It started early Sunday morning. Polling stations were late to open, voters were not finding their names on the lists, and general confusion reigned. In Corail, the “model” IDP camp, only 39 people were registered out of a camp population of thousands. The voting center was closed soon after it opened. Despite the chaotic scene on the ground, the head of MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet offered his rosy view that “In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful,” adding that “MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It’s an electoral celebration.”
But soon after, to the surprise of many, 12 of the 18 presidential candidates, from all sides of the political spectrum, held a press conference denouncing fraud and calling for the annullment of the elections. As Reuters described it on election day, “The repudiation of the elections dealt a blow to the credibility of the U.N.-supported poll.”
Yet the next morning, two of the leading candidates going into the election, Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly both walked back considerably from their previous position. Many news accounts have credited the about-face to the candidates likely ascension to the second round of voting, but Reuters provides a possible alternative motive:
But after 24 hours of intense pressure from UN officials and other foreign diplomats, two presidential front-runners, opposition matriarch Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly backed down and said they wanted the vote to be counted, saying they expected to be the election race leaders.
Martelly and Manigat’s about-face was used by the head of the MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet to signal that the election has “stabilized,” telling Reuters that “I’m more confident right now than I was two days ago” and adding that, “I think that the concerns and problems we were facing last Sunday are behind us and we’ll see what will happen in the next days.”
Pressure from the international community to accept the election results continued yesterday as Mulet went so far as to threaten to leave Haiti if the election was not accepted. AFP reports:
“The international community will pull out of Haiti and the country will not benefit from international support and resources if the popular will is not respected,” Mulet warned in an interview as the country awaited results from Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections.
On the other hand, Haitians continue to take to the streets to denounce the elections. Yesterday some 2000 protesters marched through Port-au-Prince “demanding a rerun of Sunday’s elections they said were skewed by fraud.” That numerous irregularities occured is not debated; despite saying the the flaws had not “necessarily invalidated the process,” the OAS-CARICOM mission did ackownledge a long list of problems. BBC’s Mark Doyle comments:
It is difficult, objectively, to square the long list of serious irregularities with the breezy OAS/Caricom conclusion.
In other countries, if observers had noted just one of the failures on this list – still less all of them – there would probably have been outpourings of condemnation.
Meanwhile, MINUSTAH, despite threatening to leave the country if the results are not accepted, asked for $864.1 million in additional financing for operations through June 2011. That is over five times as much as the UN is asking for to fight the cholera epidemic that has now claimed at least 1900 lives.
UPDATE 3:27 PM: In an Al-Jazeera video report, Sebastian Walker reports that Manigat and Martelly were both told by the UN that they were leading the race on Monday morning. Walker reports that, “The UN’s head of mission had informed her [Manigat], as early as Monday, that she was ahead in the vote.” Adding that, “Michel Martelly is another leading contender who has reversed his position on declaring the election void. And contacted by Al-Jazeera, his campaign team also confirmed they were told by the UN on the very same day that he was leading the race too.” Click here to watch the video report.