Martelly to Meet with Obama in Washington Today, Elections Top Agenda

February 06, 2014

The Associated Press reports today:

President Barack Obama is hosting Haitian President Michel Martelly for talks on Haiti’s economic and political future.

Martelly will be at the White House on Thursday, a day after he met with Secretary of State John Kerry. It’s the first official sit-down between Obama and Martelly.

As the AP and Miami Herald report, Martelly met yesterday with Secretary of State John Kerry as well as with key members of the House of Representatives. At the top of the agenda, reports the Miami Herald, is the holding of long overdue legislative and local elections, originally scheduled to take place in April 2011 and May 2012. White House Assistant Press Secretary Jonathan Lalley told reporters that the U.S. wants to see elections “that are free, fair and transparent, that allow Haitians to express their views as part of the political process, and that provide the political stability that is critical for Haiti’s continued progress.”

Kerry, meanwhile, praised Martelly for “the enormous commitment that he has made to transition from reconstruction into a long-term development program. And under his leadership, elections are now on the horizon, which could for the first time provide the filling out of all of the electoral positions to Haiti.”

2014 is now the third straight year that the Haitian government has pledged to hold elections, with similar pledges in 2012 and 2013 proving hollow. The last election in Haiti, conducted within the first year after the devastating 2010 earthquake, was plagued by low turnout, political parties being prevented from participating and serious problems with voter registration, among other issues. On election day, 12 of the 19 presidential candidates called a press conference to denounce the election and call for their annulment. Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional law professor and Martelly, the two highest profile candidates to denounce the election each received a call the day afterward from the head of the U.N. military contingent in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Edmond Mulet. Mulet, desperately trying to keep the electoral process moving, told each of them that they were ahead in the race. They both quickly walked back from their statements from the previous day.

After the problematic first round of voting, a CEPR statistical analysis found that “based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round,” and that “If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.” Eventually, and following a visit by Secretary of State Clinton and other more explicit threats, Haiti agreed to have an expert panel from the Organization of American States (OAS) come and determine who would proceed to the election’s second round. That panel’s report, in which there was neither a recount nor even a statistical analysis of the results, overturned the decision of the Haitian electoral authority, replacing Celestin with Martelly. It was an unprecedented usurpation for any review body – domestic or international. Normally, in a disputed election, the results are either accepted or, there is a recount, and the results can be changed. If the results are too flawed to correctly determine a winner, new elections can be held. Never have election results simply been reversed according to the preferences of an international commission.

In response, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) issued a statement urging “the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.” The CBC had warned before the first round that the holding of such unfair elections “will come back to haunt the international community later.”

Martelly would go on to handily win in the run-off election, albeit with record low voter participation.

The U.S. was the largest funder of the 2010 elections and is again funding the current electoral process through the United Nations Development Program as well as through the National Democratic Institute and the International Federation of Electoral Systems. But despite the millions of dollars in support, and previous high-level calls for elections to be held as soon as possible, elections currently remain unscheduled.

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