Haiti Elections News Roundup - June 20

The end of interim President Jocelerme Privert’s 120-day term came and went on June 14 without any decision by Haiti’s parliament, leaving confusion in its wake. The disputes over extending Privert’s mandate spilled out into the streets, with some of his opponents hinting at the possibility of his removal by force. The international powers expressed their dismay at the political uncertainty created by this situation. The verification commission’s (CIEVE) report, meanwhile, continued to make waves. The EU withdrew its observers in protest of the decision to rerun the presidential race, while the U.S. also expressed its “regret” over this decision. Another big question for the upcoming elections is where the financing will come from, given the disquiet of the international donors.

Haiti’s political actors were sharply divided over whether Privert remained President post-June 14. According the February 5 agreement, it falls to the National Assembly (a joint meeting of Deputies and Senators) to decide what happens after the interim president’s mandate expires, but parliamentarians have repeatedly failed to hold a meeting. Another National Assembly meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21. Pro-Martelly legislators, who had strongly opposed any extension of the mandate, insisted that Privert was no longer president. Angered by the verification commission (CIEVE) and especially its call to re-examine the electoral rulings for 41 parliamentary seats, some of these legislators indicated their preference for Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles to carry the electoral process forward.

Jocelerme Privert retorted that he would accept whatever decision the parliament came to concerning his mandate, but that he would not leave office without parliament choosing a replacement. Eleven of 22 sitting Senators declared their support for Privert’s continuing legitimacy as president. Parliamentarians supportive of Privert claimed that the interim president has the majority needed to extend his term and accused their opponents of blocking the National Assembly.

The international powers voiced their concern about the consequences of the gridlock in Haiti’s parliament. On June 15, the Core Group expressed “concern that no measures have been taken to ensure institutional continuity,” and urged the National Assembly “to take action and reach a solution which avoids an institutional vacuum, and facilitate the return to constitutional order through the holding of elections without further delay.” In a June 16 statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he was “deeply concerned over the continuing political uncertainty in Haiti.” The National Assembly needed to “urgently” arrive at a decision, Ban warned, since further delays in completing the electoral process could “have the potential to adversely affect stability in Haiti, as well as international support to the country.”

Anticipating the end of Privert’s term, PHTK and its allies attempted to launch a political offensive. On June 10, former Prime Minister Evans Paul unveiled the Entente Démocratique (ED), a new coalition of Paul’s KID, Martelly’s PHTK, Guy Philippe’s Consortium, Repons Peyizan, Platfòm Viktwa (both Repons and Viktwa are members of Consortium),  Bloc National Centre Droit and MONHA. At the launch of ED, Paul denounced the “totalitarian tendencies” of the interim authorities and called for a full-scale mobilisation against President Privert to ensure his departure on June 14.

The ED seemed to hope for an uprising that would unseat Privert. In a June 12 letter on behalf of the Entente, Paul called on Haitian National Police director-general Michel Ange Gédéon to revolt against Privert at the end of his mandate: “We remind you that you have a legal obligation to not obey any illegal order coming from a person stripped of legality and legitimacy.” The ED also called on the international community to withhold recognition of Privert’s government after June 14. These hopes were dampened somewhat on June 16, when US State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten told journalists: “At this moment, I recognize him (Privert) as being the interim president of Haiti, but we hope that the Haitian authorities and the parliament will act soon to clarify this.” 

In the Dominican Republic, rumours circulated of an insurgency in the making. On the margins of the OAS meeting in Santo Domingo, Fuerza Nacional Progresista (FNP) politician Pelegrín Castillo claimed: “In Haiti they are arming in anticipation of an insurrectional conflict, around a well-known figure and the international organizations, and the United States in particular, know this.”

Demonstrations, both for and against Privert staying in office, were held on June 14. The march announced by the ED as part of its “Operasyon depoze” drew only a handful of demonstrators to the KID party headquarters and never took to the streets. ED blamed the poor turnout on the “climate of persecution” allegedly created by Privert. Fanmi Lavalas and Pitit Dessalines, on the other hand, mobilized several thousand demonstrators in support of keeping Privert on to hold new elections. In front of the National Palace, angry demonstrators tried to block the passage of the US ambassador’s convoy.

