Haiti Elections News Roundup - February 17

Following Martelly’s departure on February 7, the past week was marked by the search for an eligible candidate for the country’s highest office. This culminated in a marathon session of the National Assembly on February 13, which ended with the election of Jocelerme Privert for the post of Provisional President. An initial vote was inconclusive, with Privert winning 13 to 10 in the Senate but losing 46 to 45 in the Chamber of Deputies to the former OPL senator Edgard Fils Leblanc. A second vote of the entire National Assembly (Senators and Deputies combined), held at 3am, gave Privert the presidency with seventy-seven votes in favour (sixty-four deputies and thirteen senators) versus thirty-three votes for Leblanc (twenty-four deputies and nine senators).

Upon assuming office, Privert immediately began meeting with members of the opposition, in view of selecting a consensus Prime Minister and restarting the electoral process. Well-known anti-Martelly activist André Michel, of the Jistis party, suggested Mirlande Manigat as a possible candidate and told Privert that a verification of the vote was imperative. Michel and Pitit Dessalines representatives explained that this would require extending the duration of the transition period beyond its current mandate of 120 days, something that is strongly opposed by PHTK and the international community. The Group of Eight (G-8) candidates and Fanmi Lavalas have echoed these long-standing opposition demands for an independent investigation into electoral fraud.

The U.S. OAS, and the EU welcomed the agreement signed last week and assured of their joint support for “the strengthening of [Haiti’s] democracy.” Luis Almargo, the Secretary General of OAS, commended the OAS’s Electoral Mission for its “professional and impartial position,” reaffirming that the organization’s support for Haiti “will continue to be guided by the protection of political rights and the ultimate objective of contributing to the strengthening of electoral democracy as the only legitimate source of the democratic exercise of power.”  Despite these assurances, there was little mention of the opposition’s demands to address the grave irregularities within the electoral process instead of pushing for a hasty solution. For Amargo, “unyielding opposition does not resolve political problems.” The Private Sector Economic Forum also celebrated the signing of the agreement, urging all sides to “respect scrupulously” its terms.

On Tuesday night, February 9, Lyonel Previllon (a former PHTK candidate in the commune of Desdunes) was shot dead. His body was discovered in Delmas 75 district of Port-au-Prince. PHTK claims that the ‘members of radical opposition’ were responsible. The former candidate had been sanctioned by the CEP for fraud, along with thirteen others, following the August 9 elections.

The Special Bicameral Commission charged with the task of preparing the elections of Haiti’s Provisional President, had earlier this week put forward a strict timeline with the aim of electing the Provisional President as soon as possible. The deadline for nominations was Friday, 4 pm EST. Although thirteen candidates initially put themselves forward, only three ultimately registered. There was no female candidate among them.  

The Commission’s procedures for application were widely criticized prior to the vote.  The Fédération des barreaux d'Haïti (FBH, Haiti’s Bar Federation) questioned the short timeline given to apply, the requirement that candidates be affiliated with a party, and the 500,000 gourdes registration fee, which effectively limits universal suffrage. Furthermore, the Grouping of Trade Unionists also condemned the procedure. In a press conference on Thursday, the representatives urged the Parliament to seek a political consensus to the current crisis, calling their decision and the time-limits set “a masquerade.”

SOFA (Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn, The Solidarity of Haitian Women) also strongly criticized  the parliamentary initiative, which it considered of “questionable legitimacy.” The decision to elect a provisional president by indirect vote wa a step “70 years backwards” to when men chose leaders from amongst themselves. SOFA declared its determination to fight for an independent commission to investigate the 2015 electoral process, to initiate legal pursuits that reflect the voters’ choice in order to put an end to electoral impunity and to favour women’s real participation in the politics.  SOFA also deplored the February 6 accord for failing to address many facets of the electoral crisis.

Gary Bodeau, a Bouclier deputy representing Delmas, also opposed last week’s accord and the call for presidential candidates. According to him, no member of the National Assembly should put his candidacy forward since this would violate any sense of impartiality. Arnel Belizaire, a former Deputy who was excluded by the CEP for involvement in electoral violence on August 9, issued a call on social media to take up arms and seize control of the National Palace and not participate in this “parliamentary coup.”

Jean Hector Anacacis from LAPEH also expressed his strong criticism of the call for candidatures. Referring to Article 149 of the Constitution, he suggests that it would be best to accept the Prime Minister Evans Paul as effectively in charge of the executive for the period of 60 days after which the designation process of a provisional president would be launched. Andris Riché of OPL directly opposed Jocelreme Privert’s candidacy for the post, arguing that the latter does not have the necessary décharge certificate.  Privert is supported by some representatives of the popular sector and MONOP.