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New Survey Casts Doubt on Haiti Election Results

November 19, 2015 - 07:33

A new survey from the Brazilian Igarape Institute, released today, indicates that official results from Haiti’s October 25 presidential election may not reflect the will of the voters. In the wake of the election, local observers and political leaders have denounced what they claim was massive fraud in favor of the governing party’s candidate, Jovenel Moïse, who came in first place with 32.8 percent of the vote according to the preliminary results. In second place was Jude Célestin with 25.3 percent and in third and fourth respectively were Moïse Jean Charles with 14.3 percent and Dr. Maryse Narcisse with 7 percent. Final results are expected this week.

But the survey, which is based on interviews with over 1,800 voters from 135 voting centers throughout all of Haiti’s ten departments, reveals a vastly different voting pattern than the official results. 37.5 percent of respondents indicated they had voted for Célestin while 30.6 percent voted for Jean Charles and 19.4 percent for Narcisse. The governing party’s Jovenel Moïse was the choice of just 6.3 percent of survey respondents. (See an AP story about the survey here.)

The official results have set up a potential runoff between Jovenel Moïse and Célestin on December 27, but Célestin has so far refused to recognize the results or accept his second-place position ahead of the second round of the elections. A coalition of eight candidates has labeled the results “unacceptable” and called on the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to form an independent commission to audit the results and investigate allegations of fraud. After a meeting on Monday between the CEP and the G8, as the opposition coalition is known, the CEP formally rejected the proposition, claiming that the electoral decree did not allow it. Opposition groups responded by pledging to continue a growing protest movement that has seen many thousands take the streets since results were announced, threatening to derail the costly and internationally backed electoral process.

A large protest was broken up by police on Wednesday near the CEP headquarters. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets and Steven Benoit, one of the opposition presidential candidates challenging the results, suffered injuries to his head. Moïse Jean Charles, who was riding on horseback, was also reportedly injured, and yet another presidential candidate, Jean Henry Céant, was reportedly detained and threatened with arrest.  

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An Analysis of the October 25 Preliminary Results

November 16, 2015 - 07:38

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On November 5, the CEP released preliminary results for the first-round presidential election held on October 25, which prescribed a presidential run-off between PHTK's Jovenel Moïse and LAPEH's Jude Celestin on December 27. The November 8 release of results for the second-round legislative elections, also held on October 25, occurred with much less fanfare. While most attention has been fixed on the contested presidential results, the legislative results may be even more significant for the political future of Haiti.

Presidential Race

According to the CEP's results, PHTK's Jovenel Moise (32.81%) and LAPEH's Jude Celestin (25.27%) were the top two finishers, while Moise Jean-Charles of Pitit Dessalines finished third (14.27%) and Fanmi Lavalas' Maryse Narcisse came in fourth (7.05%). 

Broken down by region, Jovenel Moise's strongest showing was in the north of the country; his share of the vote in the Nord Est, Nord Ouest and Nord departments was 62.6%, 54.6% and 48.6%, respectively. His worst results came from the Sud Est, where he received only 14.9% of the vote. For runner-up Jude Celestin, his popularity was highest in the Sud Est, where he won 46.7% of the vote while in the Nord it was lowest at 9.9%. Celestin's share of the vote in this department was likely squeezed by the strong appeal of Jovenel Moïse and Moïse Jean-Charles. Pitit Dessalines' Jean-Charles finished third and scored highest in the Artibonite (17.1%) and the Nord (29.1%), which Jean-Charles represented as a Senator for many years. Prior to that, under the Aristide government, Jean-Charles was the mayor of Milot, just outside the capital of the Nord, Cap-Haïtien. Fourth-place finisher Maryse Narcisse did the best in the Ouest (14.7%) and the Sud (11.8%).

The presidential tallies released by the CEP cannot necessarily be taken at face value. While OAS, EU observers and the Core Group have endorsed the results, Haitian civil society groups have denounced the massive fraud they claim occurred on October 25 and called for an independent investigation. Seven presidential candidates have added their voice to this call, including Celestin and third- and fourth-place finishers Moïse Jean-Charles and Maryse Narcisse. Accusations that political party mandataires were able to vote multiple times, ballot-box stuffing, and manipulation of results at the Tabulation Center have undermined many Haitians' confidence in the announced results. Haiti appears to be on the cusp of a post-electoral crisis, whose outcome is far from determined.

If the preliminary results are allowed to stand, Haiti's next president will possess an extremely weak mandate to govern. According to the CEP's figures, over 73% of registered Haitian voters deciding to stay home on October 25, a percentage which may in reality be higher if multiple voting by mandataires was as widespread as many suspect. Repeating the pattern of the August 9 vote, the turnout for October 25's presidential race was again lowest in the Ouest department at 20.3%. Turnout was highest in the Nord Est (38.8%) and Nippes (37.2%) departments. Jovenel Moise was thus able to finish first with the support of only 8.7% of registered voters, while Jude Celestin came in second with only 6.7% of registered voters backing him. In the second round scheduled for December 27, Haitians could be asked to choose between two candidates who were the first choice of less than 16% of registered voters.

