Haitian women’s organization SOFA (Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn, Solidarity of Haitian Women) joined political parties and human rights’ organizations around Haiti in denouncing the recent parliamentary elections held on the 9th of August 2015. SOFA’s September 14 report strongly condemns the low-level of female political representation, violence linked to the elections, and ongoing structural discrimination, all of which hinder women’s engagement in politics.
The report criticizes the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)’s lax attitude, irresponsibility, internal contradictions, and incompetence, and calls for an end to structural marginalization of women and impunity of parties that do not abide by constitutional and legal regulations. The report identifies multiple failings of the electoral process, which affected female participation in the elections, both as candidates and as voters, and questions the legitimacy of the vote.
Firstly, the report points out that in violation of the mandatory 30% female representation quota set by the Constitution and the Electoral Decree, only 23 women out of 232 senate candidates (9.9%) and 129 women out of 1621 depute candidates (8%) were able to register for August 9 elections. Our analysis provides a detailed breakdown of this data for each party and department. According to the available statistics, one female candidate from Nippes department qualified to the second round of senatorial election and five others for the Deputy elections from the following constituencies: Cabaret, Plaine du Nord, Vallière, Camp Perin/Maniche, and Miragoane. For SOFA, these disappointing statistics are indicative of a much broader issue of structural marginalization of women in Haitian political life.
Financial requirements of the electoral process, such as extremely high registration costs, create an insurmountable barrier for many potential candidates, both male and female. Coupled with the lack of financial autonomy on the women’s part, this requirement effectively excludes large groups of the population from standing in the elections.
Secondly, according to SOFA, there was no real civic education campaign encouraging women to vote and participate in the political process. The CEP, joined by MINUSTAH, released promotional material to encourage female voters and politicians, yet these efforts came very late and had limited, if any, real impact on female political engagement.
Thirdly, SOFA claims that election-related violence, along with the criminal record of many candidates puts into question the legitimacy of the elections and the future elected parliament which risks being composed exclusively of men. The new government faces complex challenges such as the amendment of the 1987 Constitution, including implementing measures to meet the 30% quota, and the decentralisation of the electoral process in order to determine the skills of all the actors involved in the process and to increase their participation. According to SOFA, these upcoming legal reforms should also include new legislation on gender equality, gender-based violence, exploitation of natural resources, urban planning and development, and national education, among others.
Finally, SOFA condemns the CEP and the international community for manipulating elections results in Haiti over the last ten years and for their failure, and unwillingness, to assure truly democratic and inclusive elections. SOFA calls on all political actors and citizens to reclaim ownership of the electoral process. As a historically pacifist movement, SOFA strongly believes that it is possible to change the voting system characterized by violence and irregularities. It is time to confront the violent incidents in the first round of elections and stop current exclusionary practices that inhibited women voters and candidates from exercising their full political rights. SOFA recommends strong sanctions against those disrupting the electoral process and an end to electoral impunity in joint effort of all political progressives and patriots to assure a greater representation of women and their interests in the political sphere.