The CEP’s publication of final results for the presidential elections in spite of mounting evidence of fraud has set off a firestorm of criticism and protest. Opposition candidates from both the Group of Eight candidates and Fanmi Lavalas have responded by radicalizing their stances, with the former threatening to push for the establishment of a transitional government if the Martelly government does not meet their demands for major changes within the CEP and the police.
Shortly before the CEP published final results for the presidential elections, the National Bureau of Electoral Litigation (BCEN) had completed a verification process that revealed a high level of fraud and irregularities. Prompted by a challenge to the preliminary results by Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, the BCEN had ordered a sample of 78 tally sheets verified at the Tabulation Center. The verification, which took place on November 21 and 22, found instances of fraud or irregularities in all 78 tally sheets. 52 tally sheets showed evidence of fraud by an electoral official (Article 178 of the Electoral Decree) while the remaining 26 were thrown out due to irregularities (Article 171-1), according the BCEN’s final judgement.
The CEP argued that the verification’s findings were not representative of levels of fraud for the election as a whole and claimed that the 78 tally sheets did not constitute a random sample because they had been selected by party representatives. Other statistical evidence , however, had already raised questions about the credibility of the official results. An exit poll conducted by the Brazil-based Igarapé Insitute found that only 6.3% of voters chose Jovenel Moïse for president, yet the PHTK candidate received 32.8% of the vote, according to the CEP’s results. The survey, which was released on November 20, found that 37.5% of respondents indicated they had voted for Jude Célestin, 30.6% for Moïse Jean-Charles and 19.4% for Maryse Narcisse. These findings strongly suggested that Moise benefitted from fraud. Haitians were also found to be thoroughly disillusioned with the October 25 electoral process, with nearly 90% disagreeing with the statement, “As far as I can see, this election is fair, there is no fraud.” The survey was based on interviews with over 1,800 voters from 135 voting centers throughout all of Haiti’s ten departments.
Disregarding calls from candidates and civil society for a deeper investigation of fraud, the CEP went forward with the publication of final results on November 24. The subtraction of votes from the 78 tally sheets only slightly modified the preliminary results, maintaining PHTK’s Jovenel Moïse in first place and LAPEH’s Jude Célestin in second. In response, thousands took to the streets across the country to denounce the CEP and the Martelly government. In Port-au-Prince, police fired live ammunition at the crowds to break up the protests on November 24, while protests in Cap-Haitien on November 29 were reportedly dispersed by police using tear gas and batons.
On November 29, the Group of Eight (G8) candidates issued a statement denouncing the CEP and radicalizing its stance compared to the coalition’s previous positions. The G8 declared that it was “unacceptable that the CEP, after having recognized the existence of massive fraud in the process, publish these results without seeking, first, to determine the scale of the fraud, and second, to identify the fraudsters and apply the sanctions called for in the electoral decree.”
Pierre-Louis Opont and the CEP , according to the G8, were “acting with a complete lack of transparency” and demonstrating “a legendary submissiveness to the executive and the international community.” The G8 suggested that Martelly was using the police for political ends and even deploying them as “death squads,” which was “dangerous and contrary to the proper functioning of a democratic society.” The candidates also denounced the wearing of masks by riot police at demonstrations.
The actions of the Martelly government and the CEP were “leading the country towards chaos.” While the G8 had previously demanded an independent commission to investigate claims of fraud, the coalition of candidates stated that more substantial changes were now needed, given the CEP’s manifest partisanship in favour of the ruling party’s candidate, Jovenel Moïse:
“The G8 is convinced that free, honest, transparent and democratic elections cannot be held under the presidency of Joseph Michel Martelly without changes within the CEP, without changes in the leadership of certain departmental divisions and certain units of the [Haitian National Police], and without a halt in the reprisals and police repression against peaceful demonstrators.”
Anything short of this, the G8 suggested, would leave democrats with “little option other than to struggle for the establishment of a transitional government.” Such a transitional government would need to reform the state, hold a national conference, adopt a new constitution and organize new elections within 24 months.
While noting “the high risk of infiltration” in demonstrations, the G8 concluded by calling on the population to “continue to exercise its rights to demonstrate peacefully in order to have its will respected” and to “not give in to blackmail, intimidation and manipulation.”
The crucial test of the G8’s proclaimed “unity and solidarity” will be whether Jude Célestin is willing to boycott the second round, if the group’s demands are not met. So far, Célestin and his party LAPEH have not officially taken a position on his possible withdrawal from the presidential race. The letter was signed by all eight candidates: Sauveur Pierre-Etienne (OPL), Moïse Jean-Charles (Pitit Dessalines), Jude Célestin (LAPEH), Jean-Henry Céant (Renmen Ayiti), Steven I. Benoît (Konviksyon), Eric Jean-Baptiste (MAS), Mario Andresol (Independent) and Samuel Madistin (MOPOD).
Fanmi Lavalas, whose candidate Maryse Narcisse placed fourth place according to the CEP and is not a member of the G8, responded to the final results with a communiqué of its own. On November 25, the party’s Executive Committee published a letter deploring the “indecent manner” in which the CEP “proclaimed ‘final results’ instead of drawing the necessary conclusions” after the revelation of “massive fraud” by the BCEN-ordered verification. The letter stated that Fanmi Lavalas “has no other choice than to reject these results fabricated by an anti-democratic apparatus aiming to erode the very bases of the conquests by the Haitian people, who have made so many sacrifices for the establishment of a democratic system in our country.”
Fanmi Lavalas, according to the statement, participated in the election in spite of “legitimate suspicions” regarding the Martelly administration’s intention to hold on to power; out of respect for democratic norms, the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had pursued the “legal path” as far as it could. But the letter made clear that this path was now exhausted: “The popular will expressed during these elections has been scandalously distorted by a giant operation of fraud, justifying the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across the country who are denouncing a veritable electoral coup d’État.”
Fanmi Lavalas excoriated the CEP for its servility to “the demands of the Executive and the international community, which have an agenda and interests different from those of the Haitian nation.” The Executive Committee accused the Core Group of “giving orders to the CEP and of meddling in the electoral process,” in violation of the Vienna Convention’s provisions concerning non-interference of diplomats in the internal affairs of another state.
The letter warned that this “illegitimate electoral operation can only bring misfortune to the Haition people,” and that stability and the reinforcement of institutions would be impossible in such conditions. “Unpopular and illegitimate representatives can only lead the country to disturbances that are harmful to stability, itself necessary for good governance and social and economic development, which are synonymous with better living conditions for the Haitian people.” The party ended its communiqué with a vow to continue to struggle alongside the Haitian people for the defence of their democratic rights.
The Group of Eight letter:
Fanmi Lavalas Executive Committee letter: