewarm backing of a verification commission falters as pressure grows to hold elections as soon as possible, these groups would likely attempt to remobilize in the streets. They have so far put their trust, cautiously, in Privert, but it is by no means guaranteed.

Martelly’s political party and its allies in parliament find themselves in a dangerous position. They do not want to be seen as blocking the path towards elections, but appear determined to block any path forward that includes a verification commission. They have so far succeeded in preventing Privert and his allies from consolidating a government, but with reduced resources and without the sitting president as the face of the party, can they maintain that cohesion? While official election results had Jovenel Moise in first, opposition parties combined had greater overall support. In a country where political party affiliation means little, the temptation to split must be growing. 

The international community, hampered in its ability to act as a mediator because of its past sins, will also play a role. The U.N. and major donors have urged the elections to take place in April and have reduced aid in the interim government. Many have openly expressed their opposition to a verification commission. Though the international community will likely be asked to pay for at least some of the next election’s budget, contrary to popular belief, their ability to influence the current situation has been diminished. For example, the UN and “Core Group” of donors had strongly urged parliament to approve Fritz Jean as prime minister. The unwavering support of Martelly during his presidency, and the insistence on moving forward with elections that had been rejected by such a large portion of the population has seriously hampered the international community’s ability to act in the current crisis.  

The confusion and gridlock that has characterized the current political crisis makes it difficult to imagine an orderly exit and return to democratic order. On the other hand, given the various and competing interests, and the unlikelihood of elections in April, a new political accord seems necessary (as many have argued from day one). If done right, it could bring clarity to the chaos.

Whereas the political accord signed in early February laid out a roadmap, it left nearly every major decision to be decided down the road. It was why the accord had the support it did; each political movement thought they could still get what they wanted. But it has proven far too ambiguous and contradictory to be the basis for moving forward.

There are still a number of issues and positions that need to be decided, an inclusive political dialogue should be able to find a consensus way forward – settling the question of prime minister, senate president, verification and a new electoral council, among others. But there are still hidden, and powerful, interests at play. Interests that have nothing to do with democracy or free and fair elections. How each of the main actors respond to the prime minister’s rejection will go a long toward clearing up where those more hidden interests lie. 

On Sunday, in what had increasingly become inevitable, Fritz Jean, the provisional president’s choice for prime minister, was rejected by Haiti’s chamber of deputies. Needing 60 votes to gain approval of his governmental program, only 38 voted in favor; 36 voted against, one abstained and more than a dozen stayed home. 60 votes would be an absolute majority in the Chamber, but more than 20 seats are empty, awaiting reruns of flawed elections.

Appointed by Haiti’s temporary leader, Jocelerme Privert over three weeks ago, Jean’s rejection has all but eliminated any chance that elections can be held next month. Privert, who came to office on February 14 with a mandate of 120 days, has yet to form a new government or a new electoral council.

Why was Jean’s platform rejected and where do things go from here? It’s as much about political control as it is about elections.

The opposition to Fritz Jean’s approval as prime minister was led by the pro-Martelly bloc in the chamber of deputies. Deputy Gary Bodeau explained to Reuters after the vote that “We rejected the program of Fritz Jean because his nomination by President Privert did not meet the consensus requirements which should characterize the prime minister.”

The political accord signed on February 5 called for a “consensus” prime minister, to be chosen after consultations with both chambers of parliament as well as civil society. After 10 days of meetings, Privert chose Fritz Jean, who was promptly sworn in while awaiting parliament’s approval of his government program.

Despite having broad support among the main private sector actors, the pro-Martelly bloc (including former PM Evans Paul) almost immediately signaled its rejection of Jean.

There are a few theories as to why.

Privert, who is a member of former-president Rene Preval’s political party and was a minister under Aristide in the early 2000s, chose a prime minister from a similar political current; Jean was head of the Central Bank under Aristide.

Though much of the criticism, such as branding this a Fanmi Lavalas “coup,” was clearly classic red-baiting, the pro-Martelly lawmakers had reason to worry.

After benefitting from the deep pockets of running a campaign while controlling the presidency, the Martelly bloc saw itself being excluded from the government. The provisional government would exert control over the continuation of the electoral process; whether or not there would be an electoral verification commission and the composition of the new electoral council.

Pressure was continuing to build from civil society and many political parties for an independent verification commission. Privert has signaled his opening to such an endeavor. The only political movement that has opposed such a commission is the one supporting Jovenel Moise, Martelly’s handpicked successor. Official results showed Moise in first place, but he has been dogged by allegations of fraud ever since.

If the pro-Martelly bloc failed to maintain some control over the government, the likelihood of a verification commission taking place, and either removing Moise from the race, or calling for entirely new first-round elections, would be significantly greater.

But it’s not all about the elections.

When Privert was sworn in as provisional president, very few political actors in Haiti believed he would be able to accomplish all that was needed in just 120 days. Many saw, from the beginning, that there would need to be either a new provisional leader after 120 days, or a new political agreement that would extend the mandate.

Both sides have accused the other of wanting to stall the process so as to force this next move. The pro-Martelly bloc accuses Privert of purposely choosing a prime minister that had little chance of success, in order to avoid any possibility of having elections in April and to extend his mandate. On the other hand, those supportive of Privert accuse the pro-Martelly bloc of blocking the prime minister in order to run out Privert’s 120 days, with the hope of taking control of the provisional presidency for themselves.

While the prime minister post remains unfilled, so too does the presidency of the Senate. When Privert resigned his senate seat to become provisional president, it left an opening at the top of the institution. The fight for that seat provides important context. Youri Latortue, who tried and failed to become Senate president in January (Privert got the votes), still aspires to the leadership position. If Latortue presided over the Senate, and with his political ally Chancy Cholzer leading the lower house, the pro-Martelly bloc would be in a stronger position to determine the next provisional president. The accord states that if the mandate expires, “Where appropriate, the National Assembly will take the necessary decisions.”

If Latortue had been given the Senate presidency, it’s likely that Jean would have been approved as prime minister. But, the provisional government refused, recognizing the threat that Latortue could pose in that position. The usual horse-trading didn’t work, though accusations that Jean’s backers tried to buy support in parliament have emerged. If they did, it wasn’t a great investment.

Controlling the government also includes control over demands for an audit of the finances of the Martelly administration. Privert and Jean at times indicted they were favorable to such an audit, and at others said it was best left to an elected government. The economy is stagnant and public finances have deteriorated to a dangerous level. Whether legitimate or not, calls for an audit have only heightened the political tension; some of those supporting it are clearly interested in political revenge, while some opposed clearly are trying to protect themselves from greater scrutiny.

