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Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch
CEPR is a non-partisan think tank focused on providing data based analysis of the most important economic and social issues.
Updated: 19 min 17 sec ago
Jovenel Moïse will be inaugurated as Haiti’s new president today as the country returns to constitutional order after a one-year extra-constitutional period of interim rule due to electoral delays. Moïse had previously come in first in an October 2015 election, only to have the results thrown out due to fraud. Rerun in November 2016 under the interim government that replaced former president Michel Martelly, the elections had Moïse securing more than 50 percent of the vote, winning in the first round.
But serious questions continue to dog Moïse as he takes office. Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reports:
Since his win, Moïse has been on a countrywide tour, celebrating his victory, endorsing candidates for the recently held local elections — and battling money-laundering suspicions.
Moïse has dismissed the suspicions as the work of political opponents. The probe began in 2013 under Martelly’s administration when the anti-financial crimes unit was tipped off about a suspicious bank transaction, the current head of the unit, Sonel Jean-François, has said.
Over the weekend, an investigative judge assigned to the case sent his findings to the government prosecutor, but the judge’s order has not been made public. Government prosecutor Danton Léger has yet to say whether he will dismiss the case, send it back to the judge for further review, or prosecute Moïse.
Should he seek to prosecute Moïse, Haiti could find itself in an even deeper crisis than the one triggered by the annulled October 2015 presidential elections.
In a 7-page letter dated February 6, Leger, the government prosecutor, requested further information on the allegations against Moïse, ensuring it will continue to hang over the new president.
The money laundering allegations, however, are far from the only topic overshadowing Moïse’s inauguration today. A new report on Haiti’s November elections, from international legal observers, has raised questions as to how effective the new administration may be given the historically low turnout. The report’s authors also note that Haiti’s national identity office was hindered by significant problems, affecting the ability of Haitians to vote:
The report notes that despite many improvements in security and electoral administration over the 2015 elections, the 21 percent voter turnout represents the lowest participation rate for a national election in the Western Hemisphere since 1945. “Many Haitians did not vote, not because they did not want to, but because they were unable due to difficulties in obtaining electoral cards, registering to vote and finding their names on outdated electoral lists,” said attorney Nicole Phillips, delegation leader and co-author of the report.
The report documents how many would-be voters were disenfranchised on November 20, due to pervasive errors on electoral lists, difficulties accessing identity cards, and lack of voter education. Haitian electoral authorities also failed to take adequate measures against fraudulent voting. Prior to the election, the head of the National Identification Office (ONI) admitted that 2.4 million activated but undistributed cards had gone missing, which opened the door to fraud via trafficked identity cards.
The report’s authors also note with concern that Moïse could follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, former president Michel Martelly, who surrounded himself with figures from the Duvalier dictatorship and was criticized by human rights groups for his intimidation of journalists and imprisonment of opposition activists. “With a majority in parliament, the temptation for President Moïse to run roughshod over any opposition will be great,” said Brian Concannon, the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which published the report with the National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. “But with the backing of only 9.6 percent of registered voters, the incoming president will face serious limits to his popular mandate.”
To mark the 7th anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a number of organizations belonging to the Haiti Advocacy Working Group released the following statement. For a full list of sponsoring organizations, click here.
January 12, 2017 – Washington, DC – On the seventh anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, human rights groups, faith-based organizations, policy institutes and humanitarian organizations would like to honor those who lost their lives in the earthquake, as well as those who lost their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters is the result of human policies, which can be changed. As the election crisis comes to an end, and President-elect Jovenel Moise is set to take office on February 7, 2017, there’s a unique opportunity for sustained change now.
January 12, 2010 Earthquake
The earthquake and the more than 59 aftershocks that followed took the lives of an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 people, displaced 1,300,000, and directly affected 3,000,000. Despite the billions in aid offered, thousands remain homeless. As of September 2016, the International Migration Organization (IOM) estimated 55,000 people remain in spontaneous or organized camps. For hundreds of thousands of other Haitians “Building Back Better” left them in precarious ‘permanent’ housing vulnerable to natural disasters and the effects of climate change to which Haiti is ranked one of the most vulnerable countries.
