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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The letters can be read here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The letters can be read here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presidential Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presidential Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston is in Haiti observing the electoral process. To keep up with the latest news from Sunday’s election, check out the Haiti Elections Blog. Johnston filed this story for VICE News today

After violence and fraud marred legislative elections in August, voting was significantly smoother throughout the country as Haitians went to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday. A total of 142 mayoral positions were also up for grabs, and second round elections were held for deputy and senate seats where the vote had not been cancelled in August.

“Decisions were taken to increase the security,” which led to a decrease in violent incidents, said the head of the Organization of American States observation mission, Celso Amorim, expressing his satisfaction with the process thus far. Heavily armed, masked police officers were visible throughout the day in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities.

Of 119 races for deputy, 25 had to be re-run after voting centers were ransacked or votes were thrown out due to fraud in the chaotic August vote. In three of Haiti’s ten departments, final senate results were postponed pending the outcome of the electoral reruns. But on Sunday, only 8 centers were closed, according to the government.

Haiti has had no parliament since a political crisis sparked its dissolution last January, meaning the legislative vote is crucial. Haitians are also hoping the new president can bring an end to the poverty and chaos that has plagued the country.

Prime Minister Evans Paul took to the radio in the afternoon to congratulate the police on the improvements. Criticized for passivity during the last election, the police took an active roll in maintaining order in polling centers.

Around 15,000 officers and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers were on duty, reported the BBC. The UN said 224 arrests were made, including a candidate for the lower chamber of Deputies and two Haiti National Police officers. In Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, an individual was arrested with 73 voter ID cards.

The head of the electoral council, Pierre Louis Opont, thanked the police for learning from August’s experience. “Today the police were up to the task,” he said. Opont called on political parties to remain calm and show patience while the votes were tallied.

Bruny Watson, a voter in the Cite-Soleil neighborhood, said he didn’t vote in August “because there was too much violence,” but he was determined to cast his ballot for president on Sunday. Turnout was a paltry 18 percent in the first-round election legislative election, but Amorim cited reports from observer teams throughout the country that indicated a significantly higher turnout this time around.

US congressional representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) were also in Haiti to observe the vote. The US has contributed $30 million to an electoral process that is expected to cost more than $70 million.

The three were among 61 members of congress to write to Secretary of State John Kerry to “send a clear message to the Haitian government underscoring the need to guarantee the security of voters.”

“What I saw today filled me with optimism about the future of Haiti,” Rep. Conyers told VICE News. The youth of Haiti had filled the polling booths, both as workers and voters, he said, adding that the majority “approached the process with seriousness and goodwill to support the democratic process.?”

Still, problems cropped up throughout the day. Many centers were late to open and in some areas Haitians were unable to find their names on voter lists. In some cases, there simply was nowhere to vote.

In Wharf Jeremie, one of the largest polling centers in August was simply gone, leaving residents unsure of where they were supposed to vote. Building 2004, another large voting center, was also non-existent on Sunday.

In Canaan, a sprawling hillside slum home to hundreds of thousands of people, including many of those displaced from the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti nearly six years ago, voters sometimes had to travel miles to the nearest voting center.

Once again, political party monitors were a source of tension and possible fraud. At 6am a long line had already formed outside the Horace Etheard voting center in the Solino neighborhood. In Haitian elections, political parties’ representatives, called mandataires, are allowed to monitor the vote inside polling centers. More than 100 were in line jockeying for position before the doors even opened.

One monitor was arrested at the Dumersais Estime voting center. Police caught him with two passes from two different political parties. Monitors were also witnessed exchanging passes outside centers, hoping to have multiple people vote with the same pass.

In another center, a monitor was kicked out after voting three times, according to poll workers. Some were not there to monitor at all. “They paid me to be a mandataire,” one monitor from the Fusion party commented, “but I’m voting Fanmi Lavalas today,” he said, while milling about outside a voting center.

Unlike in August when the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) failed to distribute enough accreditation passes to every party and allegations of favoritism were heard throughout the day, on Sunday, monitors from a plurality of parties were present and appeared to outnumber voters at many centers in the capital, occasionally overwhelming poll workers.