So then where do things go from here?

It seems likely, though not assured, that Privert will have to come up with a new choice for prime minister. Some backers of Jean argue that he remains the legitimate prime minister because his nomination was published in the government’s official gazette, but this is unlikely to satisfy his opponents. The new nominee will almost certainly be someone more likely to garner the support of the pro-Martelly parliamentary bloc, but even so, the timeline for holding elections before Privert’s mandate ends looks to be too tight.

The latest an election could be held is the end of May, with the swearing in of a new president in mid-June, just when Privert’s term ends. However, given the divergent interests of the main players and previous deadlock, it seems unlikely that the electoral process could be put back on track in just two months. And certainly not if a verification commission takes places. 

At the same time, Privert has begun conversations with political parties and civil society about a new political accord to replace the one signed in February, likely extending the provisional president’s mandate. Those negotiations have so far not included pro-Martelly political parties though, meaning that it is unlikely to garner support from all stakeholders.

A key player in all of this remains the major private sector business associations. Thus far they have largely backed Privert and his choice for prime minister, but their interests are potentially different. Many in the private sector regard a longer transitional government as an opportunity to push through economic and other reforms that might be less likely to be passed by a democratically-elected government.

How the main political blocs react in the coming weeks will determine what comes next.

First there is Jude Celestin, who came in second during the first-round presidential vote, according to official results. After boycotting the second-round and allying with other candidates to form the G8 opposition movement, Celestin’s interests are slowly diverging. While the G8 and Fanmi Lavalas continue to demand a verification commission before moving forward, Celestin might be willing to accept an election based on the official first-round results, provided the CEP and the interim authorities are not politically compromised, as was the case under Martelly. Will he move further from the G8 and ally with the pro-Martelly bloc?

It might make sense, but it’s still unlikely for a number of reasons. Celestin would need support from the other G8 candidates and parties in order to win the election, support that he’d be unlikely to obtain if he comes out against a verification. Further, Celestin has benefitted from the exclusion of Vérité’s Jacky Lumarque from the electoral process. But organizing a new first round presidential election would open the door to reviewing decisions of the previous CEP such as the Lumarque exclusion, which would threaten Celestin with the loss of some of his institutional – and financial – support.  After running a very expensive first round campaign, Celestin may not have the funds needed to mount a serious campaign while alienating a section of his supporters.  

Street protests, most often led by Pitit Dessalines (whose presidential candidate Moise Jean-Charles is a G8 member) and Fanmi Lavalas, have been muted since Privert’s ascension to the presidency. But if Privert’s lukewarm backing of a verification commission falters as pressure grows to hold elections as soon as possible, these groups would likely attempt to remobilize in the streets. They have so far put their trust, cautiously, in Privert, but it is by no means guaranteed.

Martelly’s political party and its allies in parliament find themselves in a dangerous position. They do not want to be seen as blocking the path towards elections, but appear determined to block any path forward that includes a verification commission. They have so far succeeded in preventing Privert and his allies from consolidating a government, but with reduced resources and without the sitting president as the face of the party, can they maintain that cohesion? While official election results had Jovenel Moise in first, opposition parties combined had greater overall support. In a country where political party affiliation means little, the temptation to split must be growing. 

The international community, hampered in its ability to act as a mediator because of its past sins, will also play a role. The U.N. and major donors have urged the elections to take place in April and have reduced aid in the interim government. Many have openly expressed their opposition to a verification commission. Though the international community will likely be asked to pay for at least some of the next election’s budget, contrary to popular belief, their ability to influence the current situation has been diminished. For example, the UN and “Core Group” of donors had strongly urged parliament to approve Fritz Jean as prime minister. The unwavering support of Martelly during his presidency, and the insistence on moving forward with elections that had been rejected by such a large portion of the population has seriously hampered the international community’s ability to act in the current crisis.  

The confusion and gridlock that has characterized the current political crisis makes it difficult to imagine an orderly exit and return to democratic order. On the other hand, given the various and competing interests, and the unlikelihood of elections in April, a new political accord seems necessary (as many have argued from day one). If done right, it could bring clarity to the chaos.

Whereas the political accord signed in early February laid out a roadmap, it left nearly every major decision to be decided down the road. It was why the accord had the support it did; each political movement thought they could still get what they wanted. But it has proven far too ambiguous and contradictory to be the basis for moving forward.

There are still a number of issues and positions that need to be decided, an inclusive political dialogue should be able to find a consensus way forward – settling the question of prime minister, senate president, verification and a new electoral council, among others. But there are still hidden, and powerful, interests at play. Interests that have nothing to do with democracy or free and fair elections. How each of the main actors respond to the prime minister’s rejection will go a long toward clearing up where those more hidden interests lie. 

On Friday, March 4, 2016 representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS) and State Department joined two visiting Haitian human rights leaders and two U.S.-based academics in a discussion on Haiti’s current electoral crisis. Organized by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) and sponsored by Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the discussion focused on the causes of the postponement of the electoral crisis, the selection of Provisional President Jocelerme Privert and efforts to move the electoral process forward.

The five panelists made opening remarks and then moderator, Dr. Robert Maguire of the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, directed an open discussion among the speakers.

The event, in its entirety, can be viewed here. Following are excerpts from the panelists’ opening remarks and the subsequent discussion.

Professor Robert Fatton, University of Virginia

Professor Fatton opened the discussion by providing some useful background on the current situation, noting that President Martelly agreeing to step down on February 7 when his term ended and the subsequent selection of Senate president Privert as provisional president had “temporarily eased political tensions.”

Fatton noted that the accord, signed by Martelly, Privert (as Senate president) and Chancy Cholzer, the president of the Chamber of Deputies had tasked Privert with forming a new consensus government, reforming the electoral council and finally, implementing the recommendations of an evaluation commission formed in late December 2015.

“While Privert may succeed with the first two tasks, he will be hard pressed to accomplish the third,” Fatton argues. He explains further that the crisis stems from the “perceived illegitimacy of the whole electoral process,” and that without a verification commission – as has been demanded by many in Haitian civil society – “Haiti will not extricate itself from the current quagmire.”

In the clip below, Fatton makes these points and expounds further on sources of opposition to a further verification.

Believing that altering the results of the election or scrapping the process entirely will be politically untenable, Fatton instead puts forward an “extraconstitutional” approach that would see the second-round runoff opened up to the top four candidates. Privert will need the “Midas touch” to move Haiti out of the current political impasse.