The proportion of tally sheets (procès verbaux) not recuperated by the CEP after October 25 was 2.2%. Overall, tally sheets from 296 polling stations were not received by the CEP. This is much lower than after the first round vote in August, when nearly 18% of tally sheets never arrived at the Tabulation Center. Undoubtedly, this was due in large part to violence and disorder occurring on a much smaller scale during the presidential balloting. In only two places - Borgne (Nord) and Cotes-des-Fer (Sud Est)- was voting severely disrupted. Limonade was another constituency where a high proportion of tally sheets (38%) were not counted.At the regional level, most departments had only 1-2% of presidential tally sheets go missing. However, one region - the Sud Est - stands out, with 9.4% of tally sheets not received. This is also the department where Jude Celestin got the highest proportion of the vote. 

The higher proportion of recuperated tally sheets may also be due to improvements in election day logistics. On both August 9 and October 25, UNOPS was responsible for picking up tally sheets and others sensitive electoral materials collected at the Bureau Electoral Departementaux (BEDs) and transporting it to the Tabulation Center. Members of the CEP, however, have accused UNOPS of poor disorganization and a lack of planning on August 9, resulting in numerous tally sheets being lost. UNOPS reportedly received increased funding from international donors and made several improvements prior to the October 25 vote. On the other hand, PHTK candidate Antoine Rodon Bien Aimé recently accused UNOPS of orchestrating a massive fraud on October 25, involving real tally sheets being switched for counterfeit ones during transportation.

The CEP also excluded from the presidential vote totals 490 tally sheets, amounting to 3.6% of the total, either due to fraud, tampering or clerical errors. Intriguingly, the two regions where PHTK's Moïse received the most support are also those that recorded the highest number of quarantined tally sheets: the Nord Est (9.8%) and the Nord Ouest (6.4%). It is difficult to know, however, where the biggest problems were on October 25 since the CEP has not provided any breakdown of reasons why the tally sheets were quarantined.

This lack of transparency concerning decisions made at the Tabulation Center has been a major criticism of Haitian observer groups, who have demanded more information about the decision-making procedures used to quarantine tally sheets. Given that far fewer tally sheets were quarantined during the 2010 elections (312), which the U.S. alleged were plagued by fraud, greater clarity on this issue seems like an eminently reasonable demand.

Legislative Races

With all eyes fixed on the outcome of the presidential races, far less attention has been given to what is perhaps the most significant story told by the preliminary results: Haiti's next legislature will feature a formidable pro-Martelly bloc, regardless of who becomes president.

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Haiti Announces Preliminary Election Results, but Race Far From Settled

November 6, 2015 - 16:38

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced preliminary results from the October 25 presidential elections yesterday evening, showing the government-backed Jovenel Moïse and former state construction company director Jude Célestin in the top two places, paving the way for a face-off between the two candidates in the second round of the elections scheduled for December 27.

Of the roughly 1.6 million Haitians who voted (roughly 26 percent of registered voters), Moïse received 32.8 percent of the vote while Célestin received 25.3 percent, according to the preliminary results announced by the CEP. Moïse Jean-Charles, an opposition leader, received 14.3 percent to finish in third while Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party of twice-ousted Jean Bertrand Aristide came in fourth with just over 7 percent of the vote.

After violence and fraud plagued first-round legislative elections in August, more than 73 percent of registered voters stayed home on election day this time - a similar rate as what was seen in the flawed 2010 presidential elections, but far below turnout in previous presidential elections such as in 2000 and 2006, which was closer to 60 percent.

Nearly as soon as the CEP press conference ended, many leading candidates, including Jude Célestin, denounced the results and pledged to mobilize supporters in the coming days against what they allege was massive fraud in favor of the government. Small protests erupted around the capital and one supporter of Jean-Charles was killed outside of his party’s headquarters. The party has blamed the Haitian police for the death.

On Friday, all of the top four candidates held morning press conferences to state their position on the results. Jovenel Moïse, of the ruling PHTK party, was the only one not to question the results announced by the CEP. Célestin, together with seven other presidential candidates, had sent a letter to the CEP days before results were announced, denouncing massive fraud in the elections and calling for an independent commission to investigate. “We are working on this with all the candidates because we are all saying the same thing: 'This is not the people's vote and they are trying to steal the vote of the population,’” the Associated Press reported Célestin as saying at this morning’s press conference. Afterwards, supporters of his party, LAPEH, began protesting throughout the capital.

Followers of Jean-Charles’ Pitit Dessalines platform and Narcisse’s Fanmi Lavalas party also took to the streets. Haitian police have responded with tear gas to break up the protests, which are expected to continue over the coming days.

The fraud allegations have been wide-ranging but many have focused on the problem with political party monitors; some 900,000 accreditation passes were distributed before the election which may have allowed monitors to place fraudulent votes. Local observers and party representatives have denounced a black market that developed for the passes in the days leading up to the vote, with passes going for as much as $30, and as little as $2 on election day. In the West department, where over 40 percent of registered voters live, these monitors accounted for upwards of 50 percent of voters, according to observer groups.

The day before results were announced, a local observer group noted that a lack of transparency and other problems at the tabulation center where votes are counted, “helped create a general atmosphere of suspicion and generate legitimate fears that the reality of the ballot boxes or the expression of the will of the people are being altered, in whole or in part.”

