‘Wait and see’ Attitude in International Reports on the October Elections

Hailed initially as ‘more successful’ and ‘less violent’, the October 25 elections were no less controversial than the August, 9th legislative elections as the disparity between national and international observers’ reports demonstrates.  Following the CEP’s announcement of preliminary results on November 6, many took to the streets in Port-au-Prince in outrage and disbelief.  Haitian civil society organizations have been quick to identify the many failings of the electoral process such as ballot stuffing. JILAP, the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, also provided a negative assessment of the day.

In contrast, the response from the international community has been less condemnatory and more reserved with few, if any, definite pronouncements on the Sunday elections. The emphasis is on ‘wait and see’ attitude, easily discernible in preliminary post-election reports. They over-emphasize the level of progress since August elections and refuse to draw clear conclusions even from their own observations of the many irregularities observed on October, 25. 
OAS’s preliminary observations, released a day after the elections, note a higher level of attendance and recognize Haitian authorities’ efforts to increase security on the day.  At the same time, OAS notes that many voting stations were overcrowded and that ‘the measures taken to guarantee the secrecy of the vote were not always sufficient.’ 

The EU’s preliminary report, issued on October 27, also recognizes the ‘relative calm’ and drop in violent incidents during the elections day in comparison to August 9th. The more detailed report notes some administrative improvements on the part of the CEP deploring, at the same time, the lack of legal punishment for those behind violence during the August vote. The report acknowledges the use of decharge  as a  targeted political tool, partiality of media during the lead-up campaign and, most importantly, points out the lack of unanimity in the process of counting the votes. The Mission also remarks that the attendance remained very low and that female representation in the elections does not meet the constitutional requirements.

The list of general observations made by CARICOM on the same day opens with a more definite evaluation: ‘Too many anomalies pertaining to voting norms exist.’ The document goes on to list these irregularities such as varying methodologies in the poll practices and inadequate physical space in the polling station. Towards the end, the report reveals that ‘the methodology of processing the Tally Sheets (not the content of the Tally Sheets) was shared with political parties and other important stakeholders’, undermining the transparency of the whole electoral process.

The UN and the Core Group praise the Haitian voters for ‘demonstrating their willingness to exercise their constitutional right to vote’ and ‘their desire for stability and democracy.’ Yet even among these words of general praise, the statement recognizes the irregularities and violent disruptions on the day, urging ‘the national authorities to investigate these incidents without delay and in an impartial manner.’ 

As these preliminary reports reveal, the international community is hesitant to provide a definite stance on October, 25th elections. Most underline the sense of advancement and progress since legislative elections earlier this year. Yet by making such easy comparisons between the legislative and the presidential elections, the international community validates the August elections as an uncontroversial point of departure and a fair measure of Haiti’s democracy. Finally, taken together, these reports revel that each step of the electoral process (i.e. campaigning, opening of the voting centers, voting and the vote count) was marred by serious irregularities which effectively undermine the elections as a whole—a conclusion these reports are afraid to draw. Are detailed tail ns were overcrowded and that the CEP deplorings. , 9th

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