Hurricane Matthew on October 4, 2016
The Category 4 Hurricane with winds reaching up to 145 mph tore through the country, causing widespread destruction of buildings, agriculture, infrastructure and human lives, directly affecting 1,400,000 people, taking an estimated 546 lives, displacing 175,500, and pushing 806,000 into extreme food insecurity.
The Haitian government, along with civil society, responded to Matthew with prior evacuations and warnings. Various Haitian agencies are now coordinating the hurricane response with civil society actors and international agencies, but funding is greatly needed. The government and UN’s Flash Appeal for $21 million to provide food assistance to 800,000 people over three months still lacks 44 percent of the needed funds.
Many Matthew victims continue to live in temporary shelters or shelters pieced together with scrap aluminum, tarps, and wood. Approximately 750,000 Haitians are without safe water, causing the number of cholera cases to double in some of the hardest-hit areas. An estimated 80-100 percent of the crops and 50 percent of livestock were destroyed in the country’s south and southwest. These livestock not only provide food, but are the savings bank for many who reside in the countryside – producing a decapitalization in rural Haiti reminiscent of the 1980’s Kreyol Pig eradication.
The devastation of the 2016 hurricane season follows on the heels of the worst drought Haiti has seen in 15 years. The opportunity to replant certain crops during winter planting season was largely missed due to insufficient access to seeds. The ripples of this are felt across the country with the Grand Anse department, the ‘bread basket’ producing 60 percent of the locally produced food. The damage to the Grand Anse renders communities dependent on imported food and increased food prices by 15 – 25 percent.
Although the earthquake, drought and hurricane may make Haiti appear condemned to suffer from natural disasters, in fact the country’s extreme vulnerability to natural disasters is the product of human policies that can be reversed. The international community has today a unique opportunity to support Haiti in breaking free from its cycle of extreme vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, and to move away from aid dependency.
In the short-term, houses, hospitals, roads and schools still must be rebuilt. Haiti also urgently needs support to control and respond to the surging cholera crisis that took 420 lives and sickened 39,329 in 2016 alone. The UN’s new two-track cholera response announced December 1, 2016, promises to reduce cholera transmission and improve access to care and treatment. If funded, the response should control the outbreak in Matthew-affected areas as well as other parts of the country, and also promises to provide material assistance to victims of the epidemic introduced by UN peacekeepers in 2010.
The international community must also be reliable over the long term. A key priority must be to fully fund the UN’s cholera response, which proposes to build the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to eliminate cholera from the country over the next 10-15 years. Haiti will also need reforestation and crop support to ensure long-term food security and address environmental degradation and climate change. Furthermore, ongoing support for disaster mitigation and preparedness is badly needed. Preparation is by far the best form of disaster response.
We encourage greater accountability and transparency of international actors in Haiti. With President-elect Jovenel Moise set to take office on February 7, 2017, any intervention in Haiti must reinforce the capacity of the government and local institutions, and include participation in project design and execution from aid recipients. This type of approach will make aid more effective and sustainable, and allow Haitians to move towards autonomy.
In solidarity with the grief suffered by families of victims of the 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew, we honor the memories of those who have passed by translating lessons into action. We can and must do better to address the current humanitarian, food and climate crisis.
UPDATE 1/6/2017: The federal indictment against Philippe has been unsealed. It is available here.
Guy Philippe, a paramilitary coup leader and DEA most-wanted fugitive who was elected to Haiti’s Senate late last year, was arrested on Thursday, just days before he would have been sworn into office and obtained immunity. Philippe has been wanted under a sealed drug indictment in the United States for years, but previous attempts at arresting him failed. Last year, the DEA confirmed to me that they maintained “apprehension authority” for Philippe, but would not confirm if any active efforts were underway to do so. He will now be extradited to the United States to face charges, though no indictment has been unsealed as of Thursday night.