In a statement released today, the group of presidential candidates termed the announced results “unacceptable,” and again called for an independent commission to investigate fraud. The announced results only reinforce the perception that “those who vote decide nothing,” the candidates said in the statement. The group characterized the current process as a “dangerous return to the past” when dictators organized elections and warned that it “threatens the stability of the country.”

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Presidential Elections in Haiti: The Most Votes Money Can Buy

November 3, 2015 - 14:13

On Monday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that the preliminary results of the October 25 presidential and legislative elections, expected to be announced today, would be delayed until Thursday. The delay has been attributed to the formation of a committee by the CEP to investigate allegations of fraud coming from political parties and local observer groups. The committee consists of five members of the electoral council. Of the 162 complaints received, the committee says 43 are being followed up on, though few are placing their trust in the process. 

The elections were praised after there were only a few sporadic outbursts of violence, leading many in the international community to quickly conclude that there were few problems. Just as it had done in August, the Organization of American States (OAS) proclaimed the day after the vote that any problems “did not affect the overall course of the election.” After violence shut down nearly one out of every six voting centers in the August legislative elections, this was apparently the new standard by which to judge the elections.

At least a half-dozen leading presidential candidates have come out before results are even announced to denounce widespread fraud in favor of the government’s candidate, Jovenèl Moïse. The allegations have been wide ranging: replacement of ballot boxes with fakes distributed by ambulances, mass ballot box stuffing, and burning of ballots for opposition candidates. Little proof has been provided to back up these claims. But the most blatant example was there for everyone to see on election day, and was in fact anticipated by electoral officials and international observers.

In Haiti’s elections, political party monitors, called mandataires, are allowed inside voting areas in order to ensure the impartiality of electoral officials and to sign off on the count at the end of the day. In August’s first-round legislative election, these party monitors cried foul, as not enough accreditation passes were printed and only some were allowed in during the vote.

In response, the CEP flooded the parties with passes. In total, over 916,000 were distributed according to the organization’s president, Pierre Louis Opont. Unlike average voters, whose identification must be checked with the electoral list at the polling center where they are registered, monitors are allowed to vote wherever they are present. This became, in many ways, an election of mandataires.

International and local observers have estimated turnout at between 25 and 30 percent, meaning there were roughly 1.6 million voters. With over 900,000 accreditation passes for monitors, and thousands more for observation groups (whose members are subject to the same open voting rules), it means over 50 percent of votes could come from these groups.

All 54 candidates vying for the presidency received more than 13,700 passes, enough to be present at each voting booth in the country. Few, however, had the capacity or the money to actually use them. The result was that parties sold them to the highest bidder in the days leading up to the vote. Local observers said passes were going for as much as $30. By Sunday, they were going for as little as a few dollars.

The system for monitoring the vote had turned into a black market for vote buying, where those with the most money were most able to take advantage. And it was entirely predictable.

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Haiti Election Improved from August, But Many Irregularities Remain

October 26, 2015 - 07:31

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston is in Haiti observing the electoral process. To keep up with the latest news from Sunday's election, check out the Haiti Elections Blog. Johnston filed this story for VICE News today

After violence and fraud marred legislative elections in August, voting was significantly smoother throughout the country as Haitians went to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday. A total of 142 mayoral positions were also up for grabs, and second round elections were held for deputy and senate seats where the vote had not been cancelled in August.

"Decisions were taken to increase the security," which led to a decrease in violent incidents, said the head of the Organization of American States observation mission, Celso Amorim, expressing his satisfaction with the process thus far. Heavily armed, masked police officers were visible throughout the day in Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities.

Of 119 races for deputy, 25 had to be re-run after voting centers were ransacked or votes were thrown out due to fraud in the chaotic August vote. In three of Haiti's ten departments, final senate results were postponed pending the outcome of the electoral reruns. But on Sunday, only 8 centers were closed, according to the government.

Haiti has had no parliament since a political crisis sparked its dissolution last January, meaning the legislative vote is crucial. Haitians are also hoping the new president can bring an end to the poverty and chaos that has plagued the country.

Prime Minister Evans Paul took to the radio in the afternoon to congratulate the police on the improvements. Criticized for passivity during the last election, the police took an active roll in maintaining order in polling centers.

Around 15,000 officers and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers were on duty, reported the BBC. The UN said 224 arrests were made, including a candidate for the lower chamber of Deputies and two Haiti National Police officers. In Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, an individual was arrested with 73 voter ID cards.

The head of the electoral council, Pierre Louis Opont, thanked the police for learning from August's experience. "Today the police were up to the task," he said. Opont called on political parties to remain calm and show patience while the votes were tallied.

Bruny Watson, a voter in the Cite-Soleil neighborhood, said he didn't vote in August "because there was too much violence," but he was determined to cast his ballot for president on Sunday. Turnout was a paltry 18 percent in the first-round election legislative election, but Amorim cited reports from observer teams throughout the country that indicated a significantly higher turnout this time around.

US congressional representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) were also in Haiti to observe the vote. The US has contributed $30 million to an electoral process that is expected to cost more than $70 million.

The three were among 61 members of congress to write to Secretary of State John Kerry to "send a clear message to the Haitian government underscoring the need to guarantee the security of voters."

"What I saw today filled me with optimism about the future of Haiti," Rep. Conyers told VICE News. The youth of Haiti had filled the polling booths, both as workers and voters, he said, adding that the majority "approached the process with seriousness and goodwill to support the democratic process.?"

