Haiti Elections News Roundup - February 25

Upon assuming office on February 14, Provisional President Jocelerme Privert opened dialogue with diverse sectors of Haitian society, in the hopes of quickly finding a consensus provisional prime minister and forming a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), as laid out in the political accord of February 6. While pro- and anti-Martelly forces sparred over the question of a vote verification, the Core Group insisted that the deadlines of the accord be rigorously adhered to. Privert has also stated his intention to tackle Haiti’s “alarming” public finances.

Following a series of talks, the list of six potential candidates to the post of the Prime Minister was published on Friday, February 19. The list includes: Myrlande Hyppolite Manigat, a presidential runner-up in 2010; the former senator Dieusseul Simon Desras ; the former senator Edgar Leblanc Fils from OPL (Organisation du peuple en lutte) ; the economist and former governor of the Haitian National Bank, Fritz Jean ; director of the Radio Télé Antilles international, Jacques Sampeur ; and the former Minister of Agriculture, Jonas Gué. Despite the President’s earlier affirmations, the list does not respect the 30% quota of female representation set by the Constitution.

The next day, shots were fired by unknown assailants at the headquarters of Mirlande Manigat’s party, the Rassemblement des démocrates nationaux progressistes (RDNP). No one was injured, and no arrests were made. Manigat was proposed for the post of prime minister by André Michel’s Jistis party and has long been associated with the opposition to Martelly. In the 2010-2011 presidential elections, Manigat lost to Martelly in a second round runoff. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro “strongly condemned” the incident, characterizing it on Twitter as “an attack on the democratic way forward.”

Opposition parties continued to insist on establishing an independent inquiry commission to evaluate the August and October elections. In a statement released last week, the Group of Eight (G-8) cautioned against “cosmetic improvements” and along with members of other political groups called on the government to respect the principle of separation of powers. Mathias Pierre, a political advisor to Pitit Dessalines, claimed on February 17 that Privert had committed to creating a new CEP and putting in place a verification commission, during his meeting with the G-8. 

When Privert met with Marysse Narcisse, Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate on Friday, she reaffirmed the party’s position in favour of an independent electoral commission, emphasizing that “it is necessary to establish the truth of what happened on August 9 and October 25 and to evaluate the electoral process.” Pitit Dessalines’ presidential candidate Moïse Jean-Charles sounded a similar note, reiterating his party’s demands for a new CEP and a commission to re-evaluate the electoral process, while Samuel Madistin’s MOPOD (Mouvement patriotique populaire dessalinien) added its voice to these calls for an independent evaluation commission. The Amicale des juristes (Lawyers’ association), meanwhile, suggested a repetition of the October 25 elections with the four leading candidates according to the contested CEP results, followed by a second round between the two top candidates if neither obtained an absolute majority.

Given the colossal tasks facing the interim government, a growing number of voices in Haiti are calling for an extension of the transition period. Rovelson Appollon of the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission (JILAP) also asserted the need to take time in order to scrutinize and respond adequately to the situation. JILAP estimated that Privert will need more than 120 days in order to realize all the points of the February 6 agreement.  André Michel, Pitit Dessalines’ Moïse Jean-Charles and Senator Steven Benoît have echoed this point. President Privert, however, promised to stick to the deadline of 120 days earlier in the week.

Pro-Martelly forces, meanwhile, insisted on a quick resumption of the elections, with the current results unchanged. PHTK candidate Jovenel Moïse stressed the importance of meeting the deadlines of the accord and opposed any further verification of the vote. Moïse said he expected a second-round runoff between him and Jude Célestin to be organized soon. KID Senator Carl Murat Cantave likewise called for a “scrupulous respect” of the Februrary 6 accord. The Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de l’Ouest (CCIO) stated in a press release that it was “confident” that elections would occur on April 24, as specified by the agreement.

The Core Group powers supported this emphasis on meeting the dates laid out in the accord. In a briefing with journalists, State Department envoy Kenneth Merten stated that the U.S. expects the “completion” of Haiti’s electoral process within 120 days, with Jude and Jovenel “proceeding to next round.” When asked later about U.S. support for an investigation into fraud, Merten evasively replied that the U.S. supported the political accord and in particular the April 24 date for elections. After meeting with Jocelerme Privert, EU Ambassador in Haiti Vincent Dégert said that the European Union expected a new president to be in place by May 14. Dégert emphasized the urgency of task: “The deadlines will come quickly. Hence, we need to do things quickly when we put them in place so that we respect the dates we had fixed.”

Privert has also approached members of diverse social and political groupings with the view of establishing a new CEP. On Wednesday, February 17, Privert met with representatives from the media, human rights sector and leaders of the Haitian Protestant Federation (FPH) to seek out potential members for the new CEP. Journalist Joseph Guyler Delva told Le National that Radio Vision 2000 CEO Léopold Berlanger had been chosen by the media sector as its new representative to the electoral council.

Marie Frantz Joachim, leader of SOFA, urged all parties to take these nominations to the CEP seriously. Joachim affirms that women’s organizations will exert great vigilance and care in choosing a representative to the CEP by putting in place a number of control measures in order to avoid potential compromises to the sector’s ideological stance. Osnel Jean-Baptiste from the rural organization (Tèt kole ti peyizan ayisyen), for his part, denounced the process, claiming that the farmers’ sector was effectively excluded from the dialogue. The leader of the Haitian Protestant Federation, pastor Sylvain Exantus, said he is awaiting a letter from the President before nominating a representative to the CEP from the Protestant sector.

In addition to trying to restart the democratic process, President Privert announced that he intends to tackle Haiti’s “alarming and chaotic financial situation.” In order to minimize public expenses, Privert promised to reduce the number of government ministers to fifteen, down from the current twenty, and decrease the number of posts of Secretary of State. Le Nouvelliste revealed that in the last days of his administration, Martelly appointed 11 of his supporters to government posts, including Marc-Antoine Acra, a businessman potentially linked to the drug trade. Privert also spoke of grave food insecurity that currently touches approximately 3.5 million people in the country.

Privert has stated that he is considering the idea of a financial audit of former President Martelly’s term. The political party MOPOD has demanded a corruption inquiry into Martelly’s spending practices, urging particular attention to loans from the National Reconstruction Fund and the PetroCaribe Fund. A group of popular organizations and unions similarly called for an audit of Martelly’s five years in power and the cancellation of all illegal decrees.

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