Because of the additional police forces expected to be present, many observers were optimistic that election day itself would be improved from August, yet pointed out that that is not the end of the process.

“It was better than August 9, but at the same time we must be very careful when it comes to the counting of votes and what happens at the tabulation center over the coming weeks,” said Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNNDDH). RNDDH is part of a coalition of civil society groups that had more than 1,800 observers present throughout the country.

To read the rest of the article, click here

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston is in Haiti observing the electoral process. To keep up with the latest news from Sunday’s election, check out the Haiti Elections Blog. Johnston filed this story for VICE News today

After violence and fraud marred legislative elections in August, voting was significantly smoother throughout the country as Haitians went to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday. A total of 142 mayoral positions were also up for grabs, and second round elections were held for deputy and senate seats where the vote had not been cancelled in August.

“Decisions were taken to increase the security,” which led to a decrease in violent incidents, said the head of the Organization of American States observation mission, Celso Amorim, expressing his satisfaction with the process thus far. Heavily armed, masked police officers were visible throughout the day in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities.

Of 119 races for deputy, 25 had to be re-run after voting centers were ransacked or votes were thrown out due to fraud in the chaotic August vote. In three of Haiti’s ten departments, final senate results were postponed pending the outcome of the electoral reruns. But on Sunday, only 8 centers were closed, according to the government.

Haiti has had no parliament since a political crisis sparked its dissolution last January, meaning the legislative vote is crucial. Haitians are also hoping the new president can bring an end to the poverty and chaos that has plagued the country.

Prime Minister Evans Paul took to the radio in the afternoon to congratulate the police on the improvements. Criticized for passivity during the last election, the police took an active roll in maintaining order in polling centers.

Around 15,000 officers and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers were on duty, reported the BBC. The UN said 224 arrests were made, including a candidate for the lower chamber of Deputies and two Haiti National Police officers. In Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, an individual was arrested with 73 voter ID cards.

The head of the electoral council, Pierre Louis Opont, thanked the police for learning from August’s experience. “Today the police were up to the task,” he said. Opont called on political parties to remain calm and show patience while the votes were tallied.

Bruny Watson, a voter in the Cite-Soleil neighborhood, said he didn’t vote in August “because there was too much violence,” but he was determined to cast his ballot for president on Sunday. Turnout was a paltry 18 percent in the first-round election legislative election, but Amorim cited reports from observer teams throughout the country that indicated a significantly higher turnout this time around.

US congressional representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) were also in Haiti to observe the vote. The US has contributed $30 million to an electoral process that is expected to cost more than $70 million.

The three were among 61 members of congress to write to Secretary of State John Kerry to “send a clear message to the Haitian government underscoring the need to guarantee the security of voters.”

“What I saw today filled me with optimism about the future of Haiti,” Rep. Conyers told VICE News. The youth of Haiti had filled the polling booths, both as workers and voters, he said, adding that the majority “approached the process with seriousness and goodwill to support the democratic process.?”

Still, problems cropped up throughout the day. Many centers were late to open and in some areas Haitians were unable to find their names on voter lists. In some cases, there simply was nowhere to vote.

In Wharf Jeremie, one of the largest polling centers in August was simply gone, leaving residents unsure of where they were supposed to vote. Building 2004, another large voting center, was also non-existent on Sunday.

In Canaan, a sprawling hillside slum home to hundreds of thousands of people, including many of those displaced from the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti nearly six years ago, voters sometimes had to travel miles to the nearest voting center.

Once again, political party monitors were a source of tension and possible fraud. At 6am a long line had already formed outside the Horace Etheard voting center in the Solino neighborhood. In Haitian elections, political parties’ representatives, called mandataires, are allowed to monitor the vote inside polling centers. More than 100 were in line jockeying for position before the doors even opened.

One monitor was arrested at the Dumersais Estime voting center. Police caught him with two passes from two different political parties. Monitors were also witnessed exchanging passes outside centers, hoping to have multiple people vote with the same pass.