Although Philippe has spent most of the past decade in Haiti’s rural Grand Anse department where he maintains strict control, he became more active in the country’s politics over the past year as he campaigned for senator. President-elect Jovenel Moise, from the PHTK party, openly campaigned with Philippe and his party allied with Philippe’s early in 2016. A PHTK adviser, Renald Luberice, tweeted shortly after the arrest that it was “illegal and arbitrary.” Fires and roadblocks almost immediately went up in Phillipe’s hometown and surrounding areas, according to local news reports.
After last year’s elections were scrapped due to fraud and Michel Martelly left office without an elected successor, Philippe became one of the most outspoken critics of the new interim government that took over. In February 2016, he threatened "civil war" if elections were not held by that April. In May, with elections still yet to occur, Philippe was alleged to be the ringleader of an armed raid on a police station in Les Cayes, in southern Haiti. Elections were eventually held in November 2016 and Philippe won a seat in the Senate, representing the Grand Anse department. Parties allied with PHTK and Philippe will make up the majority of the incoming parliament to be sworn in next week.
Over the summer, a source close to the Haitian government, who requested anonymity, suggested that the US would move against Philippe before he became Senator to “send a message” to the incoming parliament, which includes other figures accused of corruption and drug trafficking. Now that appears to have happened, but not before he helped his allies secure an electoral victory this past November.
Philippe, however, is widely believed to have been involved in murders, atrocities and other human rights abuses over the past 20 years, while serving a political agenda backed by Haiti’s elite and their international allies. He received training by the US military while a cadet in Ecuador in the early 90s before returning to Haiti in 1995. However former president Jean Bertrand Aristide had disbanded the military that same year, due its long history of involvement in atrocities, human rights abuses and coup d’etats. Philippe, who has, in his own words, “always dreamed of becoming a soldier,” instead became police chief in the Delmas neighborhood of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. During his tenure, according to Human Rights Watch, “dozens of suspected gang members were summarily executed, mainly by police under the command of Inspector Berthony Bazile, Philippe’s deputy.”
In 2000, Philippe was accused of orchestrating an attempted coup d’etat against president Rene Preval, but before he could be apprehended he fled to the neighboring Dominican Republic. At first, the Dominican authorities told the Haitian government they would help arrest the fugitive police officer and his allies. According to a former Haitian government official, who requested anonymity, Dominican police apprehended Philippe and were set to hand him over to Haitian authorities, but later reversed themselves. Philippe would remain free until this Thursday.
From his safe-haven in the Dominican Republic, Philippe was accused of leading attacks on Haitian police stations and supporters of president Aristide, who had just been elected for a second time. In an interview with author Peter Hallward, Philippe denied his involvement but added, “don’t worry, when the time is right people will learn what really happened.” At the time, the Aristide administration was under attack both internally and externally. A “civil society” group calling itself the Group of 184, led by Evans Paul, Andy Apaid and Reginald Boulos among others (all now political allies or financiers of PHTK), advocated for Aristide’s ouster. Philippe, when asked about the role of the Group of 184 in the various police station assaults, responded, “I know that certain political leaders and representatives of civil society can help you with this, since they know everything about what happened … Since they’re cowards, however, they’ll just tell you that they know nothing about it.”
More than two weeks after Haitians went to the polls to elect a new president, 16 Senators and 25 Deputies, preliminary results from all races have finally been released. Presidential results have already been contested by the second, third and fourth place finishers while many legislative races will likely be contested as well. However, if the preliminary results are upheld, the November 20 elections will have consolidated nearly unprecedented political power in the hands of PHTK, the party of former president Michel Martelly. While PHTK and its allies appear to have scored electoral victories at both the presidential and legislative level, their political success has occurred in a context of extremely low turnout, raising questions about the significance of their mandate to govern moving forward.