Fatton ridiculed each side in Haiti for calling for the intervention of the international community when it serves their particular interests. But added that, on the other hand, the international community must “stop customary interferences and allow Haitians to devise their own history and make their own mistakes. Barring this Haiti will continue to be in a permanent state of crisis.”

Gerardo de Icaza, Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, OAS

Gerardo de Icaza, in his opening remarks, addressed criticism of the OAS and its role as an election observer in Haiti. “Without a doubt, don’t be surprised, you will be disappointed with what I say today. I know this. And I know you know it,” he opened. Icaza said that the OAS did see many irregularities during the election, but that they “were not a determining factor in the results that were presented.”

“What you expect from us is to come out and say there was a massive fraud, the results should not be accepted, everything should be scrapped and we should start from zero. Well, I cannot say that,” de Icaza continued.

De Icaza addressed the concerns around the issue of mandataires, political party representatives who have been recognized as one of the largest sources of fraud and irregularities during the election.

“Now, 900,000 mandataires. Who are registered by whom? By the political parties. Plural. By one political party? No. By many political parties. Plural.” Did they all vote and did they all vote only once, de Icaza asked rhetorically. “We do not know,” he answers, adding that OAS observers saw safeguards in place to prevent multiple voting.

“Did they all vote for the same candidate? I seriously doubt it. Because that would mean that there was a fraud that was so well orchestrated… that we would have detected that. And we did not see that.”

Kent Brokenshire, Deputy Haiti Special Coordinator, U.S. Department of State

As opposed to other panelists who focused on the current situation, Brokenshire used his opening remarks to harken back on his first tour in Haiti, during the early 90s. He discussed the connection he felt towards Haiti and how it has captivated so many others throughout the years.

Brokenshire pushed back on the idea that Haiti has not seen progress in recent decades, noting that while Haiti still is facing many political challenges, “the difference is beautiful.”

“These challenges are being addressed around tables, by politicians, by elected leaders. This was not the case before, you had people hanging on to raw power through military means.”

Pierre Esperance, Director, National Human Rights Defense Network of Haiti (RNDDH)

Esperance, who led a local electoral observation mission that was present in more than half of all polling centers in the country on election day, contrasted what the OAS observed with what his local group found and stressed the need for an independent verification commission before moving forward.

“Haiti needs the support of the international community…I think there needs to be a minimum respect for Haiti,” Esperance said. “When I say minimum respect, what do I mean by that? When we talk of democracy, what democracy are we speaking of? There should not be two levels of democracy – one for those that are advanced and one for those less advanced.”

Pointing to the high-level of violence, irregularities and “massive fraud,” Esperance noted that while the international community came to observe the election and make some recommendations, “they did not go to the lengths that we went.” But, Esperance added, “We are not the people who have the proof.”

The evidence of what Esperance alleges is, according to him, “sitting in the tabulation center and we are asking for that information to be verified.”

“If you put together an independent commission of evaluation, they will see that. The proofs are there. That is why we didn’t get a president elected on December 27 or January 24. So, when we ask for a commission of verification and evaluation, we don’t have in our head that a particular candidate will be expelled from the process. And it would be very difficult to put one particular candidate outside the process. And I don’t think that will change the results of the 4 or 5 at the top of the race but it will help us end impunity and corruption in the country. If you find the truth and seek the truth then we can organize acceptable elections,” Esperance explains.

Esperance, in a message to the international community, stated that “you cannot ask the Haitians to accept the unacceptable,” adding that “we are not seeking perfect elections, we want acceptable elections.”

Marie Frantz Joachim, Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA)

Marie Frantz opened by moving the discussion to a different aspect of the electoral process: the lack of women in parliament and how that happened.

Despite 23 Senate candidates and more than 120 Deputy candidates, Marie Frantz pointed out that there is “not a single woman inside parliament.”

She discussed the role that Martelly has played, particularly by publicly and verbally abusing a woman at a campaign rally last summer. “Basically, he said that women are just there to satisfy men sexually, therefore women do not have a role in parliament or politics.” Therefore, she added, it is “not surprising that today we don’t have a single woman in the parliament.”

Another cause was the “the corruption that existed within the electoral system.” According to Marie Frantz, many women candidates, who were expected to advance to the runoff, faced electoral contestations at the electoral courts. But, she continued, “the people that they were facing had more money and they paid and they went through.”

“The person with the most money is the person that gets elected.”

Marie Frantz then addressed the question of a verification commission, stating that “we need to know the truth.”

“It’s when we have that truth that we can truly say we have people that have been elected legitimately. We need people who are elected through credible elections so we can have peace in the country. We need to establish a sense of trust between the population and political authorities.”

Finally, Marie Frantz concluded, “without women there is no democracy.”

Panel Discussion

Dr. Maguire, the moderator of the event, opened up the panel discussion by asking about the proliferation of political parties in recent years, which contributed to the problems with mandataires on election day.

Esperance responded that while Haiti has already had many parties, it is “during the Martelly government that we see a surge in political parties.” The explanation, he continued, was that Martelly wanted additional parties to strengthen his negotiating position with the opposition.

Marie Frantz then added that according to the law on political parties that was passed in 2014, it only takes 20 people for a party to be officially recognized. She added that, “a lot of those political parties were selling their mandataires to other parties … it was strategically thought out.”

Esperance added that it was not just political parties who received accreditation passes for mandataires, but that observer groups also received these passes, sometimes up to 17,000 of them, which were then turned around and sold to political parties. “That’s what we saw and that’s what we said. That’s why the international community is not supporting a commission for verification and evaluation because that’s where the proof lies,” Esperance concluded.

De Icaza first responded to accusations that the OAS had a double standard when it came to elections in Haiti. “Without a doubt the OAS does not have a double standard. No. We have 34 different standards. Not one, not two, 34 different standards.” That is because there is no one recipe for what makes an election free and fair, adding that that is “why the work with national observers is so important.”  

De Icaza clarified that the OAS has “never asked the Haitian people to accept these results,” but has only “stated our position and what we’ve seen.” “We have said, over and over, that whatever the solution is, it has to be a democratic solution and it has to be a Haitian solution. We have not gone any further than that,” he said.

“The problem that we have, for a certain sector of the population, no result unless we reach the cancelation of the results, will be acceptable.”

Fatton fired back, noting that there was a “fetishism” of elections in Haiti. “Every election that is fraudulent is acceptable, so at the end of the day, fraud becomes the new norm. And when fraud is the new norm, there is a breakdown in the electoral process, this is inevitable.”