Still, problems cropped up throughout the day. Many centers were late to open and in some areas Haitians were unable to find their names on voter lists. In some cases, there simply was nowhere to vote.

In Wharf Jeremie, one of the largest polling centers in August was simply gone, leaving residents unsure of where they were supposed to vote. Building 2004, another large voting center, was also non-existent on Sunday.

In Canaan, a sprawling hillside slum home to hundreds of thousands of people, including many of those displaced from the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti nearly six years ago, voters sometimes had to travel miles to the nearest voting center.

Once again, political party monitors were a source of tension and possible fraud. At 6am a long line had already formed outside the Horace Etheard voting center in the Solino neighborhood. In Haitian elections, political parties' representatives, called mandataires, are allowed to monitor the vote inside polling centers. More than 100 were in line jockeying for position before the doors even opened.

One monitor was arrested at the Dumersais Estime voting center. Police caught him with two passes from two different political parties. Monitors were also witnessed exchanging passes outside centers, hoping to have multiple people vote with the same pass.

In another center, a monitor was kicked out after voting three times, according to poll workers. Some were not there to monitor at all. "They paid me to be a mandataire," one monitor from the Fusion party commented, "but I'm voting Fanmi Lavalas today," he said, while milling about outside a voting center.

Unlike in August when the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) failed to distribute enough accreditation passes to every party and allegations of favoritism were heard throughout the day, on Sunday, monitors from a plurality of parties were present and appeared to outnumber voters at many centers in the capital, occasionally overwhelming poll workers.

Because of the additional police forces expected to be present, many observers were optimistic that election day itself would be improved from August, yet pointed out that that is not the end of the process.

"It was better than August 9, but at the same time we must be very careful when it comes to the counting of votes and what happens at the tabulation center over the coming weeks," said Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNNDDH). RNDDH is part of a coalition of civil society groups that had more than 1,800 observers present throughout the country.

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Haiti Elections, by the Numbers

October 24, 2015 - 08:54

Date on which first round presidential, second round legislative and mayoral elections will be held: October 25, 2015

Number of candidates for president: 54

Number of registered political parties: 128

Number of candidates for local and mayoral races: 41,000

Year in which terms expired and mayors were replaced by political appointees: 2012

Earliest date on which preliminary results are expected: November 3, 2015

Date on which presidential run-off, legislative reruns and local races will be held: December 27, 2015

Date that first-round legislative elections were held: August 9, 2015

Number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, respectively that were up for grabs in the first-round: 119 and 20

Number of candidates who were elected in the first round in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, respectively: 8 and 2

Participation rate during the first-round: 18%

Participation in the West department, home to over 40% of registered voters: 9.8%

Percent of 13,725 voting booths where no votes were counted during first-round Senate elections due to irregularities: 24.3

Number of electoral districts where first-round deputy races must be held: 25

Number of candidates sanctioned for their role in electoral disturbances: 16

Of Haiti’s 10 departments, number that did not announce first-round Senate results due to irregularities: 3

Number of departments where President Martelly’s PHTK party was involved in electoral irregularities, according to the CEP: 6

Total electoral budget: $74 million

United States contribution to electoral budget: $30 million

Amount spent on electoral campaign by Presidential candidate Eric Jean Baptiste, who is not considered a front-runner: $5 million

Maximum amount a presidential candidate is allowed to spend on the campaign, according to Haiti’s electoral decree: $2 million

Number of polling centers across the country: 1,508

Number of polling booths: 13,725

Average number of polling stations per voting center: 9.1

Accreditation badges distributed to political party monitors: 13,725

Date on which terms expired for the entire chamber of deputy’s a third of the Senate: January 12, 2015

Total registered voters: 5,871,450

Number of poll workers in October 25 elections: 41,175

Number of police deployed for October 25 elections: 10,000

Number of U.N. troops and police present: 2,502

Number of OAS observers deployed on October 25: 125

Number of observers deployed by civil society groups RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE, on October 25: 1,800

Sources: Miami Herald, Le National, Provisional Electoral Council, Haiti:Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Haiti Elections Blog

Clinton Emails Reveal “Behind the Doors Actions” of Private Sector and US Embassy in Haiti Elections

October 8, 2015 - 05:15

Recently released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveal new details of how U.S. officials worked closely with the Haitian private sector as they forced Haitian authorities to change the results of the first round presidential elections in late 2010. The e-mails documenting these “behind the doors actions” were made public as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Preliminary results from the deeply flawed 2010 presidential and legislative elections were announced on December 7, 2010, showing René Préval’s hand-picked successor Jude Célestin and university professor Mirlande Manigat advancing to a second-round runoff. The same day, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti released a statement questioning the legitimacy of the announced results.

Behind the scenes, key actors were already pushing for Célestin to withdraw from the race, according to the e-mails.  Just a day after preliminary results were announced, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten wrote to Cheryl Mills, Tom Adams and Daniel Restrepo, all key State Department Haiti staff. “Boulos + private sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw + they would support RP staying til 7 Feb.” “This is big,” the ambassador added.