At the presidential level, Jovenel Moïse of PHTK came in first place with 55.67 percent of the vote. If these results hold, Moïse will secure the presidency without having to compete in a second-round election. In second, third and fourth place were Jude Celestin of LAPEH with 19.52 percent, Jean-Charles Moïse of the Platfom Pitit Dessalines (PPD) with 11.04 percent and Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas (FL) with 8.99 percent.
While the top four vote getters in the 2016 election were exactly the same as in last year’s election, the results of which were thrown out due to widespread irregularities, the composition of the vote changed dramatically. Jovenel Moïse, who was widely believed to have benefitted from fraud in the 2015 elections, was the only one of the four to increase their vote total over last year. This appears to largely stem from the far wider geographical support that Jovenel Moïse received in 2016, coupled with the other top candidates losing substantial ground.
As can be seen above, Jovenel Moïse received over 50 percent of the vote in each department except for the Artibonite and the Sud Est. Similar to in 2015, the strongest areas of support were in the north of the country, where he runs a banana export business. But perhaps the most surprising result this year was that he also received 50 percent of the vote in the Ouest department, home to some 40 percent of registered voters. In 2015, he received just over 20 percent of the vote in the Ouest. This accounts for nearly the entire increase in the number of total votes received by Jovenel Moïse this year.
Still, even with Jovenel Moïse increasing his votes from 2015, the main reason why he was able to win in the first round was that all three other candidates lost significant numbers of votes. Celestin received 185,000 fewer votes, Jean-Charles 104,000 and Narcisse 14,000. If these candidates had simply received the same number of votes as last year, Jovenel Moïse would not have been able to win in the first round.
The long campaign, and the consolidation of private sector funding behind PHTK certainly helped in this regard. With more resources, PHTK was able to more actively campaign and build support throughout the last year. It takes significant money to have party staff across the entire country, an especially important factor in getting one’s supporters to come out to vote on election day. As a result, PHTK had a wider national presence of political party representatives than other parties, according to local observer organizations.
Another factor that contributed to the vastly different result was that many more voters were either unable or unwilling to participate in this year’s election. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), announced that participation was just 21 percent, compared to 26.6 percent last year. However the rate announced by the CEP includes many thousands of votes that were not counted due to irregularities. If one looks just at valid votes, the participation in this year’s election drops to 17.3 percent. The 26.6 percent figure from last year was based on valid votes.
Ever since the first democratic elections in 1990, the influence of foreign actors over Haiti’s political process has only increased. Foreign donors have financed Haitian elections, UN troops have transported ballots and guarded polling stations, international observers have granted (or withheld) legitimacy to electoral outcomes, and foreign embassies have intervened when postelectoral crises erupt. Due to this preponderant role played in elections, the so-called international community ― the polite term for the dominant powers, organized now as the Core Group ― has often had the last word in Haitian politics.
This state of affairs has engendered even greater distrust in the political process. Sensing that it was not voters but foreign diplomats who decided who could be president, Haitians’ participation in elections has plummeted, from greater than 50 percent participation a decade ago to only about 25 percent last year. But with the developments over the past year and a half, that cycle looked to be breaking down.
The decision of the Haitian authorities, with the support of civil society, to rerun the election was a huge blow to the US and its allies in the international community. The Core Group (which brings together the ambassadors of the US, Canada, France, Brazil, Spain, the European Union, and the special representatives of the Organization of American States and the secretary general of the United Nations) had vigorously opposed calls for a verification commission and the formation of a transitional government after the October 25, 2015 elections. Many advocated for a continuation of last year’s vote, despite the protests of political actors and civil society, and the boycott of second-place finisher Jude Celestin. As Haiti expert Robert Maguire noted at the time, “the objective seems simply to be able to check an ‘elections done’ box.”
