Differing Opinions on Changes to the Electoral Schedule

May 28, 2015

Last week, in a conversation with Haitian journalists in Washington, D.C., Thomas Adams, the Haiti special coordinator at the State Department, said the U.S. would be in favor of Haiti holding two elections this year instead of the planned three. The electoral timetable announced in March by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) called for the first round of legislative elections to be held August 9, followed by a first-round presidential election and second round of legislative elections on October 25. Finally, the second round of the presidential election and local elections would be held in late December.

In an interview this past weekend with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, Adams explained:

there’s some discussion about going to two rounds of elections instead of three. The pros and cons of that, I think they’ll decide fairly soon whether they want to do that. That would give a little more time to the CEP and it would also save some money if they want to go that route. That is an option.

Moving the first round of the legislative election to the same day as the presidential election would save an estimated $30 million, according to Adams. But while the proposed changes have some support from political parties in Haiti, the CEP has remained steadfast that it is determined to follow the electoral calendar that was announced.

According to Alterpresse, Alix Richard, the vice president of the FUSION party commented that the party had “always sought the election in two stages,” and recommended a discussion between the executive, the CEP and political parties to reach a decision. Both the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD) – the party of former presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat – and the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) refused to comment directly on the proposal, saying that they were ready for elections at any time. However Pierre Étienne Saveur, director of OPL, criticized the manner in which Adam’s comments were received. He said that his recommendations would have been better served going through diplomatic channels as opposed to a public statement to the press.

Moise Jean Charles, of the opposition platform Pitit Dessalines, came out in favor of the reduction to two elections. Charles also noted that the change would save the CEP millions of dollars – the electoral body is currently facing a funding shortfall to the tune of over $20 million. Donor countries, including the U.S., have stated that they are ready to provide additional financing, but are waiting for steps to be taken by the Haitian government and electoral council before any disbursements are made.

Jean Charles also noted that holding three rounds of elections would be particularly costly for political parties, putting those close to the government and with access to funding in a stronger position. This echoes comments from political leaders made after the electoral calendar was first announced. Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, told LeNouvelliste in February that no political party can handle “the social and material costs of several elections in one year,” while Pierre-Etienne of OPL suggested that having three elections could be a strategy for “bankrupting” the opposition.   

In comments to Le Nouvelliste, CEP member Marie Carmelle Paul Austin was adamant that the original electoral timetable would be followed. “We do not have to change the electoral calendar. It was adopted on the basis of consensus with the political parties and the executive,” she told the paper. Paul Austin also discredited the idea that consolidating the elections would save $30 million, pointing to the rising electoral costs in previous years and to the fact that this year there are elections for president, the legislature and local leaders.

The Club of Madrid, a grouping of former presidents from around the world, visited the country from May 24-26 and at the end of their visit voiced support for sticking to the electoral timetable. While noting that it was up to Haitians to organize the elections, former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera told the press: “All politicians told us that elections would be held on the 9th of August,” adding, “I believe there is no reason not to have the elections in August.”

In the meantime, the list of candidates for legislative elections has been finalized, and following the contestation period a list of presidential candidates will be issued either Thursday or Friday, according to Le Nouvelliste

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