“Boulos” here refers to Reginald Boulos, one of the largest industrialists in Haiti and a member of the Private Sector Economic Forum. Importantly, Boulos also suggested they would support Préval staying in office through February 7, but with the election delayed due to the earthquake, a new president would not be able to take office by then. Many had advocated for Préval’s early departure, and during a meeting of international officials on election day, Préval was even threatened with being forced out of the country.

The e-mail also shows that Merten was in close contact with Michel Martelly’s campaign. Protests had already broken out across Port-au-Prince and in other cities throughout Haiti, with protesters alleging that their preferred candidate, Michel Martelly, should be in the runoff. Merten writes that he had personally contacted Martelly’s “camp” and told them that he needs to “get on radio telling people to not pillage. Peaceful demo OK: pillage is not.” Documents obtained through a separate FOIA request have shown that a key group behind the protests later received support from USAID and went on to play a role in the formation of Martelly’s political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale.

The following day, as per Merten’s suggestion in the e-mail, the U.S. Embassy released another statement calling for calm and urging political actors to “work through Haiti's electoral contestation process to address any electoral concerns.” As the e-mail reveals, however, efforts were underway to remove Célestin from the race before any contestation process could even begin.

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Election Council Member’s Resignation a Blow to Haiti’s Electoral Process

October 5, 2015 - 14:14

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Friday October 2, Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) member Nehemy Joseph submitted resignation letters (images below) to both President Martelly and his colleagues at the CEP, in a fresh blow to Haiti’s electoral process. Dogged by criticisms over the fraud and violence-plagued legislative elections on August 9, the CEP has suffered from a crisis of confidence as many political parties and civil society groups continue to demand the resignation of its president, Pierre Louis Opont and other changes before presidential elections October 25.

Joseph told president Martelly that he was “not comfortable” staying at the CEP any longer. In his letter to the CEP, Joseph cited his unsuccessful attempts to persuade his colleagues to correct what he perceived as errors and the public criticism of the institution as reasons for his departure. Joseph also singled out the United Nations Development Program’s control over the electoral budget as a factor impeding the work of the CEP.

"Today, I am increasingly convinced that completing my mandate would involve me in illegality. (I feel that my credibility will end up melting away like an ice block if I do not leave.) Indeed, the various unsuccessful efforts I made to persuade some of my colleagues to reconsider certain decisions made in error are, among others, factors that have deepened my concerns ... It is natural to make mistakes, but to persevere in error even while recognizing it as such can prove to be pathological," Joseph wrote. Nevertheless, Joseph concluded by stating that he hopes the electoral process will continue smoothly.

Political insiders had expected the announcement for at least a few days. Joseph is “someone not willing to go down in a sinking boat at whatever the cost,” one political adviser close to president Martelly said, requesting anonymity. The adviser expected the election to proceed as scheduled, though acknowledged he was less sure than prior to the resignation. The decision raises the prospect of other councilors following Joseph out the door, which could put the continuation of the electoral process in jeopardy.

The CEP and the Martelly government insist that elections will go ahead as planned. "This will not affect the work of the CEP," fellow council member Ricardo Augustin told the Haitian press in response to Joseph’s resignation. Jean Renel Sanon, a representative of the National Palace said that the government would be in communication with the Peasant/Vodou sector, which had nominated Joseph to the post, to find a replacement as soon as possible. The electoral decree passed in March stipulates that the CEP can continue to function so long as a quorum of 5 members is achieved.

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Haiti Elections News Roundup – September 17

September 17, 2015 - 10:27

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul is in Washington D.C. to participate in a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) Annual Legislative Conference. According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office, Paul will also meet with Luis Almagro of the Organization of American States and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  The CBC panel will take place today (9/17) at 4:30 PM. Also speaking at the panel will be Pierre Louis Opont of the CEP, Brian Concannon from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Melinda Miles of Haiti SOIL as well as many others. More details can be found here.

The OAS as well as the Core Group issued statements this week expressing support for the electoral process and the holding of presidential elections on October 25. Gerardo de Icaza, the Director of the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation at the OAS traveled to Haiti on September 14 and, according to the release, “will hold high-level meetings with the electoral authority and political actors in Port-au-Prince in support of the holding of the upcoming elections.” The head of the OAS electoral observation mission, Celso Amorim, will make a preliminary visit to Haiti on September 21. The Core Group urged all actors to ensure a successful electoral cycle and “took note” of the CEP’s commitments to address problems from the first round.

The National Front, a grouping of various political parties, has continued its mobilization against the August 9 election. The group is calling for the resignation of the head of the CEP, Pierre Louis Opont and says the elections are not possible without a credible CEP. The group sent a letter to various civil society groupings which had designated members of the CEP urging them to have their representatives resign.

The CEP has called another meeting for Friday, September 18 with political party representatives to discuss the preparations for the scheduled October 25 election. A press release from the electoral council states that change to the electoral schedule will be up for discussion. After the previous meeting between parties and the CEP last Friday, various possibilities emerged, including postponing the second round legislative elections until December 27.

The U.N. Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, called for the CEP to clearly explain their rationale for removing Vérité’s presidential candidate, Jacky Lumarque from the race. “For the case of Jacky Lumarque, the CEP could either make public the arguments on which it relies to exclude him from the process, or re-enter his name on the list of presidential candidates for the next elections,” Gallón said. Last week Vérité announced its withdrawal from the electoral process unless significant changes to the CEP were made.