Fatton discussed the recent history of “ad-hoc” electoral solutions in the 2006 and 2010 elections, and noted the current disagreement between local and international observers. “Let us not try and be nice and diplomatic, there is a fundamental breakdown of trust between the international community and Haitian civil society organizations.”

“One says it was a farce and the other says, well, it wasn’t that bad, it was acceptable. And the problem is the more you accept elections that are fraudulent, the more the system literally decomposes and that’s what is happening in Haiti.”

Fatton concludes: “But I guarantee you that if you have another election, a runoff between two candidates, whoever they may be,  without the commission on verification, an independent one, the new government elected will be in deep trouble a few months afterwards because it will have very limited legitimacy … this is a recipe for another crisis.”

Esperance then addressed the OAS representative, de Icaza, noting that while the situation in each country is different, their work in Haiti is based on what is contained in the electoral law. “There are many people who voted many times, particularly the observers and political representatives. That’s fraud. Help us construct democracy, help us end impunity and corruption.”

Kent Brokenshire, the State Department representative, who remained relatively quiet throughout the panel, then chimed in to underscore that “this is a Haitian process” and the U.S. doesn’t “favor any candidate at all, what we favor is democracy.” Though not directly addressing the calls for a verification commission, Brokenshire expressed the U.S.’ desire to “see Haiti move through the electoral cycle now and have a truly elected president to represent the will of the Haitian people, have a democratically elected head of state with whom we would be able to deal country to country.”

Pushing back on other panelists comments about the unlikelihood of elections being held in April, as the political accord had called for, Brokenshire added that: “In this accord they targeted April 14 [it’s actually April 24] as the day for elections, they gave the provisional president 120 days to complete that. So, they basically set out the rules for that and this is something that was done among Haitians, there was no whispering in ears there. This is something done among Haitians and something that we respect.”

Esperance responded that the accord did not involve the entire Haitian society and that the timeframe they put forward was “impossible.” “There is not even a 1% chance that a president will be installed on May 14, even in June it’s impossible. So what do we want? First, there will be a new CEP. There will be a commission for evaluation and verification. And I guarantee you that commission must happen otherwise there will be no election.” Even if the results do not change, we need to seek the truth, he added.

De Icaza then indicated that if Haitian leaders decide that a verification commission is needed to move the process forward, then “that’s perfect and the OAS will probably accompany this process.” But, he continued, it will issue a report that will show what we already know, that there were many irregularities. “Will they be able to put a number on those irregularities? I don’t know if they can do that scientifically, to tell you the truth.”

“For us, the difference between first, second and third is so clear that it would be difficult for those things to change. But if that’s what is needed and that is the Haitian solution, that’s wonderful,” he stated. De Icaza pointed out, however, that if a verification commission was formed, it would need clear timelines and rules to ensure its acceptance and success.

Marie Frantz responded by referencing the lack of trust between international actors and the Haitian people, but noted that these institutions, including the OAS, “have a great deal to gain by working hand in hand with Haitian society to put together this commission.”

“The lack of trust that exists between the population and these institutions…work to reestablish trust is work that is extremely important and I hope that the reflections we are having today will allow us…to reestablish trust.”

On Friday, March 4, 2016 representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS) and State Department joined two visiting Haitian human rights leaders and two U.S.-based academics in a discussion on Haiti’s current electoral crisis. Organized by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) and sponsored by Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the discussion focused on the causes of the postponement of the electoral crisis, the selection of Provisional President Jocelerme Privert and efforts to move the electoral process forward.

The five panelists made opening remarks and then moderator, Dr. Robert Maguire of the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, directed an open discussion among the speakers.

The event, in its entirety, can be viewed here. Following are excerpts from the panelists’ opening remarks and the subsequent discussion.

Professor Robert Fatton, University of Virginia

Professor Fatton opened the discussion by providing some useful background on the current situation, noting that President Martelly agreeing to step down on February 7 when his term ended and the subsequent selection of Senate president Privert as provisional president had “temporarily eased political tensions.”

Fatton noted that the accord, signed by Martelly, Privert (as Senate president) and Chancy Cholzer, the president of the Chamber of Deputies had tasked Privert with forming a new consensus government, reforming the electoral council and finally, implementing the recommendations of an evaluation commission formed in late December 2015.

“While Privert may succeed with the first two tasks, he will be hard pressed to accomplish the third,” Fatton argues. He explains further that the crisis stems from the “perceived illegitimacy of the whole electoral process,” and that without a verification commission – as has been demanded by many in Haitian civil society – “Haiti will not extricate itself from the current quagmire.”

In the clip below, Fatton makes these points and expounds further on sources of opposition to a further verification.

Believing that altering the results of the election or scrapping the process entirely will be politically untenable, Fatton instead puts forward an “extraconstitutional” approach that would see the second-round runoff opened up to the top four candidates. Privert will need the “Midas touch” to move Haiti out of the current political impasse.

Fatton ridiculed each side in Haiti for calling for the intervention of the international community when it serves their particular interests. But added that, on the other hand, the international community must “stop customary interferences and allow Haitians to devise their own history and make their own mistakes. Barring this Haiti will continue to be in a permanent state of crisis.”

Gerardo de Icaza, Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, OAS

Gerardo de Icaza, in his opening remarks, addressed criticism of the OAS and its role as an election observer in Haiti. “Without a doubt, don’t be surprised, you will be disappointed with what I say today. I know this. And I know you know it,” he opened. Icaza said that the OAS did see many irregularities during the election, but that they “were not a determining factor in the results that were presented.”

“What you expect from us is to come out and say there was a massive fraud, the results should not be accepted, everything should be scrapped and we should start from zero. Well, I cannot say that,” de Icaza continued.

De Icaza addressed the concerns around the issue of mandataires, political party representatives who have been recognized as one of the largest sources of fraud and irregularities during the election.

“Now, 900,000 mandataires. Who are registered by whom? By the political parties. Plural. By one political party? No. By many political parties. Plural.” Did they all vote and did they all vote only once, de Icaza asked rhetorically. “We do not know,” he answers, adding that OAS observers saw safeguards in place to prevent multiple voting.

“Did they all vote for the same candidate? I seriously doubt it. Because that would mean that there was a fraud that was so well orchestrated… that we would have detected that. And we did not see that.”

Kent Brokenshire, Deputy Haiti Special Coordinator, U.S. Department of State

As opposed to other panelists who focused on the current situation, Brokenshire used his opening remarks to harken back on his first tour in Haiti, during the early 90s. He discussed the connection he felt towards Haiti and how it has captivated so many others throughout the years.

Brokenshire pushed back on the idea that Haiti has not seen progress in recent decades, noting that while Haiti still is facing many political challenges, “the difference is beautiful.”

