On Monday, August 10, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (Réseau national de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH)), the National Observation Council (Conseil national d'Observation (CNO)) and the Haitian Council of Non-State Actors (Conseil haïtien des Acteurs Non Etatiques (CONHANE ) released a critical report on the first round of legislative elections held on August 9.
In stark contrast to the positive assessments of the international community, RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE declared that “the Sunday election was marred by serious irregularities, acts of violence and fraud.” The three groups, which deployed 1,500 election observers on August 9 to oversee the voting process, stated in their preliminary report that at least 50% of voting centers were affected by incidents of violence, intimidation and electoral fraud. There were numerous other irregularities on voting day, such as voting centers opening late and closing early, inappropriate voting materials, and inadequately trained polling station staff. Turnout was also extremely low, according the report, possibly “the lowest ever recorded since the 1987 elections.”
RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE judged the election’s problems to be serious enough to put the legitimacy Haiti’s next parliament in question. For this reason, the three groups called upon “all actors involved at every level in the electoral process to avoid trivializing the facts recorded during this election,” and specifically recommended that the CEP “be wary of all those who claim that everything went well.”
The preliminary report contrasts sharply with the statements of the CEP and the international community. On August 9, the head of the European Union/Organization of American States observer delegation said the elections were happening with “almost total normalcy.” The CEP likewise insisted that, asides from isolated incidents that according to the electoral body affected only 4% of voting centers, things went well throughout the day. The website and twitter feed of MINUSTAH, the UN military mission, made many positive observations about the electoral process on August 9 with almost no mention of problems.
Below is an English translation of RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE preliminary report, which was reprinted in full (in French) in Le Nouvelliste on Monday, August 10, 2015.
The Elections of 9 August 2015: an affront to democratic standards!
The National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (Réseau national de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH)), the National Observation Council (Conseil national d'Observation (CNO)) and the Haitian council of non-state actors (Conseil haïtien des Acteurs Non Etatiques (CONHANE ) observed the progress of the poll on August 9, 2015. While waiting to produce a detailed report on the different irregularities, incidents, instances of fraud and the numerous violent incidents, these organisations feel obliged to share their first observations.
Within the framework of the elections, RNDDH, CNO and COHANE deployed 1,500 observers on the ground. They were present in all geographical departments of the country and observed the progress of the elections from the openings of the voting centers to the publication of the results from the counting of the votes.
1. Accreditation for electoral observers and party representatives
The Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Electoral Provisoire (CEP)) had problems with issuing to the various parties interested in the elections the accreditation cards which would allow them to access the voting centres.
As a result, electoral observers received their accreditations late. Some, not having received accreditation from the CEP, had to be content with just wearing a vest with ‘Electoral Observation’ on it.
Yet institutions that had nothing to do with the elections had been accredited by the CEP. Among there were MIRADE, MINO, MINOEH, just to name a few. Their observers were in fact representatives of the different political parties. Their method of intervention was simple: pay the voters.
What’s more, whereas some political parties favoured by the electoral officials received their accreditation on time, many others had difficulties in obtaining theirs. As a result, many party representatives decided to use fake accreditations in order to have access to the voting centers. It is important to note that the authorisations given by the CEP to the political parties were of different colors. Some were green, whereas others were yellow.
2. Opening of voting centers
The majority of voting centers opened the voting at approximately 9 am. For a number of centers the voting opened following the demands of impatient and restless voters. There are many reasons for the delays. Among them are:
• Supervisors arrived late at the voting centers,
• Supervisors did not show up at their assigned place
• Voting materials were sent to the wrong places,
• Lists with the accepted and trained staff of the voting bureau were rigged the night before the elections,
• Sensitive materials were not ready in time for the start of the voting process,
• Polling station staff arrived late,
• Due to their incompetence, polling station staff had difficulty carrying out the necessary voting operations prior to the voting itself,
• Polling stations were relocated at the last minute, etc.
3. Unsuitable voting materials
Certain voting materials, such as polling booths, indelible ink, and ballot boxes were not suitable.
a) Polling booths
The polling booths did not assure the secret character of the vote. Because they were placed on school desks, blocs of concrete, cardboard boxes or close to the windows, numerous troublemakers were able to influence or try to influence the voters.
b) Indelible ink
The indelible ink applied on the finger of voters who just cast their vote did not appear immediately. This allowed a good number of them to vote more than once.
c) Ballot boxes
Small transparent plastic bags served as ballot boxes and were clearly incapable of holding more than four hundred (400) ballot papers.
