Haiti Elections News Roundup - January 11

The findings and recommendations of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission, which were meant to resolve Haiti’s electoral crisis, have instead further polarized the nation’s political scene. President Martelly, government-backed presidential front-runner Jovenel Moise and the international powers claimed the Commission’s report disproves accusations of “massive fraud” and urged the electoral council to move forward quickly with the second round election. Second-place candidate Jude Célestin, the Group of Eight (G-8) candidates, Fanmi Lavalas and Haitian election observers meanwhile argued that the Commission had corroborated their accusations of fraud and reiterated calls for a full investigation. Célestin has said he will not participate in the second round unless the Commission’s recommendations are implemented, while the G-8 has called for the formation of a transitional government.

Released on Sunday, January 3, the Commission’s report (in French) confirmed that serious irregularities, such as voting without proper identification or with false identification numbers, were widespread. The Commission also said that instances of fraud and the manipulation of votes occurred during the October 25 elections. The report, however, shied away from assessing the full scale of problems on election day and their impact on the credibility of results for the presidential race. The Commission’s recommendations included “refurbishing” of the CEP, the resignation of CEP members accused of corruption,  evaluating and properly training election workers and initiating a political dialogue between the main political actors. 

The Commission was strongly critical of the CEP, which according to the report “no longer enjoys the credibility necessary to continue the process without the risk of plunging the nation into an even greater crisis.” Shortly after the report was made public, Council member Ricardo Augustin tendered his resignation, while dissident member Jaccéus Joseph threatened to resign if his fellow council members did not accept the recommendations. 

Commissioners were divided on the appropriate conclusions to be drawn from the report. Commission spokesman Rosny Desroches said after the release of the report that there had been only minor irregularities on October 25 that did not affect the final results, while Commissioners Gédéon Jean and Euvonie Georges Auguste told journalists that a full recount of the vote was necessary to determine the results’ integrity. Jean refused to sign the Commission’s report because it failed to recommend a full recount, a stance which was supported by the human rights group RNDDH.

The G-8 responded to the Commission’s report with astatement calling for a provisional government and the dismissal of the CEP. The statement challenged the Executive to follow the conclusions of its own Commission and ended by reiterating the G-8’s demand for an independent commission and for an in-depth and thorough inquiry into the whole electoral process. The Group expressed its support for peaceful popular demonstrations and called for the formation of a united opposition front while appealing to the Executive to respect the people’s will and the “verdict of the ballot boxes.”

On Wednesday, January 6, President Martelly delivered a Message to the Nation in which he affirmed that he will transfer power on February 7. Martelly emphasized that there will be no transition government and warned that this would lead to “more misery and chaos.” “Those who want a provisional government are working to their own advantage,” he stated. The same day, Martelly issued an executive order setting the date for the second round of presidential elections for January 24.

On January 7, LAPEH candidate Jude Célestin announced that he refused to stand in the second round of the presidential elections. According to his spokesman, Célestin will not take part in any elections until the recommendations of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission are fully put into place. Célestin stated in a letter that he saw no “efforts being made to improve transparency in the final round by enacting the sweeping changes ordered by the five-member commission.” Célestin’s other demands and conditions to his participation were the dismissal of all those accused of electoral fraud as well as a 30-days long period to campaign.

In contrast, the OAS Electoral Observation Mission welcomed the establishment of the date for the second round of the presidential elections as “a step in the right direction.” The OAS Mission encouraged Haitians to participate in the forthcoming elections and stated that it hopes that the two candidates will be fully engaged. The EU Observation Mission stated that it was “now essential that the process be completed,” and that a second round be held that “in conformity with constitutional deadlines.” The EU Mission additionally claimed that the irregularities found by the Commission had not “put into question the results of the first round.”

The U.S. government likewise hailed the new date for the second tour of the presidential elections, announcing that it “awaits with impatience” the termination of the electoral processes. In a statement released Thursday, State Department spokesperson John Kirby seconded the calls of the Core Group for a peaceful and calm transition of power on February 7.  Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the UN, expressed concern over the deepening electoral crisis in Haiti and called on all political actors to work together towards a completion of the process in a credible, transparent, and inclusive manner.

Even if the second round presidential election goes ahead as planned on January 24, many argue that there is not enough time to meet the February 7 constitutional deadline, which calls for Martelly to transfer power to an elected successor. The insistence of foreign observers and diplomats on a strict adherence to the constitutional calendar therefore effectively rules out the possibility of implementing the Commission’s recommendations, or any other measures to re-establish the credibility of the process.

If the electoral process is not complete by February 7, it will fall to the legislature to name a provisional president. Anticipating such an eventuality, President Martelly rushed to swear-in the 92 deputies and 14 senators elected so far over the weekend, in spite of the Commission calling for an “in-depth evaluation” of accusations that several parliamentary candidates bribed the CEP in order to win their seats. One diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned of an “immense crisis” that will result with the election of “a president and a government that will have only very weak credibility, and will thus be contested in the streets.” 

The new legislature does not bring any changes for the position of Haitian women in politics. Despite obligatory constitutional quotas and public education campaigns, women are effectively absent in the new Parliament, following the publication of the final results of the October elections in Le Moniteur. Out of the 92 deputies sworn in so far, there are only two  women.  In the Senate, there are no women senators among its 24 members. 

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