“These challenges are being addressed around tables, by politicians, by elected leaders. This was not the case before, you had people hanging on to raw power through military means.”

Pierre Esperance, Director, National Human Rights Defense Network of Haiti (RNDDH)

Esperance, who led a local electoral observation mission that was present in more than half of all polling centers in the country on election day, contrasted what the OAS observed with what his local group found and stressed the need for an independent verification commission before moving forward.

“Haiti needs the support of the international community…I think there needs to be a minimum respect for Haiti,” Esperance said. “When I say minimum respect, what do I mean by that? When we talk of democracy, what democracy are we speaking of? There should not be two levels of democracy – one for those that are advanced and one for those less advanced.”

Pointing to the high-level of violence, irregularities and “massive fraud,” Esperance noted that while the international community came to observe the election and make some recommendations, “they did not go to the lengths that we went.” But, Esperance added, “We are not the people who have the proof.”

The evidence of what Esperance alleges is, according to him, “sitting in the tabulation center and we are asking for that information to be verified.”

“If you put together an independent commission of evaluation, they will see that. The proofs are there. That is why we didn’t get a president elected on December 27 or January 24. So, when we ask for a commission of verification and evaluation, we don’t have in our head that a particular candidate will be expelled from the process. And it would be very difficult to put one particular candidate outside the process. And I don’t think that will change the results of the 4 or 5 at the top of the race but it will help us end impunity and corruption in the country. If you find the truth and seek the truth then we can organize acceptable elections,” Esperance explains.

Esperance, in a message to the international community, stated that “you cannot ask the Haitians to accept the unacceptable,” adding that “we are not seeking perfect elections, we want acceptable elections.”

Marie Frantz Joachim, Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA)

Marie Frantz opened by moving the discussion to a different aspect of the electoral process: the lack of women in parliament and how that happened.

Despite 23 Senate candidates and more than 120 Deputy candidates, Marie Frantz pointed out that there is “not a single woman inside parliament.”

She discussed the role that Martelly has played, particularly by publicly and verbally abusing a woman at a campaign rally last summer. “Basically, he said that women are just there to satisfy men sexually, therefore women do not have a role in parliament or politics.” Therefore, she added, it is “not surprising that today we don’t have a single woman in the parliament.”

Another cause was the “the corruption that existed within the electoral system.” According to Marie Frantz, many women candidates, who were expected to advance to the runoff, faced electoral contestations at the electoral courts. But, she continued, “the people that they were facing had more money and they paid and they went through.”

“The person with the most money is the person that gets elected.”

Marie Frantz then addressed the question of a verification commission, stating that “we need to know the truth.”

“It’s when we have that truth that we can truly say we have people that have been elected legitimately. We need people who are elected through credible elections so we can have peace in the country. We need to establish a sense of trust between the population and political authorities.”

Finally, Marie Frantz concluded, “without women there is no democracy.”

Panel Discussion

Dr. Maguire, the moderator of the event, opened up the panel discussion by asking about the proliferation of political parties in recent years, which contributed to the problems with mandataires on election day.

Esperance responded that while Haiti has already had many parties, it is “during the Martelly government that we see a surge in political parties.” The explanation, he continued, was that Martelly wanted additional parties to strengthen his negotiating position with the opposition.

Marie Frantz then added that according to the law on political parties that was passed in 2014, it only takes 20 people for a party to be officially recognized. She added that, “a lot of those political parties were selling their mandataires to other parties … it was strategically thought out.”

Esperance added that it was not just political parties who received accreditation passes for mandataires, but that observer groups also received these passes, sometimes up to 17,000 of them, which were then turned around and sold to political parties. “That’s what we saw and that’s what we said. That’s why the international community is not supporting a commission for verification and evaluation because that’s where the proof lies,” Esperance concluded.

De Icaza first responded to accusations that the OAS had a double standard when it came to elections in Haiti. “Without a doubt the OAS does not have a double standard. No. We have 34 different standards. Not one, not two, 34 different standards.” That is because there is no one recipe for what makes an election free and fair, adding that that is “why the work with national observers is so important.”  

De Icaza clarified that the OAS has “never asked the Haitian people to accept these results,” but has only “stated our position and what we’ve seen.” “We have said, over and over, that whatever the solution is, it has to be a democratic solution and it has to be a Haitian solution. We have not gone any further than that,” he said.

“The problem that we have, for a certain sector of the population, no result unless we reach the cancelation of the results, will be acceptable.”

Fatton fired back, noting that there was a “fetishism” of elections in Haiti. “Every election that is fraudulent is acceptable, so at the end of the day, fraud becomes the new norm. And when fraud is the new norm, there is a breakdown in the electoral process, this is inevitable.”

Fatton discussed the recent history of “ad-hoc” electoral solutions in the 2006 and 2010 elections, and noted the current disagreement between local and international observers. “Let us not try and be nice and diplomatic, there is a fundamental breakdown of trust between the international community and Haitian civil society organizations.”

“One says it was a farce and the other says, well, it wasn’t that bad, it was acceptable. And the problem is the more you accept elections that are fraudulent, the more the system literally decomposes and that’s what is happening in Haiti.”

Fatton concludes: “But I guarantee you that if you have another election, a runoff between two candidates, whoever they may be,  without the commission on verification, an independent one, the new government elected will be in deep trouble a few months afterwards because it will have very limited legitimacy … this is a recipe for another crisis.”

Esperance then addressed the OAS representative, de Icaza, noting that while the situation in each country is different, their work in Haiti is based on what is contained in the electoral law. “There are many people who voted many times, particularly the observers and political representatives. That’s fraud. Help us construct democracy, help us end impunity and corruption.”

Kent Brokenshire, the State Department representative, who remained relatively quiet throughout the panel, then chimed in to underscore that “this is a Haitian process” and the U.S. doesn’t “favor any candidate at all, what we favor is democracy.” Though not directly addressing the calls for a verification commission, Brokenshire expressed the U.S.’ desire to “see Haiti move through the electoral cycle now and have a truly elected president to represent the will of the Haitian people, have a democratically elected head of state with whom we would be able to deal country to country.”

Pushing back on other panelists comments about the unlikelihood of elections being held in April, as the political accord had called for, Brokenshire added that: “In this accord they targeted April 14 [it’s actually April 24] as the day for elections, they gave the provisional president 120 days to complete that. So, they basically set out the rules for that and this is something that was done among Haitians, there was no whispering in ears there. This is something done among Haitians and something that we respect.”