The US and the Core Group was also worried that new elections might give the Lavalas-aligned candidates (Maryse Narcisse and Moïse Jean-Charles) a better chance at the presidency. “They're not thrilled with Aristide’s forces coming back,” a US congressional source told Reuters regarding the Obama administration’s reaction to the antifraud protests. Another concern for the Obama administration was keeping Haiti ― where Hillary Clinton had developed a negative reputation ― out of the headlines during the US presidential campaign.
An organized and mobilized civil society rejected the dictates of the foreign actors and the interim government that took over when former president Martelly’s term expired responded to these demands. Confronted by this stunning development, European Union observers pulled out of the country after the decision to rerun the presidential election. The US withdrew $2 million in funding that remained in a UN-managed election basket fund and, with Canada, pledged not to provide additional money for this year’s election. Foreign aid was reduced over the last year, with many embassies refusing to attend meetings with the provisional president, or even go to the National Palace over the last nine months.
The devastating passage of hurricane Matthew has changed the dynamics of the upcoming election in Haiti. Following last year’s fraudulent elections, the new electoral council has been making changes in order to produce a more legitimate outcome this year, but the hurricane has raised new concerns.
A significant number of voting centers in the affected area have been destroyed or damaged. Many are also being used as temporary shelters. Efforts have been ongoing to repair or set up tents to replace voting centers, and the electoral council has stated that 80 percent of damaged voting centers have been repaired, and that all are able to be reached. However, the true test will come Sunday.
Additionally, many communities remain almost completely out of contact and unable to be reached. Electoral materials have been distributed throughout the country, but there is a high probability of delays on Sunday morning in some hard-to-reach areas. Damage to infrastructure, and ongoing flooding in parts of the country could also dissuade voters from going to the polls. Turnout ― which has already reached abysmal levels in recent elections ― will be a key indicator.
Many voters also lost their identity cards in the storm. Though it is unclear how many Haitians were impacted, and the government has pledged to provide new cards to those in need, the full scale of the problem is still unknown. The government agency responsible for providing the ID cards said last week that only 2,000 new cards have been requested, indicating that many may simply be dealing with basic necessities like having a roof over one’s head or securing food, rather than voting. This has created uncertainty around the ability of Haitians in the southern peninsula to exercise their democratic rights.
Beyond the technical problems that have been created by the hurricane, there are severe humanitarian issues. Hundreds of thousands across the southern peninsula have been left with no homes, no crops and no safe water. Relief efforts are ongoing, but have been inadequate to address the many needs. Is it simply too soon to ask the Haitian people most impacted by this storm to think about an election?
Between 10 and 15 percent of registered voters reside in the storm-ravaged southern peninsula, and many more in the northern departments that have more recently been affected by heavy rains and flooding. It is clear the election in these areas will be significantly impacted, and many will be disenfranchised. It’s also possible that with lower turnout in more rural provinces, it will be, more than ever, Port-au-Prince determining who the next president will be.
This is likely to reinforce centralization in the “republic of Port-au-Prince”, further isolating rural provinces and towns that have long felt disconnected from the political and economic elite in the country’s capital.
Read Part 1: Timeline of Key Events, here.
Read Part 2: Presidential Candidates and Their Parties, here.
Often lost in the discussion of Haiti’s presidential race is the fact that many legislative seats are up for grabs as well, including more than half of the Senate. Currently, the parliament is pretty evenly split between political factions but with such a high number of seats left to be decided the balance of power could shift dramatically this weekend. Control of the legislative body is especially important in Haiti’s political system, where it is parliament that approves the new prime minister and government program.
The presidential election was scheduled to coincide with the expiration of one-third of the Senate. Ten Senators had been elected to six-year terms in 2010, so ten first-round races for senate seats will be conducted on November 20. Six second-round Senate races and two dozen second-round races for Deputy will be held as well. The second-round races are the continuation of last year’s fraud- and violence-plagued elections.
For the ten first-round senate elections (one in each department), 149 candidates have registered, coming from 43 different political parties. Interestingly, it is Fanmi Lavalas and Pitit Dessalines who have registered the most candidates of the four major presidential parties with 10 and 9 respectively. With candidates competing in all ten departments, it could bolster rural votes at the presidential level. PHTK and LAPEH, on the other hand, have registered 7 and 6 candidates respectively.