B. Voting Process
1. Physical space of the voting centers and polling booths
The CEP installed a total of one thousand five hundred and eight (1508) voting centers across the country. Several were placed in schools; others in government offices or in public markets. However, thirty-seven (37) voting centers were installed in private homes.
The premises of many schools used for the poll were cramped and often poorly lit. In some, it was dark in broad daylight, causing polling station officials to use their flashlight.
Polling stations were crowded together in such a mess that voters had difficulty identifying the office where they had to vote.
Consequently, voting centers and polling booths, due to their organization and their operation, had neither the capacity necessary to take in voters nor the ability to allow voters to vote with dignity.
2. Crowds of voters
In most cases, voters were not encouraged to form a line. They were bunched together as they could and waited to burst into polling stations chaotically.
Also, after having voted, voters remained in the courtyard of the voting centers or their environs, disrupting the election by inviting people to vote like them. In doing so, they supported the political party representatives.
3. Intimidation, threats, violence and electoral fraud
From the time polling stations first opened – that is to say in the early morning – individuals, armed or not, entered the voting centers, ransacked them and destroyed the voting material.
In at least 50% of the voting centers, acts of intimidation, violence and electoral fraud were recorded. These acts were committed for different reasons. In some cases, it was so that the ballot boxes could be taken away or stuffed. In other cases, these acts of violence were committed in order to disrupt the vote and cause the cancellation of the electoral process, notably when supporters of some candidates realized they were about to lose the election.
The fact that instances of violence were committed early in the morning is surprising because usually, they occur in the late afternoon or at the closing time of polling stations.
Numerous political party representatives were involved in cases of election violence. They were not, in fact, present to observe and defend the interests of their constituents. On the contrary, their mission was to make every effort to steal the elections.
In many cases, political party representatives benefited from the complacency of polling station officials who allowed them to remain in polling stations, without identification or jerseys. They also benefited from the unconditional support of voters who, after voting, systematically refused to return home.
Faced with intimidation, threats, and acts of violence almost everywhere across the country, the Haitian National Police (Police National d’Haïti, PNH) was consistently passive. In the rare cases where the police body was forced to act, it was appealed to by the population.
4. Voting security
PNH officers and ESA officials, who were responsible for ensuring the safety of vote, were not up to the task entrusted to them. Often, the cases of fraud and electoral violence mentioned above were carried out in their presence.
5. Voter turnout
Voter turnout for the August 9, 2015 election appears to be the lowest ever recorded since the 1987 elections. This situation is related to several factors, among others:
• Lack of preparation of the CEP,
• The absence of campaigning by election candidates,
• Late voter education,
• Lack of time for civic education of citizens,
• Irregularities on the Partial Electoral Lists (Listes Electorales Partielles, LEP)
• The inaccessibility of voting centers,
• Non-functioning CEP emergency hotlines on election day,
• Pre-electoral insecurity, etc.
To illustrate the case of low voter turnout, RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE emphasize that in some polling stations, the number of voters having voted by procès verbal was higher than that of voters who voted normally.
6. The vote count
In general, the vote counting process was carried out transparently. However, it is at this stage that we witnessed the inability of polling station officials to differentiate between blank ballots, spoiled ballots, invalid ballots, ballots cast and ballots not cast for any candidate.
It should be noted that for some voting centers, counting was not carried out despite the fact that the process had run its normal course. In other centers, the vote count was conducted at police stations.
In conclusion, RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE believe that the August 9, 2015 election was marred by serious irregularities, acts of violence and fraud.
The CEP wanted to hold elections at any cost, regardless of their quality. The result is evident: the August 9, 2015 election took place in total disrespect of Human Dignity.
It is inconceivable that a country like Haiti, which boasts of its struggle to establish democracy and the rule of law, should hold elections, in this 21st century, that constitute an affront to democratic standards. It is unacceptable that the rule of the majority should be used by the authorities to justify the utter failure of organization of these elections. The errors committed on August 9, 2015 must be recognized by those also responsible for organizing the upcoming elections, in order to make the necessary improvements.
Moreover, there is no doubt that the August 9, 2015 election raises questions about the legitimacy of the representatives who will sit in the next Haitian Parliament. For this reason, RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE call upon all actors involved at every level in the electoral process to avoid trivializing the facts recorded during this election and recommend that the CEP be wary of all those who claim that everything went well.
On the contrary, the electoral body must do everything possible to address these problems for the next elections.
Port-au-Prince, August 10, 2015