Esperance responded that the accord did not involve the entire Haitian society and that the timeframe they put forward was “impossible.” “There is not even a 1% chance that a president will be installed on May 14, even in June it’s impossible. So what do we want? First, there will be a new CEP. There will be a commission for evaluation and verification. And I guarantee you that commission must happen otherwise there will be no election.” Even if the results do not change, we need to seek the truth, he added.

De Icaza then indicated that if Haitian leaders decide that a verification commission is needed to move the process forward, then “that’s perfect and the OAS will probably accompany this process.” But, he continued, it will issue a report that will show what we already know, that there were many irregularities. “Will they be able to put a number on those irregularities? I don’t know if they can do that scientifically, to tell you the truth.”

“For us, the difference between first, second and third is so clear that it would be difficult for those things to change. But if that’s what is needed and that is the Haitian solution, that’s wonderful,” he stated. De Icaza pointed out, however, that if a verification commission was formed, it would need clear timelines and rules to ensure its acceptance and success.

Marie Frantz responded by referencing the lack of trust between international actors and the Haitian people, but noted that these institutions, including the OAS, “have a great deal to gain by working hand in hand with Haitian society to put together this commission.”

“The lack of trust that exists between the population and these institutions…work to reestablish trust is work that is extremely important and I hope that the reflections we are having today will allow us…to reestablish trust.”

The following has been cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog. The agreement itself can be found at the original source. 

Update: Jocelerme Privert has been elected provisional president by the National Assembly.

President Michel Martelly managed to reach a political accord with the heads of Haiti’s parliament on the creation of a transitional government, averting a potentially dangerous political vacuum. In keeping with the deal, Martelly stepped down on February 7, meeting a major demand of his opponents. But the accord also gives a great deal of power to a contested Parliament and fixes a time frame for the transition that would appear to rule out any real investigation of fraud in the previous rounds of elections. With pro-Martelly members of Haiti’s disbanded military (FAdH) on the march, the spectre of another, more violent round of political unrest hangs over the agreement. Given the accord’s many ambiguities and contradictions, Haiti’s electoral crisis has yet to be solved.

The deal’s text, entitled “Political Accord for institutional continuity upon the end of the term of office of the President of the Republic and in the absence of a President-elect and for the continuation of the 2015 electoral process,” was finalized at 1am on Friday night, after 28 meetings between various actors. President Martelly, Senate President Jocelerme Privert and Chamber of Deputies President Chancy Cholzer signed at the National Palace on Saturday, February 6. The solution found by the Executive and the lawmakers was “inspired by constitutional dispositions” rather than directly derived from the Haitian Constitution, because the Constitution did not clearly indicate what was supposed to happen when a president’s term ended without an elected successor in place.

The political accord confirmed Martelly’s departure on the constitutionally mandated end of his term on February 7 and provided a roadmap for the establishment of a provisional government. A provisional president will be elected by the National Assembly (a joint body of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate) within five days of the signing of the accord, while executive power will be exercised in the interim by current Prime Minister Evans Paul and the Council of Ministers. Parliament has already established a bicameral committee to receive and vet applications for the post, and if all goes well, a provisional president will be sworn in on February 14. The mandate of the provisional president is limited to a maximum of 120 days, starting from the day they assume office.

The provisional president is tasked with “redynamizing” the currently “dysfunctional” CEP and finding a “consensus” Prime Minister. To do so, the political accord gives the provisional president the responsibility to establish a broad consultation process with Haitian society and the two Chambers of parliament mandate is find a consensus Prime Minister, who will then form a government and be confirmed by Parliament. Although not stated in the accord’s text, the New York Times reported that Martelly had made “an important concession” during the negotiations, agreeing to allow a member of an opposition party to be selected as interim president.

The provisional president is also called on to convoke the various social sectors to delegate new representatives (or confirm existing ones) to the CEP. At present, the CEP has only three of nine members, meaning it lacks the necessary two-third quorum for publishing electoral results. Just as important, the credibility of the current CEP has been badly eroded by corruption scandals and its complicity in Martelly’s efforts to ram through fraudulent elections despite strong opposition.

Once in place, the “redynamized” CEP will ensure the “continuation of the electoral process initiated during 2015,” according the agreement. The steps to be taken include the implementation of the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission and the finalization of municipal election results, followed by the organization of “second round of presidential elections, partial legislative elections, and local elections.” The accord fixes April 24 as the date for these elections, with final results proclaimed on May 6 and an elected president installed on May 14. Many commentators, including Senate President Privert, have pointed out that this calendar is only tentative, since only the CEP has the authority to officially set election dates.

Although the political accord’s signatories claimed to be “seeking a broad consensus of all vital forces of the nation,” support for the agreement was not unanimous. Almost immediately after it was signed, the deal was denounced in the streets by opposition protesters. The Group of Eight (G-8) characterized the agreement as “anti-popular and anti-democratic” and the Front du Refus et de la Résistance Patriotique, a grouping of political and civil society leaders, which called the deal “stillborn.” The G-30, another grouping of presidential candidates, announced that it will challenge the political accord’s legality. These critics charged that the deal did not taken into account a sufficiently wide range of perspectives. Senate President Jocelerme Privert admitted that some opposition lawmakers disagreed with the accord reached by Martelly and legislators, but Privert said they would have to accept the majority’s decision. “This is the democratic way,” he said. Some pro-Martelly legislators have also expressed discontent with the deal.

The accord confers upon Parliament a major role in the process of establishing a transitional government. Many critics, however, have questioned this aspect of the accord, given the shaky democratic credentials of many in Parliament. Gotson Pierre, editor of Alterpresse, noted that the formation of a transitional government “seems risky for a contested and incomplete Parliament (116 parliamentarians of 149), enjoying a weak legitimacy.” Given the violence and fraud that accompanied the legislative elections, Pierre warned Parliament not to “seek to take advantage of the crisis and to impose its formula without any collaboration with the rest of society and the other [governmental] powers.”

In a statement drafted by Samuel Madistin on behalf of the G-8, the outsized role given to Parliament by the accord was denounced even more strenuously as a “parliamentary coup d’État” carried out by “improperly elected parliamentarians.” It was not clear whether Jude Célestin, whose support has been crucial for the G-8, backed Madistin’s statement. Representatives of Jude Célestin’s party, LAPEH, have stated on the radio that the G-8 statements regarding the accord were drafted without their input. “Parliament is part of the crisis and cannot, as a consequence, decide on the solution,” Madistin argued. The “supposed accord attempts to validate the 2015 elections as if they were normal, without taking into account popular opposition.” As such,the accord constituted “a provocation” to the popular masses, to whom the signatories had showed “an unacceptable disdain.” The G-8 continues to put forward its preferred solution of having the provisional president selected from the Cour de Cassation, though Madistin’s claim that a “general consensus” in favour of this option is hard to believe. Madistin, presidential candidate for MOPOD, has been the only signer of the G-8’s statements recently.