In another center, a monitor was kicked out after voting three times, according to poll workers. Some were not there to monitor at all. “They paid me to be a mandataire,” one monitor from the Fusion party commented, “but I’m voting Fanmi Lavalas today,” he said, while milling about outside a voting center.

Unlike in August when the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) failed to distribute enough accreditation passes to every party and allegations of favoritism were heard throughout the day, on Sunday, monitors from a plurality of parties were present and appeared to outnumber voters at many centers in the capital, occasionally overwhelming poll workers.

Because of the additional police forces expected to be present, many observers were optimistic that election day itself would be improved from August, yet pointed out that that is not the end of the process.

“It was better than August 9, but at the same time we must be very careful when it comes to the counting of votes and what happens at the tabulation center over the coming weeks,” said Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNNDDH). RNDDH is part of a coalition of civil society groups that had more than 1,800 observers present throughout the country.

To read the rest of the article, click here

Date on which first round presidential, second round legislative and mayoral elections will be held: October 25, 2015

Number of candidates for president: 54

Number of registered political parties: 128

Number of candidates for local and mayoral races: 41,000

Year in which terms expired and mayors were replaced by political appointees: 2012

Earliest date on which preliminary results are expected: November 3, 2015

Date on which presidential run-off, legislative reruns and local races will be held: December 27, 2015

Date that first-round legislative elections were held: August 9, 2015

Number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, respectively that were up for grabs in the first-round: 119 and 20

Number of candidates who were elected in the first round in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, respectively: 8 and 2

Participation rate during the first-round: 18%

Participation in the West department, home to over 40% of registered voters: 9.8%

Percent of 13,725 voting booths where no votes were counted during first-round Senate elections due to irregularities: 24.3

Number of electoral districts where first-round deputy races must be held: 25

Number of candidates sanctioned for their role in electoral disturbances: 16

Of Haiti’s 10 departments, number that did not announce first-round Senate results due to irregularities: 3

Number of departments where President Martelly’s PHTK party was involved in electoral irregularities, according to the CEP: 6

Total electoral budget: $74 million

United States contribution to electoral budget: $30 million

Amount spent on electoral campaign by Presidential candidate Eric Jean Baptiste, who is not considered a front-runner: $5 million

Maximum amount a presidential candidate is allowed to spend on the campaign, according to Haiti’s electoral decree: $2 million

Number of polling centers across the country: 1,508

Number of polling booths: 13,725

Average number of polling stations per voting center: 9.1

Accreditation badges distributed to political party monitors: 13,725

Date on which terms expired for the entire chamber of deputy’s a third of the Senate: January 12, 2015

Total registered voters: 5,871,450

Number of poll workers in October 25 elections: 41,175

Number of police deployed for October 25 elections: 10,000

Number of U.N. troops and police present: 2,502

Number of OAS observers deployed on October 25: 125

Number of observers deployed by civil society groups RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE, on October 25: 1,800

Sources: Miami Herald, Le National, Provisional Electoral Council, Haiti:Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Haiti Elections Blog

Date on which first round presidential, second round legislative and mayoral elections will be held: October 25, 2015

Number of candidates for president: 54

Number of registered political parties: 128

Number of candidates for local and mayoral races: 41,000

Year in which terms expired and mayors were replaced by political appointees: 2012

Earliest date on which preliminary results are expected: November 3, 2015

Date on which presidential run-off, legislative reruns and local races will be held: December 27, 2015

Date that first-round legislative elections were held: August 9, 2015

Number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, respectively that were up for grabs in the first-round: 119 and 20

Number of candidates who were elected in the first round in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, respectively: 8 and 2

Participation rate during the first-round: 18%

Participation in the West department, home to over 40% of registered voters: 9.8%

Percent of 13,725 voting booths where no votes were counted during first-round Senate elections due to irregularities: 24.3

Number of electoral districts where first-round deputy races must be held: 25

Number of candidates sanctioned for their role in electoral disturbances: 16

Of Haiti’s 10 departments, number that did not announce first-round Senate results due to irregularities: 3

Number of departments where President Martelly’s PHTK party was involved in electoral irregularities, according to the CEP: 6

