Haiti Elections News Roundup - October 16

On October 6, Secretary of State John Kerry stopped in Haiti to meet with President Michel Martelly and other high-level government officials. In remarks to the press after their meeting, Kerry said, “As President Martelly and I just discussed, violence and intimidation have no place in the election process. The Haitian people I know deserve much better than that. So the United States and other members of the international community will be working with the Provisional Electoral Council to support what we hope will be a smoother and more fully peaceful process than what took place on August 9th.” Kerry’s visit was a show of support for the electoral process, an unnamed senior State Department official told the press during a background briefing a day earlier. The official stated that “this is a Haitian election and they run it, they are in charge of it,” adding later that Martelly had a responsibility to provide security and the electoral council had to improve as well, so that “we don’t see the kind of disorder we saw on August 9th.” In response to Kerry’s visit and his call for October 25 to be a marked improvement over August 9, Frantz Duval, editor-in-chief of the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, wrote that “nothing is less certain.

The same week as Kerry’s visit to Haiti, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), sent a letter to the Secretary of State, calling for an investigation into the problems that plagued the August 9 vote. “The inability or unwillingness of the CEP to properly investigate and sanction parties and candidates responsible for election irregularities has seriously damaged the institution’s credibility. I urge you to send a clear message that electoral violence will not be tolerated,” Representative Waters wrote.  Days later, 61 members of Congress, led by bipartisan leadership in the house foreign affairs committee wrote to Kerry. Representatives Engel (D-NY), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lee (D-CA) urged Kerry to “send a clear message to the Haitian government underscoring the need to guarantee the security of voters and candidates during the electoral campaign and on the day of the elections.” “For a number of years now, our government has helped Haiti strengthen its national police; now is the time for the national police to demonstrate that it is able and willing to protect Haitian citizens as they exercise their most fundamental democratic right,” the members added.

In a Miami Herald op-ed, executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Brian Concannon argues that Kerry’s trip is a “chance to help avoid what the Herald Editorial Board warned may be 'another disastrous train-wreck' of an election.” Noting the numerous irregularities which plagued election day, Concannon writes that “Kerry has a historic opportunity to transform the incentives from the current 'crime pays' to encouraging the fair, inclusive elections that Haitian voters deserve. Maximizing this opportunity will require him to publicly link continued U.S. support for the elections to verifiable promises of fundamental change adequate to restore the voter confidence that was squandered on Aug. 9.”

CEP President Pierre Louis Opont called on the government and international community to ensure a “heavily armed force” that is in “combat position” and prepared to prevent violence on election day. Opont stated that the CEP had no role to play in providing security on election day, while pointing out that the CEP has made good on its promise to make improvements for the October 25 vote.  

On October 14 the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a one-year extension of MINUSTAH in Haiti. In the approved resolution, Security Council members welcomes “the organisation of the first round of the legislative elections on 9 August 2015 in a relatively peaceful environment,” and acknowledged steps taken by the government and CEP to correct problems. A week prior, at a meeting of troop contributing countries Peru and Argentina “described the controversial Aug. 9 legislative vote as having taken place in “a peaceful environment,” Canada deplored the violence and called for Haitian authorities to investigate,” the Miami Herald reported. MINUSTAH has begun drawing down its troops in Haiti and played only a limited role in providing security during the August 9 election. Still, in the resolution approving the one-year extension, members stated that “there was no increase in levels of insecurity or violence in the Departments from which the military component withdrew.”

The CEP has announced that accreditation passes for political party observers will begin to be distributed this week. The lack of passes for August 9 was a leading factor in disturbances throughout the day as many parties alleged they were excluded from observing the vote. The Electoral Council also announced that funding for presidential and legislative candidates will be disbursed this week. CEP executive director Jean Fritz Jean Louis told the press that 290 million gourdes ($5.8 million) will be made available.

Following the resignation of Nehemy Joseph from the CEP, Carline Viergelin was sworn in on October 13 and installed as the newest member the following day. Joseph was named as the representative of the peasant and Vodou sectors, though the Vodou sector never approved of the choice. Following the announcement from the government that Viergelin would replace Joseph, both sectors have come out against the nomination.

The CEP also announced that an internal investigation into electoral staff at Departmental Electoral Offices (BED) and Communal Electoral Offices (BEC) resulted in a number of individuals being sanctioned and removed from the electoral apparatus. According to Le National officials were sanctioned from the Artibonite, North, Nippes, South and Southeast, West and Central departments. Mosler Georges, executive director of the CEP, said legal proceedings had been filed against individual candidates involved in electoral violence, but that it was up to the judicial system to carry the cases forward.

Parents of students in some national schools in the West department were called in for what was billed as a meeting but turned out to be a campaign rally for Jovenel Moïse, presidential candidate of Michel Martelly’s PHTK party.  Some of the parents had reportedly thought they would be signed up for a government social program “Ti Manman Cherie,” but instead were given a bracelet and directed into a gymnasium where the political rally was occurring. The Martelly administration has been criticized throughout the electoral process for allegedly abusing state resources to the benefit of PHTK. President Martelly has been traveling and campaigning with Jovenel Moise, even bringing the presidential candidate to New York for the recent United Nations General Assembly meetings.

It appears unlikely that a formal alliance between Bouclier and PHTK will be made before the first round presidential election, reports Radio Metropole. Reports have surfaced in previous weeks that Bouclier presidential candidate Steeve Khawly has been under pressure to resign from the race and support PHTK’s Jovenel Moise.The two parties were both formed by close advisers to the president and were seen as being part of the government’s “two-pronged” strategy for the elections. While no formal alliance is likely, Bouclier senate candidates in the North and Center departments have appeared at PHTK campaign rallies. Sources in Haiti indicate that many of the private sector backers of Bouclier have moved into the PHTK camp.  

While polling in Haiti is notoriously unreliable, a recent poll from BRIDES puts Jude Celestin in the lead with 31.6 percent of the intended vote. Jovenel Moise was in second with 12.7 percent and Moise Jean Charles in third with 10.6 percent. Another poll released by the Royal University of Haiti also showed Celestin leading but had Steeve Khawly in second place. Jean Charles dismissed the results of the survey and others taken over the proceeding months, assuring that he would be victorious on October 25 and stating that his actual popularity can be seen in the meetings he has held throughout the country. Another poll from an unheard-of firm, Sigma, put Fanmi Lavalas candidate Dr. Maryse Naricisse in first place. On September 30, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide broke his long period of silence, appearing at his residence alongside Narcisse. Aristide called the previous election an “electoral coup d'etat” and called on supporters to “mobilize against a coup d'etat until we enter the National Palace, democratically, with Dr. Maryse Narcisse as President of the country.”  “Voting for Dr. Maryse and all the Fanmi Lavalas candidates, Bò Tab la, number 54, is to take up a huge challenge because there is conspiracy that is entwined with a vast amount of money,” the former president declared.

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