The concerns about the place of Parliament in the transition are not unrelated to the major demand of the protesters and the opposition parties: a full and independent investigation of electoral fraud. The G-8 and Fanmi Lavalas, as well as many political observers, continue to demand an independent investigative commission to examine both the August 9 and October 25 elections. The accord, however, is very ambiguous about how (or even whether) this demand will be addressed. On the one hand, the accord gives some reason for the opposition to hope, as it states that elections will only proceed “after an evaluation of the phases already completed.” On the other hand, many key elements – the language of “restarting” and “continuing” the electoral process, the emphasis on implementing the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission, and the very explicit indication that the next set of elections will be for second-round presidential and partial legislative elections – all suggest that scope of the evaluation might be quite limited.

In an interview given to journalist Jean-Michel Caroît shortly before the accord was finalized, Privert indicated that he considered a far-reaching investigation unlikely. Asked whether or not the presidential elections would go forward on the basis of the announced October 25 results, Privert told Caroît:

That is the whole debate: Do we redo the elections or continue the process initiated in 2015? The duration of the transition will depend on the choice we make. I cannot easily see how we could put into question everything that has been done.

Thus, the shorter the transition period, the less feasible a thorough-going evaluation of electoral fraud in previous rounds.

Along these lines, management consultant André Lafontant Jr. has argued that by establishing such a short transition period, the political accord “implies conducting no investigation prior to the holding of elections.” Lafontant dismissed the pretense that good and credible elections could be organized within 120 days, as specified by the accord and endorsed by the international community, as “fantastical” and “unrealistic.” Based on his experience as a staffer for CEP member Lourdes Edith Joseph, Lafontant estimated that at least nine months would be necessary “to correct the numerous anomalies that tarnished the days of August 9 and October 25, and to hold, this time, a free, fair and inclusive process.”

Lafontant despaired that Haiti’s political class was trapping itself by agreeing to the demands of the so-called “Friends of Haiti” (Core Group, OAS, EU, UNDP etc.): “Once again, the pressure of the international community is pushing us to make bad choices.” Indeed, since the signing of the accord, the Core Group and the UN have stressed that Haiti’s elections must be completed “swiftly” and “as quickly as possible.” Nor have international actors hid their view that, whatever fraud or irregularities may have occurred, these were not significant enough to merit an investigation.

The political accord has temporarily eased political tensions, but it may also effectively rule out the opposition’s most fundamental demand concerning a verification inquiry due to the extremely short timetable adopted. Prime Minister Evans Paul has urged all sides that dialogue is “the only weapon that we should use.” “We don’t need to mobilize people on the streets anymore, because all the demands expressed on streets are now on the table of state institutions.” To realize their demands in spite of the accord’s contradictions and limitations, opposition protesters may again take to the streets.

Perhaps most troubling is that the very real weapons of the ex-FAdH, and not just dialogue, are now weighing in the balance. “It’s all nice and jolly, but there are real problems,” political scientist Robert Fatton Jr. told the New York Times. Pro-government paramilitary groups that clashed with opposition protesters on February 5 could engage in violent resistance, Fatton warned, should a verification commission determine that different candidates should proceed to the runoff, or that the election results should be scrapped altogether. “The old military people that are out on the streets are sending a clear signal to opposition groups: ‘If you don’t accept this compromise, we are out here, with weapons,’ ” Mr. Fatton said. “No one knows who was in charge of these people. Everyone assumes they are in fact armed people and armed by the Michel Martelly regime, otherwise they would not be so free to go to the streets.” In sum, the political accord has cooled down the situation for now, but Haiti’s political scene remains dangerously polarized.

The following has been cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog. The agreement itself can be found at the original source. 

Update: Jocelerme Privert has been elected provisional president by the National Assembly.

President Michel Martelly managed to reach a political accord with the heads of Haiti’s parliament on the creation of a transitional government, averting a potentially dangerous political vacuum. In keeping with the deal, Martelly stepped down on February 7, meeting a major demand of his opponents. But the accord also gives a great deal of power to a contested Parliament and fixes a time frame for the transition that would appear to rule out any real investigation of fraud in the previous rounds of elections. With pro-Martelly members of Haiti’s disbanded military (FAdH) on the march, the spectre of another, more violent round of political unrest hangs over the agreement. Given the accord’s many ambiguities and contradictions, Haiti’s electoral crisis has yet to be solved.

The deal’s text, entitled “Political Accord for institutional continuity upon the end of the term of office of the President of the Republic and in the absence of a President-elect and for the continuation of the 2015 electoral process,” was finalized at 1am on Friday night, after 28 meetings between various actors. President Martelly, Senate President Jocelerme Privert and Chamber of Deputies President Chancy Cholzer signed at the National Palace on Saturday, February 6. The solution found by the Executive and the lawmakers was “inspired by constitutional dispositions” rather than directly derived from the Haitian Constitution, because the Constitution did not clearly indicate what was supposed to happen when a president’s term ended without an elected successor in place.

The political accord confirmed Martelly’s departure on the constitutionally mandated end of his term on February 7 and provided a roadmap for the establishment of a provisional government. A provisional president will be elected by the National Assembly (a joint body of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate) within five days of the signing of the accord, while executive power will be exercised in the interim by current Prime Minister Evans Paul and the Council of Ministers. Parliament has already established a bicameral committee to receive and vet applications for the post, and if all goes well, a provisional president will be sworn in on February 14. The mandate of the provisional president is limited to a maximum of 120 days, starting from the day they assume office.

The provisional president is tasked with “redynamizing” the currently “dysfunctional” CEP and finding a “consensus” Prime Minister. To do so, the political accord gives the provisional president the responsibility to establish a broad consultation process with Haitian society and the two Chambers of parliament mandate is find a consensus Prime Minister, who will then form a government and be confirmed by Parliament. Although not stated in the accord’s text, the New York Times reported that Martelly had made “an important concession” during the negotiations, agreeing to allow a member of an opposition party to be selected as interim president.

The provisional president is also called on to convoke the various social sectors to delegate new representatives (or confirm existing ones) to the CEP. At present, the CEP has only three of nine members, meaning it lacks the necessary two-third quorum for publishing electoral results. Just as important, the credibility of the current CEP has been badly eroded by corruption scandals and its complicity in Martelly’s efforts to ram through fraudulent elections despite strong opposition.