Total electoral budget: $74 million

United States contribution to electoral budget: $30 million

Amount spent on electoral campaign by Presidential candidate Eric Jean Baptiste, who is not considered a front-runner: $5 million

Maximum amount a presidential candidate is allowed to spend on the campaign, according to Haiti’s electoral decree: $2 million

Number of polling centers across the country: 1,508

Number of polling booths: 13,725

Average number of polling stations per voting center: 9.1

Accreditation badges distributed to political party monitors: 13,725

Date on which terms expired for the entire chamber of deputy’s a third of the Senate: January 12, 2015

Total registered voters: 5,871,450

Number of poll workers in October 25 elections: 41,175

Number of police deployed for October 25 elections: 10,000

Number of U.N. troops and police present: 2,502

Number of OAS observers deployed on October 25: 125

Number of observers deployed by civil society groups RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE, on October 25: 1,800

Sources: Miami Herald, Le National, Provisional Electoral Council, Haiti:Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Haiti Elections Blog

Recently released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveal new details of how U.S. officials worked closely with the Haitian private sector as they forced Haitian authorities to change the results of the first round presidential elections in late 2010. The e-mails documenting these “behind the doors actions” were made public as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Preliminary results from the deeply flawed 2010 presidential and legislative elections were announced on December 7, 2010, showing René Préval’s hand-picked successor Jude Célestin and university professor Mirlande Manigat advancing to a second-round runoff. The same day, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti released a statement questioning the legitimacy of the announced results.

Behind the scenes, key actors were already pushing for Célestin to withdraw from the race, according to the e-mails.  Just a day after preliminary results were announced, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten wrote to Cheryl Mills, Tom Adams and Daniel Restrepo, all key State Department Haiti staff. “Boulos + private sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw + they would support RP staying til 7 Feb.” “This is big,” the ambassador added.

HRC email merten

“Boulos” here refers to Reginald Boulos, one of the largest industrialists in Haiti and a member of the Private Sector Economic Forum. Importantly, Boulos also suggested they would support Préval staying in office through February 7, but with the election delayed due to the earthquake, a new president would not be able to take office by then. Many had advocated for Préval’s early departure, and during a meeting of international officials on election day, Préval was even threatened with being forced out of the country.

The e-mail also shows that Merten was in close contact with Michel Martelly’s campaign. Protests had already broken out across Port-au-Prince and in other cities throughout Haiti, with protesters alleging that their preferred candidate, Michel Martelly, should be in the runoff. Merten writes 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.” Documents obtained through a separate FOIA request have shown that a key group behind the protests later received support from USAID and went on to play a role in the formation of Martelly’s political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale.

The following day, as per Merten’s suggestion in the e-mail, the U.S. Embassy released another statement calling for calm and urging political actors to “work through Haiti’s electoral contestation process to address any electoral concerns.” As the e-mail reveals, however, efforts were underway to remove Célestin from the race before any contestation process could even begin.

Cheryl Mills’ response to Merten’s email is redacted, as is Merten’s response to that, save for one word: “Understand.”

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 Michel Martelly. Pressure began building on the Haitian government to accept the recommendations. Government officials had their U.S. visas revoked and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. 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. Mills forwarded to Rice an AFP article on the threat with a comment: “I want to make sure we are synched up over the next several sensitive days on Haiti.”

Eventually, Hillary Clinton traveled to Haiti in late January 2011 to apply further pressure on the government. The day before the trip, there was an ongoing discussion among State Department staff about potential backlash against the international community and the U.S. Mills forwarded Clinton an e-mail from Laura (the last name has been redacted, but it is likely Laura Graham, an official with the Clinton Foundation) with the message: “Let’s discuss this on plane.”

“Laura”, in a long, typo-filled note, warns that the international community and U.S. are “taking hits and looking like villan [sic].”  “I think you need to consider a message and outreach strategy to ensure that different elements of haitian [sic] society (church leaders, business, etc) buy into the mms [Michel Martelly] solution and are out their [sic] on radio messaging why its [sic] good,” Laura adds. Clinton responds to Mills: “Bill talked to me about this and is quite worried about what I do and say tomorrow.”

