September 24, 2013
The Organization of American States (OAS) will send electoral monitors to Haiti despite the election having not been scheduled, reports AFP. According to Frederic Bolduc, the OAS Special Representative to Haiti, the observers “intend to arrive several months in advance to help authorities register voters and then count votes.” Bolduc pointed out that setting the date of the election was up to the Haitian government and that the “OAS will not decide on a date.”
Elections, which were supposed to be held in November 2011, have yet to be scheduled as conflicts between the president and parliament over the electoral law continue. The head of the U.N. mission in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, told the U.N. Security Council (PDF) in late August that the “delay in the holding of long-overdue partial senatorial, municipal and local elections is of increasing concern and poses a series of risks to the stabilization process.” If elections are not held by January 2014, the terms of many parliamentarians will end, potentially shutting down an entire branch of Haiti’s government and allowing President Martelly to rule by decree.
On a trip to Washington D.C. last week, Haitian Senator Steven Benoit put the blame for the electoral delays squarely on Martelly. Benoit noted that “after two years of hide and seek” with the electoral reforms, formation of the electoral council and submission of the electoral law, there will not be time to reach an agreement before the terms of parliamentarians come to an end. Noting that Martelly told a crowd the previous week that for the next two years he would “run Haiti as he saw fit,” Benoit warned that “having President Martelly run Haiti without a Congress and without holding elections” would ensure a return to “political instability and turmoil.”
As with previous elections, the international community is footing the bill. A United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project, funded by the U.S., Canada, Brazil, the E.U. and others has already disbursed over $401,000 and has estimated the cost of holding elections to be over $32 million. The UNDP project aims to “strengthen the technical and strategic capabilities” of the Haitian electoral council, but the council itself has come under increasing scrutiny. Last week Benoit accused Martelly of having “done all he could to have a hand-picked electoral council.” According to AFP, the involvement of the OAS “elicited numerous complaints by opposition parties, which feel Haiti should determine its own ability to hold elections.” The reaction of the opposition may be a result of the OAS’s role during Haiti’s last election.
The election in November 2010, which led to Martelly becoming president, was plagued by record-high abstention, wide-spread fraud and the exclusion of over a dozen political parties. On election day, 13 of 19 candidates called for the election to be cancelled. The only independent analysis of the voting records, performed by the Center for Economic and Policy Research determined that it was “impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” due to the high number of irregularities. While Martelly was originally found to have placed third, thus missing out on the second round, the U.S. and other foreign powers were quick to cast doubt on the results. According to multiple reports, the international community “threatened” the sitting president “with immediate exile” if he did not “bow to their interpretation of election results.” Eventually an OAS delegation was brought to Haiti and, despite not conducting a statistical analysis, recommended overturning the first round results, thus putting Martelly into the second round.
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.”
Despite the warnings and calls for new elections, the OAS succeeded in overturning the first round elections, setting the stage for the Martelly presidency and, three years later, the political battle over another electoral process.