Once in place, the “redynamized” CEP will ensure the “continuation of the electoral process initiated during 2015,” according the agreement. The steps to be taken include the implementation of the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission and the finalization of municipal election results, followed by the organization of “second round of presidential elections, partial legislative elections, and local elections.” The accord fixes April 24 as the date for these elections, with final results proclaimed on May 6 and an elected president installed on May 14. Many commentators, including Senate President Privert, have pointed out that this calendar is only tentative, since only the CEP has the authority to officially set election dates.

Although the political accord’s signatories claimed to be “seeking a broad consensus of all vital forces of the nation,” support for the agreement was not unanimous. Almost immediately after it was signed, the deal was denounced in the streets by opposition protesters. The Group of Eight (G-8) characterized the agreement as “anti-popular and anti-democratic” and the Front du Refus et de la Résistance Patriotique, a grouping of political and civil society leaders, which called the deal “stillborn.” The G-30, another grouping of presidential candidates, announced that it will challenge the political accord’s legality. These critics charged that the deal did not taken into account a sufficiently wide range of perspectives. Senate President Jocelerme Privert admitted that some opposition lawmakers disagreed with the accord reached by Martelly and legislators, but Privert said they would have to accept the majority’s decision. “This is the democratic way,” he said. Some pro-Martelly legislators have also expressed discontent with the deal.

The accord confers upon Parliament a major role in the process of establishing a transitional government. Many critics, however, have questioned this aspect of the accord, given the shaky democratic credentials of many in Parliament. Gotson Pierre, editor of Alterpresse, noted that the formation of a transitional government “seems risky for a contested and incomplete Parliament (116 parliamentarians of 149), enjoying a weak legitimacy.” Given the violence and fraud that accompanied the legislative elections, Pierre warned Parliament not to “seek to take advantage of the crisis and to impose its formula without any collaboration with the rest of society and the other [governmental] powers.”

In a statement drafted by Samuel Madistin on behalf of the G-8, the outsized role given to Parliament by the accord was denounced even more strenuously as a “parliamentary coup d’État” carried out by “improperly elected parliamentarians.” It was not clear whether Jude Célestin, whose support has been crucial for the G-8, backed Madistin’s statement. Representatives of Jude Célestin’s party, LAPEH, have stated on the radio that the G-8 statements regarding the accord were drafted without their input. “Parliament is part of the crisis and cannot, as a consequence, decide on the solution,” Madistin argued. The “supposed accord attempts to validate the 2015 elections as if they were normal, without taking into account popular opposition.” As such,the accord constituted “a provocation” to the popular masses, to whom the signatories had showed “an unacceptable disdain.” The G-8 continues to put forward its preferred solution of having the provisional president selected from the Cour de Cassation, though Madistin’s claim that a “general consensus” in favour of this option is hard to believe. Madistin, presidential candidate for MOPOD, has been the only signer of the G-8’s statements recently.

The concerns about the place of Parliament in the transition are not unrelated to the major demand of the protesters and the opposition parties: a full and independent investigation of electoral fraud. The G-8 and Fanmi Lavalas, as well as many political observers, continue to demand an independent investigative commission to examine both the August 9 and October 25 elections. The accord, however, is very ambiguous about how (or even whether) this demand will be addressed. On the one hand, the accord gives some reason for the opposition to hope, as it states that elections will only proceed “after an evaluation of the phases already completed.” On the other hand, many key elements – the language of “restarting” and “continuing” the electoral process, the emphasis on implementing the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission, and the very explicit indication that the next set of elections will be for second-round presidential and partial legislative elections – all suggest that scope of the evaluation might be quite limited.

In an interview given to journalist Jean-Michel Caroît shortly before the accord was finalized, Privert indicated that he considered a far-reaching investigation unlikely. Asked whether or not the presidential elections would go forward on the basis of the announced October 25 results, Privert told Caroît:

That is the whole debate: Do we redo the elections or continue the process initiated in 2015? The duration of the transition will depend on the choice we make. I cannot easily see how we could put into question everything that has been done.

Thus, the shorter the transition period, the less feasible a thorough-going evaluation of electoral fraud in previous rounds.

Along these lines, management consultant André Lafontant Jr. has argued that by establishing such a short transition period, the political accord “implies conducting no investigation prior to the holding of elections.” Lafontant dismissed the pretense that good and credible elections could be organized within 120 days, as specified by the accord and endorsed by the international community, as “fantastical” and “unrealistic.” Based on his experience as a staffer for CEP member Lourdes Edith Joseph, Lafontant estimated that at least nine months would be necessary “to correct the numerous anomalies that tarnished the days of August 9 and October 25, and to hold, this time, a free, fair and inclusive process.”

Lafontant despaired that Haiti’s political class was trapping itself by agreeing to the demands of the so-called “Friends of Haiti” (Core Group, OAS, EU, UNDP etc.): “Once again, the pressure of the international community is pushing us to make bad choices.” Indeed, since the signing of the accord, the Core Group and the UN have stressed that Haiti’s elections must be completed “swiftly” and “as quickly as possible.” Nor have international actors hid their view that, whatever fraud or irregularities may have occurred, these were not significant enough to merit an investigation.

The political accord has temporarily eased political tensions, but it may also effectively rule out the opposition’s most fundamental demand concerning a verification inquiry due to the extremely short timetable adopted. Prime Minister Evans Paul has urged all sides that dialogue is “the only weapon that we should use.” “We don’t need to mobilize people on the streets anymore, because all the demands expressed on streets are now on the table of state institutions.” To realize their demands in spite of the accord’s contradictions and limitations, opposition protesters may again take to the streets.

Perhaps most troubling is that the very real weapons of the ex-FAdH, and not just dialogue, are now weighing in the balance. “It’s all nice and jolly, but there are real problems,” political scientist Robert Fatton Jr. told the New York Times. Pro-government paramilitary groups that clashed with opposition protesters on February 5 could engage in violent resistance, Fatton warned, should a verification commission determine that different candidates should proceed to the runoff, or that the election results should be scrapped altogether. “The old military people that are out on the streets are sending a clear signal to opposition groups: ‘If you don’t accept this compromise, we are out here, with weapons,’ ” Mr. Fatton said. “No one knows who was in charge of these people. Everyone assumes they are in fact armed people and armed by the Michel Martelly regime, otherwise they would not be so free to go to the streets.” In sum, the political accord has cooled down the situation for now, but Haiti’s political scene remains dangerously polarized.

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