“As we all are,” Mills responds, passing along talking points for the following day’s Haiti trip:

We are also here with a simple message with respect to the elections: the voices of the people of Haiti must be heard. The votes of the people of Haiti must be counted fairly. And the outcome of this process must reflect the true will of the Haitian people. That is the only interest of the United States. We will stand in solidarity with all those pursuing these goals, and we will stand against those who seek to undermine them.

HRC email backlash

Regardless of concerns over a backlash, Clinton was successful in getting Célestin to withdraw from the race. “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, the prime minister at the time, Jean-Max Bellerive, told me in an interview earlier this year. After a second-round contest with exceptionally low turnout, Martelly was named the winner over Manigat.

Boulos was quick to follow up after Clinton’s visit. In a long e-mail to Mills one day after the visit, Boulos asked that his thanks be passed on to the then secretary of state.

HRC email boulos

Boulos cites the private sector’s “behind the doors actions” as having “played a major role” in getting the elections “back on track” by getting Préval to “request the OAS mission, by publicly denouncing the results of the 1st round, and as late as yesterday morning (3 hours meeting with Preval) by convincing him to drop the idea of annulment of the elections.” Boulos boasted: “Everyone in the diplomatic circles and among the Haitian political leaders will confirm the role played by the Private Sector Economic Forum over the past 6 months.”

Boulos also requested that the U.S. continue its support for him and for other Haitian business elites. “We need your support to continue to build a strong and ethical private sector,” he wrote. Boulos’ commitment to building an ethical private sector is questionable, to say the least. During the 1991-1994 coup d’État, Boulos ran a USAID-funded clinic in Cité Soleil which was accused of collaborating with FRAPH, a paramilitary death squad responsible for many killings in the slum.  More recently, in January 2006, following the 2004 coup against Haiti’s democratically elected government, Boulos was among a group of Haitian elites who lobbied the U.S. embassy to pressure U.N. troops to conduct assaults on Cité Soleil, and “for more ammunition for the police” to do likewise, which the U.S. charge d’affaires noted would “inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties.” A State Department cable notes: “Boulos began reading off a specific list of needed ammunition …” (The charge, Timothy Carney, green lighted the request, as WikiLeaked cables reveal, and as we discuss in the new book, “The WikiLeaks Files.”) 

Fast forward nearly five years and Haiti once again finds itself embroiled in an electoral controversy, with the U.S., Boulos and the Private Sector Economic Forum again playing leading roles. After violence and fraud-marred first-round legislative races were held in August, the electoral council (CEP) and Haitian government have come under increasing scrutiny. Once again, protests have taken place, calling for the resignation of the CEP and in some cases the outright annulment of the elections.

Rather than cast doubt on the results, the U.S. has supported the process. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Pamela White called the elections, “not perfect, but acceptable.” “It’s 2010 all over again, but instead of against Preval, it’s for Martelly,” a leader of the Vérite political platform, Préval’s new party, told me in August. On October 6, Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Haiti to discuss the elections with Martelly.  He was joined by the State Department’s new Haiti Special Coordinator, Kenneth Merten, who assumed the post on August 17.

For their part, the Private Sector Economic Forum and Reginald Boulos have also provided support to the process. Boulos was part of a presidential advisory commission in late 2014 that recommended jettisoning Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and forming a consensus government to take Haiti forward to the current elections. As part of the agreement to form a new government, the Private Sector Economic Forum was also made responsible for nominating one of the nine members to the electoral council. Pierre Louis Opont was put forward as its representative. Opont was the director general of the CEP in 2010 and acknowledged in an interview earlier this year that the U.S. State Department and OAS observers manipulated the results of that election. He is the president of the current CEP.

In February, Prime Minister Evans Paul (himself part of the presidential advisory commission) met with the Private Sector Economic Forum in order to establish a public-private partnership to create a “climate conducive to free, fair and democratic elections.”

