February 12, 2015
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, members of the CEP put forth their proposal for an electoral calendar leading up to presidential elections by the end of 2015. CEP president Pierre Louis Opont said they were considering holding legislative elections, including 20 of 30 Senate seats and the entire 99-member Chamber of Deputies, in July. The second round of the legislative elections would be held alongside Presidential elections on October 25, 2015 with the second round of the presidential race and local elections taking place sometime in January.
In a press release on February 9, the CEP said they had circulated a draft electoral decree to political parties for comment and would send it on to the executive by Friday, February 13 to be officially published (Laurette Backer posted a version of the draft electoral decree here). Political parties, civil society and other stakeholders were given until 4 PM Wednesday to submit their comments to the CEP, however many political groupings have stated they were not consulted prior to the CEP’s announcement.
Announcement Gets Mixed Reaction from Political Parties
The Fusion political party, which supports the government, denounced the CEP’s announcement. “I think the CEP was misguided to take such a decision without consultation. It’s a clumsy move, which could plunge the country into more difficulties,” a Fusion representative told Alterpresse. Fusion stated they had sent a letter to the government about their concerns with the CEP’s actions and reiterated their proposal of holding a single election in 2015 for all positions. Rosemand Pradel of Fusion told Le Nouvelliste that “Political parties are important actors in the electoral process, the CEP cannot define an electoral calendar on its own.”
Sauveur Pierre-Etienne, coordinator of OPL, stated that the CEP had yet to make contact with political parties and that he saw “shenanigans” in the announcement from the CEP. “The proposed electoral calendar is completely absurd,” Pierre-Etienne told Le Nouvelliste, “How do you organize elections spread out over a six-month period?“ According to Le Nouvelliste, he suggested that this could be a strategy aimed at “ruining” the opposition defined by the CEP and those in power.
John Henry Ceant of Renmen Ayiti pointed to the political agreement signed January 11 at the Kinam hotel, which stated that the CEP would find consensus between the presidency and political parties around the formation of the electoral law and timetable. “The CEP has put the cart before the horse,” Ceant told Le Nouvelliste.
Responses were relatively muted from opposition groups. MOPOD coordinator Jean André Victor told Alterpresse, “No, we have not yet considered the issue. We remain, for the moment [focused on] demonstrations supporting the departure of Michel Martelly from power.” Fanmi Lavalas, which was prevented from participating in the previous election, said in a statement to Alterpresse that the executive committee was “studying the situation.” In comments to Le Nouvelliste, Dr. Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas said the organization had yet to receive the draft electoral decree that the CEP said was sent to political parties last week. No political party can handle “the social and material costs of several elections in one year,” she added.
Role of International Community
In January, President Martelly called for legislative elections to be held by May, according to Haiti Libre, noting that, “According to some experts…we should wait at least 5-6 months to have the elections, which brings us to July-August. When we think to two rounds, each time, we must wait for the results, challenges, that brings us to October. So I feel that at this point, those proposing elections in six months are talking about one turn.” Among those that have advocated for legislative elections in July is U.S. Ambassador Pamela White, who reportedly relayed this preference to some of the remaining 10 Senators still in office at a meeting last week. In private meetings in Washington D.C., U.S. officials have continually stated a preference for one single election to take place in 2015, given the problems with logistics and funding.
As the primary funders of any electoral process, the international community will play a large role in determining the final timetable for 2015. In the 2010 electoral process, the international community intervened to change the first round results of presidential elections, without any statistical basis. The Haitian government’s eventual acceptance of the changes came only after significant pressure from the U.S. and other actors, including a visit of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The role of the international community in the 2010 elections was discussed at a recent roundtable held at Quisqueya University.
During a recent conversation in Port-au-Prince with HRRW, Ginette Cherubin, a member of the previous CEP and participant in the Quisqueya roundtable, explained that, “it is difficult to avoid the intervention of the international community when they finance the elections.” At yesterday’s press conference, Opont, who was the director general of the CEP in 2010, addressed these concerns. Le Nouvelliste reports:
Regarding a potential manipulation of the election results by foreign actors, Pierre Louis Opont wants to appear realistic: “I was there and today I’m still here. On behalf of my colleagues, I have to say that the reality has not changed.” The President of the Electoral Council nevertheless promises that this Council will itself change this reality through the manner in which it acts and behaves. In the manner in which it looks upon and applies the law. “We will respect the law and we will not let anyone trample on us,” he said.