Just Over 2 Weeks from Election, For Most the Campaign Has Barely Begun

With legislative elections set to take place two weeks from Sunday, Haiti’s electoral campaign has barely gotten off the ground as most parties lack funds. The Haitian government, which committed over $10 million in funding for political parties and candidates, only Wednesday published the formula for the money’s disbursement, though as of yet there is no timeline for the distribution of funds. Meanwhile, the ruling party, PHTK, is already in full campaign mode, with President Martelly travelling the country to appear at political rallies.

“For two weeks after the launch of the electoral campaign some parties keep a low profile, very low. No ad in the media. No pictures of candidates or banners displayed in the streets,” Jean Jerome Perez wrote in Haiti’s leading newspaper, Le Nouvelliste last week. Political parties have largely stayed on the sidelines, waiting for funding coming from the Haitian government. Yesterday, after many delays, the government announced the formula for distributing the funds to political parties.

30 percent of the funds will go to political parties; 20 percent to presidential candidates; 10 percent to candidates for both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies; 20 percent to candidates in local elections and 10 percent will be distributed to parties with higher percentages of candidates who are women, highly educated or disabled, according to the Haitian government. Even political parties that are not fielding candidates will receive funding.

"This method tends to favor even more the parties close to power," Pierre Etienne, presidential candidate for OPL, told Le National. Etienne added that there are about fifty political parties created by the President and his allies. "It's a huge undertaking of fraud,” he added. There are also over 30 parties which registered with the electoral council but are not fielding legislative candidates.

On the other hand, the ruling party PHTK’s campaign is in full swing. President Martelly has been travelling across the country, appearing at campaign rallies with PHTK candidates despite criticism that he is abusing state resources. In an interview with Radio Kiskeya, Newton Saint-Juste, presidential candidates under the FREM banner, accused Martelly of already spending millions of dollars of state resources on the PHTK campaign.

Martelly has pushed back on this criticism, saying that he intends to travel the country and that “no one can stop him from campaigning for candidates of ‘Tet Kale,’” according to Le Nouvelliste. Martelly pointed out that the president must travel with his security and that involves state resources, but, pointing to the example of the United States, he added “[w]e do it in all countries.” Jean Fritz Jean-Louis, the Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister for electoral matters defended Martelly earlier this week, telling the press that the President is entitled to use the logistical resources of his office and was free to support the candidates of his choosing.

An editorial in today’s Le Nouvelliste by Lemoine Bonneau points out that neither former president Aristide nor Préval actively campaigned for legislative candidates in previous elections and called on Martelly “not to be the cause of clashes between supporters and opponents of candidates.” “This is not a wise choice for the President to take part in election rallies everywhere across the country,” the piece added.

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