While trust in the electoral process and the institution responsible for guiding it has eroded since the August 9 vote, Boulos and the Private Sector Economic Forum have come out publicly in support of the CEP. In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, Boulos stated that it was “one of the best CEPs we have had.” “The CEP is not perfect but it is a CEP that has done its best, perhaps, that has made many mistakes and has acknowledged its mistakes,” Boulos told the paper. “I heard the president of the CEP say that the Council will make corrections. We should trust that he will make corrections.” “The process is advancing, the presidential campaign is on the right track,” declared Gregory Brandt, the president of the business grouping, in the same article. Brandt told the paper that he had a meeting with Opont “next week.”

First-round presidential elections as well as the second-round of the legislative elections will be held October 25.

Recently released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveal new details of how U.S. officials worked closely with the Haitian private sector as they forced Haitian authorities to change the results of the first round presidential elections in late 2010. The e-mails documenting these “behind the doors actions” were made public as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Preliminary results from the deeply flawed 2010 presidential and legislative elections were announced on December 7, 2010, showing René Préval’s hand-picked successor Jude Célestin and university professor Mirlande Manigat advancing to a second-round runoff. The same day, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti released a statement questioning the legitimacy of the announced results.

Behind the scenes, key actors were already pushing for Célestin to withdraw from the race, according to the e-mails.  Just a day after preliminary results were announced, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten wrote to Cheryl Mills, Tom Adams and Daniel Restrepo, all key State Department Haiti staff. “Boulos + private sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw + they would support RP staying til 7 Feb.” “This is big,” the ambassador added.

HRC email merten

“Boulos” here refers to Reginald Boulos, one of the largest industrialists in Haiti and a member of the Private Sector Economic Forum. Importantly, Boulos also suggested they would support Préval staying in office through February 7, but with the election delayed due to the earthquake, a new president would not be able to take office by then. Many had advocated for Préval’s early departure, and during a meeting of international officials on election day, Préval was even threatened with being forced out of the country.

The e-mail also shows that Merten was in close contact with Michel Martelly’s campaign. Protests had already broken out across Port-au-Prince and in other cities throughout Haiti, with protesters alleging that their preferred candidate, Michel Martelly, should be in the runoff. Merten writes 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.” Documents obtained through a separate FOIA request have shown that a key group behind the protests later received support from USAID and went on to play a role in the formation of Martelly’s political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale.

The following day, as per Merten’s suggestion in the e-mail, the U.S. Embassy released another statement calling for calm and urging political actors to “work through Haiti’s electoral contestation process to address any electoral concerns.” As the e-mail reveals, however, efforts were underway to remove Célestin from the race before any contestation process could even begin.

Cheryl Mills’ response to Merten’s email is redacted, as is Merten’s response to that, save for one word: “Understand.”

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 Michel Martelly. Pressure began building on the Haitian government to accept the recommendations. Government officials had their U.S. visas revoked and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. 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. Mills forwarded to Rice an AFP article on the threat with a comment: “I want to make sure we are synched up over the next several sensitive days on Haiti.”

Eventually, Hillary Clinton traveled to Haiti in late January 2011 to apply further pressure on the government. The day before the trip, there was an ongoing discussion among State Department staff about potential backlash against the international community and the U.S. Mills forwarded Clinton an e-mail from Laura (the last name has been redacted, but it is likely Laura Graham, an official with the Clinton Foundation) with the message: “Let’s discuss this on plane.”

“Laura”, in a long, typo-filled note, warns that the international community and U.S. are “taking hits and looking like villan [sic].”  “I think you need to consider a message and outreach strategy to ensure that different elements of haitian [sic] society (church leaders, business, etc) buy into the mms [Michel Martelly] solution and are out their [sic] on radio messaging why its [sic] good,” Laura adds. Clinton responds to Mills: “Bill talked to me about this and is quite worried about what I do and say tomorrow.”

“As we all are,” Mills responds, passing along talking points for the following day’s Haiti trip:

We are also here with a simple message with respect to the elections: the voices of the people of Haiti must be heard. The votes of the people of Haiti must be counted fairly. And the outcome of this process must reflect the true will of the Haitian people. That is the only interest of the United States. We will stand in solidarity with all those pursuing these goals, and we will stand against those who seek to undermine them.