SOFA (Solidarite Fanm  Ayisyèn, Solidarity of Haitian Women) issued an official statement strongly condemning election-related violence and the low-level of female political representation.  In violation of the mandatory 30% female representation quota set by the Constitution and the Electoral Decree, only 23 women out of 232 senate candidates (9.9%) and 129 women out of 1621 depute candidates (8%) were able to register for August 9 elections.  SOFA’s report calls on the CEP to take all measures necessary to reach the quota, including addressing the economic discrepancies facing female candidates, adopting an education campaign to encourage women to become candidates, and addressing sexism in the mostly male parliament.  

Political Party that Played Key Role in Bringing about Elections Drops out of Race

September 9, 2015 - 13:36

Haiti’s internationally backed electoral process was thrown further into disarray yesterday as a leading political party announced its withdrawal from the electoral process. In a press statement, the Vérité platform, closely associated with former president René Préval, said it was pulling out of the elections because it was the primary victim of the August 9 “electoral mess,” and called for a “good” electoral council in order to “run a good election.”

Haiti’s August 9 election was characterized by extremely low voter turnout, with just 18 percent of registered voters going to the polls. Additionally, nearly one-quarter of all votes were never counted due to violence on election day, problems transporting ballots and other issues. In 25 of the 119 races for deputy, elections will need to be re-run due to the scale of irregularities. Over the last month, an increasingly large cadre of candidates has taken to the streets, leading protests against the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and a government who they claim has rigged the process.

Also yesterday, INITE, Préval’s former political movement, called on its representative, Ariel Henry to leave the “consensus” government that has run the country since the terms of parliament expired in January. To “remain part of a government that has undertaken and continues this electoral coup of August 9, would be contrary to our principles, our democratic ideals,” the party stated in its letter to President Martelly.

Preliminary results released last month showed Vérité candidates advancing to the second round in 30 of the 85 races that were counted and where no candidate won in the first round, second only to President Martelly’s PHTK. Vérité has mulled the decision to withdraw for some time, as the party’s presidential candidate, Jacky Lumarque, was excluded from participating after originally being accepted. The CEP, after announcing the final list of candidates, kicked Lumarque out of the race because he had been named to a presidential commission under former president Préval and therefore needed a discharge document. Despite a ruling from Haiti’s highest court in favor of Lumarque, the CEP has maintained the exclusion and Vérité has led regular protests for his reentry into the race.

While Vérité has consistently denounced flaws in the electoral process, it has been accused by opposition groups of being close to the governing party and being one of the main benefactors of the recent election. And it’s true; there may never have been an election without the support of Préval.

At least as early as November 2014, senior United States diplomats began to meet with the former president and others deemed to be in the more “moderate” opposition. At the time, with delayed elections still not scheduled and terms of sitting parliamentarians expiring in January, Haiti was engulfed by a growing protest movement calling for the departure of President Martelly and the holding of elections. There needed to be a compromise that would move Haiti toward elections and remove the instability from the streets; Préval, whom the U.S. described as “Haiti’s indispensable man” in a 2009 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, was the one to do it.

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Local Observers Document Massive Fraud, Intimidation and Violence in Haiti Election

August 31, 2015 - 06:47

A local Haitian observation group has released a detailed report from election day, calling into question the legitimacy of the vote in many areas throughout Haiti. The group, made up of RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE, had observers present in 48 percent of voting centers throughout the country. The observers state that in more than 60 percent of polling centers where they were present there was massive fraud or attempted fraud, serious irregularities, intimidation and violent or aggressive acts.

The report continues:

The executive authorities, officials of the electoral body as well as many political parties and candidates each share a part of the blame for what can be considered an electoral fiasco. 

In effect, after having spent four (4) years in power without holding elections that the people were calling for, after having spent four (4) years procrastinating and trying to place the blame on other actors involved in the elections, the executive authorities produced these electoral contests where the political parties of the ruling power, namely PHTK and Réseau National Bouclier Haîtien, have been identified as being, on the day of the election, the most aggressive in the perpetration of fraud and the use of electoral violence as a means to success.

The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has announced that elections will be re-run in 25 areas where the number of tally sheets counted was below 70 percent. The Senate election in the Artibonite will also be re-run in October. The local observers, however have questioned the transparency of this decision:

The CEP has not provided any information about the handling, at the level of the Tabulation Center, of the numerous irregularities related to ballot-box stuffing and vote fraud reported during the election of August 9 2015. 

Moreover, the decision of the CEP to validate results from a Voting Center based on the relatively low threshold of 70% of tally sheets risks causing serious prejudice to candidates who were the target of violence by their opponents.

Although the CEP never produced a full list of voting centers that were closed or where significant problems ensued, the local observer report lists 104 voting centers where “massive fraud” and violence took place and where the voting was stopped, at least temporarily. Although Haiti’s electoral law specifically states that the suspension of the vote is not, in and of itself, grounds to annul an election, the closures, coupled with reports of fraud and violence certainly raises the question of whether results from these voting centers should be counted at all.

An analysis of the 104 voting centers where massive fraud and violence took place showed that in many cases the CEP never received any tally sheets from the centers. However, many voting centers that are listed by RNDDH produced tally sheets which were eventually accepted and counted by the CEP.  If those additional tally sheets were excluded from the final results, many different races, at both the deputy and senate level would fall below the CEP’s 70 percent threshold.