The U.S. has previously expressed misgivings about the decision to re-run the elections. In a June 8 statement, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the U.S. “regrets the decision by the Provisional Electoral Council to restart the presidential elections from the first round.” Toner did not comment on the CIEVE’s conclusion that fraud had skewed the results, but criticized the delays and extra costs that the re-run would entail. “The Haitian people deserve to have their voices heard, not deferred,” Toner told journalists, who immediately questioned this stance:

QUESTION: Right. Well, on Haiti, just – I mean, is it – what’s more important? For them to have a president that was elected under suspect circumstances, or for them to have a president that was elected in a clean and --

MR TONER: I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. And I think our concern is that by now taking this back to zero, or from the starting line, it’s just going to add (to the length of the process. And there needs to be leadership installed there.)

... QUESTION: Well, but weren’t there issues with the first round?

MR TONER: There were, but we believe they can be addressed without, again, restarting the entire process.

The CEP’s decision to re-run the presidential elections has raised questions about Haiti’s ability to finance new elections, given the reticence of many donors to contribute again. On June 9, a spokeperson for Privert estimated the total cost of the upcoming elections at $55 million, of which the Haitian government already had $30 million set aside. In addition, the UNDP elections basket fund has $9.6 million in unspent funds. To close the gap in funding, Privert said his government would turn to other public institutions to finance “this act of national sovereignty.” He has also pledged to reduce costs, through mobilizing students and using existing state-owned vehicles instead of buying new ones.

The U.S. spent $33 million on the 2015 elections and has threatened to withhold further funds, since the decision to re-run the presidential race was announced. In a recent interview for Le Nouvelliste, Kenneth Merten stated: “We still do not know what position we will adopt regarding our financial support. U.S. taxpayers have already spent more than $33 million and that is a lot. We can ask ourselves what was done with the money or what guarantees there are that the same thing will not happen again.”  A detailed analysis of US spending, however, raised questions about how much of those funds were truly necessary to hold elections, and how much simply served to enrich foreign organizations.

The publication of CIEVE’s report and the new electoral calendar revealed divergences among the international observation missions sent to oversee Haiti’s elections. Secretary General Luis Almagro released a statement on June 8 saying that the OAS “welcomes” the new election dates set for October 9 2016 and assured that “it will continue to play a positive role in the electoral process.” The EU, by contrast, announced that it was withdrawing its observation mission in protest of the decision to re-run the October presidential elections. The head of the Mission, Elena Valenciano, insisted that the October 2015 elections “were globally consistent with international norms” and claimed that the CIEVE’s work had “many factual, legal, methodological and conceptual weaknesses.”

The EU observer mission published a 15-page report that bitterly attacked the credibility and conclusions of the CIEVE. The technical staff of the CIEVE issued a response to the EU’s criticisms, defending the methodology of the CIEVE and denouncing the “partisan behaviour” of the EU observers. The “arrogance and disdain” shown by Valenciano and the EU mission, noted the CIEVE technical staff, was “coloured by the ambient racism towards the Haitian people” that is “more and more evident among a section of diplomats and functionaries in international agencies.” The Spanish Foreign Ministry strongly backed the decision of the EU to withdraw, perhaps not surprisingly, given that most of the EU observer mission’s leadership is Spanish.

The G-8 confirmed by communiqué that the coalition of presidential candidates, having accomplished its objectives, is now dissolved. So far, only four presidential candidates have confirmed their participation in the October 9 election with the CEP. Fanmi Lavalas’ Maryse Narcisse has confirmed, but Moïse Jean-Charles (Pitit Dessalines), Jovenel Moïse (PHTK) and Jude Célestin (LAPEH) are expected to confirm their participation before the June 22 deadline. The CEP decided not to allow new candidates to re-register, which might have opened the door to excluded candidates such as Vérité’s Jacky Lumarque.


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