HRC email backlash

Regardless of concerns over a backlash, Clinton was successful in getting Célestin to withdraw from the race. “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, the prime minister at the time, Jean-Max Bellerive, told me in an interview earlier this year. After a second-round contest with exceptionally low turnout, Martelly was named the winner over Manigat.

Boulos was quick to follow up after Clinton’s visit. In a long e-mail to Mills one day after the visit, Boulos asked that his thanks be passed on to the then secretary of state.

HRC email boulos

Boulos cites the private sector’s “behind the doors actions” as having “played a major role” in getting the elections “back on track” by getting Préval to “request the OAS mission, by publicly denouncing the results of the 1st round, and as late as yesterday morning (3 hours meeting with Preval) by convincing him to drop the idea of annulment of the elections.” Boulos boasted: “Everyone in the diplomatic circles and among the Haitian political leaders will confirm the role played by the Private Sector Economic Forum over the past 6 months.”

Boulos also requested that the U.S. continue its support for him and for other Haitian business elites. “We need your support to continue to build a strong and ethical private sector,” he wrote. Boulos’ commitment to building an ethical private sector is questionable, to say the least. During the 1991-1994 coup d’État, Boulos ran a USAID-funded clinic in Cité Soleil which was accused of collaborating with FRAPH, a paramilitary death squad responsible for many killings in the slum.  More recently, in January 2006, following the 2004 coup against Haiti’s democratically elected government, Boulos was among a group of Haitian elites who lobbied the U.S. embassy to pressure U.N. troops to conduct assaults on Cité Soleil, and “for more ammunition for the police” to do likewise, which the U.S. charge d’affaires noted would “inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties.” A State Department cable notes: “Boulos began reading off a specific list of needed ammunition …” (The charge, Timothy Carney, green lighted the request, as WikiLeaked cables reveal, and as we discuss in the new book, “The WikiLeaks Files.”) 

Fast forward nearly five years and Haiti once again finds itself embroiled in an electoral controversy, with the U.S., Boulos and the Private Sector Economic Forum again playing leading roles. After violence and fraud-marred first-round legislative races were held in August, the electoral council (CEP) and Haitian government have come under increasing scrutiny. Once again, protests have taken place, calling for the resignation of the CEP and in some cases the outright annulment of the elections.

Rather than cast doubt on the results, the U.S. has supported the process. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Pamela White called the elections, “not perfect, but acceptable.” “It’s 2010 all over again, but instead of against Preval, it’s for Martelly,” a leader of the Vérite political platform, Préval’s new party, told me in August. On October 6, Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Haiti to discuss the elections with Martelly.  He was joined by the State Department’s new Haiti Special Coordinator, Kenneth Merten, who assumed the post on August 17.

For their part, the Private Sector Economic Forum and Reginald Boulos have also provided support to the process. Boulos was part of a presidential advisory commission in late 2014 that recommended jettisoning Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and forming a consensus government to take Haiti forward to the current elections. As part of the agreement to form a new government, the Private Sector Economic Forum was also made responsible for nominating one of the nine members to the electoral council. Pierre Louis Opont was put forward as its representative. Opont was the director general of the CEP in 2010 and acknowledged in an interview earlier this year that the U.S. State Department and OAS observers manipulated the results of that election. He is the president of the current CEP.

In February, Prime Minister Evans Paul (himself part of the presidential advisory commission) met with the Private Sector Economic Forum in order to establish a public-private partnership to create a “climate conducive to free, fair and democratic elections.”

While trust in the electoral process and the institution responsible for guiding it has eroded since the August 9 vote, Boulos and the Private Sector Economic Forum have come out publicly in support of the CEP. In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, Boulos stated that it was “one of the best CEPs we have had.” “The CEP is not perfect but it is a CEP that has done its best, perhaps, that has made many mistakes and has acknowledged its mistakes,” Boulos told the paper. “I heard the president of the CEP say that the Council will make corrections. We should trust that he will make corrections.” “The process is advancing, the presidential campaign is on the right track,” declared Gregory Brandt, the president of the business grouping, in the same article. Brandt told the paper that he had a meeting with Opont “next week.”

First-round presidential elections as well as the second-round of the legislative elections will be held October 25.

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