To demonstrate how sensitive the CEP’s threshold is to small changes in the number of tally sheets accepted and counted, the breakdown below shows the impact of excluding tally sheets from voting centers listed in the local observer report.

Note: PVs are tally sheets produced from each Bureau du Vote (BV). Totals PVs is the total number of PVs if each BV in a given area had produced a tally sheet.

As can be seen, by removing tally sheets from voting centers listed by the RNDDH-led local observer group, four additional departments would need to re-run Senate elections: the Nord, Centre, Grand Anse and Ouest.

Half of PHTK’s eight Senate candidates advancing to the second round come from these departments and all four of Bouclier’s do as well. Verite would lose three of its seven Senate candidates. Both Bouclier and PHTK were warned by the CEP for their involvement in electoral violence in three of the four departments where Senate elections would no longer stand. Verite was singled out for its role in electoral violence in the Nord and Ouest departments, both areas where the party advanced Senate candidates.

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CEP Issues Reprimand to Parties - But Is It Enough?

August 27, 2015 - 12:30

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On August 24, the CEP issued a warning to political parties that further acts of disorder would not be tolerated by the electoral council. In a communiqué, the CEP "deplored" the fact that candidates and their sympathizers had "disrupted" the voting on August 9, "ransacking Voting Centers and stealing voting materials." If a party's candidates, members or supporters commit similar acts again, that party's candidates will be excluded from the race in the affected constituency ("circonscription"), the CEP warned.

The CEP identified 8 of 10 departments where such incidents occurred and identified the parties guilty of election-day disruptions in each department. Only in Nippes and the Nord-Est were no parties warned for involvement.








Of the 16 parties named by the CEP, PHTK and Bouclier were the ones most often singled out for blame. President Martelly's PHTK was reprimanded for perturbing the vote in 6 different departments on August 9, while Bouclier - a party widely perceived to be an ally of PHTK - was cited in 4.

Disturbingly, what the CEP's communiqué seems to show is that causing trouble goes hand-in-hand with electoral success. 

President Martelly's PHTK leads all parties with 25 first-place Deputy candidates going into the second round. Of those 25 leading candidates, 17 come from departments where PHTK engaged in electoral abuses, according to the CEP's communiqué. Similarly, 9 of Verité's 14 Deputy candidates leading after the first round are from departments where the party caused disorder.

For PHTK's Senate candidates, 4 out of 8 going to the second round come from departments where the party's behaviour was criticized by the CEP. The same goes for a majority (7 of 11) of the second-round Senate candidates for the next two leading parties, Verité (4 of 7) and Bouclier (3 of 4).

In the absence of action taken to exclude the offenders, candidates from political parties issued warnings by the CEP will dominate the second round of the legislative elections in many departments. This is the case even when the 25 constituencies that the CEP has said will have their elections rerun are excluded from the analysis.

For the Artibonite, Nord, Centre, Ouest and Sud departments, 3 of 4 first-round Deputy winners and 34 of 47 first-place candidates heading to the second round come from parties cited by the CEP for causing disorder on election day. The outlook for the Senate races, where each department is electing two representatives, is much the same for these departments. In the Artibonite, Nord, Centre, Ouest and Sud, candidates from reprimanded parties hold the top two places (and are thus favourites going into the second round) for 8 of 10 Senate seats up for grabs, and make up 14 of 20 Senate candidates overall going to the second round. Only in the Artibonite, however, will the Senate race be redone.

The CEP, by issuing its warning, may have inadvertently demonstrated that the flaws of the August 9 elections go far beyond the 25 constituencies slated to be rerun. Whether the offending parties get more than just a slap on the wrist remains to be seen.

Major parties cited by CEP communiqué (department)

PHTK (Artibonite, Centre, Nord, Ouest, Nord-Ouest, Sud)

Bouclier (Artibonite, Grand'Anse, Nord, Ouest)

Verité (Nord, Ouest, Sud)

KID (Artibonite, Centre, Sud)

Candidates from parties responsible for election-day violence and disorder, selected departments

1st place Deputy

Artibonite: 3 of 6

Centre: 5 of 7

Nord: 7 of 8

Ouest: 9 of 14

Sud: 10 of 12

1st or 2nd place Senate (going to second round)

Artibonite: 2 of 2 (3 of 4)

Centre: 2 of 2 (3 of 4)

Nord: 2 of 2 (4 of 4)

Ouest: 1 of 2 (2 of 4)

Sud: 1 of 2 (2 of 4)

Full Breakdown of Preliminary Legislative Election Results in Haiti

August 21, 2015 - 16:38

*This post has been edited for accuracy. 

After not showing up to its own scheduled press conference on Wednesday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced on Thursday that they would be re-running the first round legislative elections in 25 towns throughout the country. The CEP also announced participation rates at the national level and for each of the 10 departments during the press conference. However, no results were announced, instead, the CEP directed people to its website where results were supposed to be posted. The website was down until around 4 AM Friday morning when official results were finally made available.

Leaked results had been reported by Haitian radio and on social media throughout the day Thursday and ended up matching exactly those later released by the CEP. In a country where most get their news from the radio, the CEP’s posting of results online likely excluded many from obtaining them.

What follows is a breakdown of the results; which parties and candidates will be moving on to a second round, key figures of voter participation and irregularities and what information is still missing.


Reports from election day indicated extremely low voter participation throughout the country and that was backed up by the posted results. Still, many have raised questions about the numbers released, and there are significant questions that remain unanswered. According to the CEP, the national participation rate was 18 percent, with the lowest participation observed in the West department, at just under 10 percent. 

While the announced participation matches the results from the Deputy race, the number of votes counted is 50 percent higher for the Senate. This is to be expected, given that Haitians were choosing two senators from each department and could vote twice. None the less, it appears as though only about half actually chose to do so. 

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The Calm Before the Storm? Haiti Waits for Announcement of Election Results

August 19, 2015 - 10:53

On Sunday, August 9, Haitians went to the polls in long-overdue elections to elect the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies and 20 out of 30 seats in the Senate. 1,621 candidates competed for the lower house, while 232 fought for the Senate. In Haiti’s capital, where I witnessed events on election day, the process was marred by a late start, problems with voter lists, and violence and intimidation, which closed a number of polling centers throughout the day. But just hours after the voting closed on Sunday, Haiti’s provisional electoral council (CEP) held a press conference, stating that things had gone well and that only 4 percent of voting centers had been closed — not enough to impact results.

International observer groups, foreign embassies and the U.N. quickly followed suit, putting their stamp of approval on the process. The Organization of American States (OAS), while acknowledging incidents of violence, proclaimed that these “did not affect the overall voting process.” The U.N. and the Core Group (which consists of the governments of the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Spain, France and the European Union) welcomed the holding of elections, and cited the efforts of the Haitian government in “assuring a conducive framework for these elections.” A day later, the EU observation mission, while more critical overall, hailed the elections as “an essential step towards a more robust democracy.”

But these statements of support contrasted greatly with reports in the local press as well as from a local observation team led by a grouping of human rights organizations (RNDDH). The RNDDH-led team, which had over 15 times as many observers as the OAS and EU missions, denounced the process as an assault on democracy and cited fraud, irregularities and violence in 50 percent of voting centers across the country. The group warned the turnout could be “the lowest ever recorded since the 1987 elections,” and cited massive amounts of fraud with political party observers.

Most political parties have denounced an election they see as unfair and controlled by the ruling party (PHTK) and those close to government. A broad spectrum of parties has called for a commission to analyze the results and propose a solution to move forward. Vérité, a new party associated with former president René Préval, issued a statement yesterday highlighting numerous problems with the election, but expressing a desire to see the process continue to avoid an unelected transitional government. PHTK, in a press conference the day after the election, denounced a “smear campaign” against them while stating that the elections were acceptable to move forward.

While not advocating for an annulment of the elections, the RNDDH-led observer group cautioned that the problems on election day were serious enough to question the incoming legislature’s legitimacy. The group urged “all actors involved at every level in the electoral process to avoid trivializing the facts recorded during this election.” They warned, “Be wary of anyone saying that everything went well.”

In the meantime, a cautious calm has come over Port-au-Prince as parties, candidates and observers eagerly await the announcement of preliminary results from the CEP, expected later today. Will elections have to be re-held in certain areas? Will turnout be as low as expected? Will the CEP admit to the full extent of the problem?

“Nobody knows what will happen next, the results will be the indicator,” one of the 10 remaining senators, Jocelerme Privert, said in an interview last week in Haiti. “The credibility of the process and the honesty of the CEP will be tested,” Privert added.

Tune into Haiti Elections Blog for Real-time Election Updates

August 7, 2015 - 13:29

Long-overdue legislative elections will be held in Haiti this Sunday, August 9, the first of three elections scheduled for 2015 (the others scheduled for October 25 and December 27).  This year, Haitians will vote for 20 members of the Senate, for 118 members of the Chamber of Deputies, and for a new president.

The elections are scheduled to take place amidst a climate of low voter interest, extremely low female participation among the candidates, and a record-high number of 128 political parties and groupings registered to participate. The elections will also take place in a context of worrying election-related violence.

HRRW lead blogger and CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston is in Haiti to track what happens, and will be providing updates, along with colleagues from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Let Haiti Live, and others at the "Haiti Elections" blog here throughout the weekend.

Contract Document Shows USAID Aware of Partner’s Political Ties

August 7, 2015 - 10:49

In July, I reported for Al Jazeera America on USAID’s support for a group in Haiti, Mouvement Tet Kale (MTK), which had strong ties to President Martelly and his political party, Parti Haitiene Tét Kale. USAID supplied hand tools to the group (to clean the streets as part of a “civic engagement” program) in the lead up to Martelly’s presidential inauguration in May 2011. In an e-mailed statement, USAID stated that “Mouvement Tet Kale is not the same thing as the Tet Kale party, which came into being in 2012--a year after the inauguration and the grant.” Rather, USAID described MTK as a “social network of community-based organizations.”

But a contract document, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, clearly shows that from the beginning USAID was aware of the group’s political ties. The project document released by USAID contains an activity summary that also describes MTK as a “social network of community-based organizations”; however, the sentence continues: “founded by Michel Martelly campaign members.” That is a pretty significant omission.

To read the original Al Jazeera America piece, click here.