For the second-round senate races still to be competed, parties allied with PHTK make up the majority of candidates. Due to high levels of fraud and violence in the August 9, 2015 legislative election, first-round reruns were conducted for these races in 3 departments (Center, Grand Anse and Nord) last October. Nine of the 12 Senatorial candidates participating in this Sunday’s second round are from PHTK, Bouclier and Consortium (all allies) while no other party has more than one candidate. With two senators being elected from each of these races, PHTK and its allies are guaranteed at least one additional seat in each department.
At the deputy level, there are 25 second-round races that will be completed on Sunday. Again, it is PHTK and allied parties that make up the largest number of candidates, accounting for 40 percent overall, putting them in a good position to pick up seats in the lower chamber. The number of races, broken down by department is as follows: West (6), North (6), Artibonite (4), Center (2), Grand’Anse (2), South-East (2), South (2) and North-West (1).
Read Part 1: Timeline of Key Events, here.
In a crowded field of 54 presidential candidates, the top two finishers in last year’s elections were Jovenel Moïse (PHTK) and Jude Celestin (LAPEH). Third and fourth were Moïse Jean-Charles (Platfom Pitit Dessalines) and Maryse Narcisse (Fanmi Lavalas). Although the earlier vote was plagued by fraud and irregularities and the results were eventually discarded, the top four finishers on October 25, 2015 are expected to lead the pack of 27 candidates participating on Sunday, November 20. Here is a closer look at the principal candidates heading into this weekend’s election:
Jovenel Moïse is PHTK’s candidate. Prior to the 2015 elections when former President Martelly selected Moïse as his successor, the lanky agricultural businessman from the North was a political unknown. Moïse’s company Agritrans runs a banana plantation primarily for export in Trou-du-Nord and was set up with government financing under Martelly’s administration. During the campaign, Moïse has branded himself as “The Banana Man” (Nèg Bannann Nan). He promises to revitalize Haiti’s neglected agriculture and to remobilize Haiti’s military, which was disbanded in 1995.
While in office, Martelly campaigned aggressively for Moïse and was accused of using state resources to promote his party’s candidate. For this reason, Moïse was perceived by many as a weak Martelly surrogate. One irony of the long delay since last year’s vote is that PHTK’s Moïse may actually be in a better position now. Time has allowed him to step out from under Martelly’s shadow, posing as an opponent to the provisional government rather than the ruling party’s candidate. PHTK and its political allies in the parliament have accused the interim government and the CEP of being biased in favor of “Lavalas” and claimed that the elections may be rigged against them. They have also consistently questioned the legitimacy of the provisional president, even at one point calling on police officers to disobey orders.
After the Hurricane, PHTK leaders threatened the provisional government with street protests and legislative action if elections were not held within weeks of the storm and have been publicizing polling (notoriously suspect in Haiti) that shows Jovenel Moïse with the highest level of support among presidential candidates.
Haiti’s interminable election cycle has depleted the finances of many parties, but although PHTK is facing similar problems, they are likely the party with the deepest pockets. With greater access to resources, the party was able to continue to campaign - including in the hurricane-hit south where Moïse distributed aid to victims. Well-financed and with a cadre of international election advisors, PHTK has many factors working in their favor.
In their quest for the presidency, PHTK has allied with local politicians that, in some cases, have been tied to corruption, drug trafficking and other wrongdoing. Though the campaign has distanced itself from Martelly, there is lingering dissatisfaction with the previous government, bolstered by recent allegations of corruption, which could weigh on voter’s minds Sunday.
Jude Celestin, the second-place finisher in last year’s election and the leading figure in the boycott movement, is the candidate of Ligue alternative pour le progrès et l'émancipation haïtienne (LAPEH). In the 2010 election, Celestin competed under the banner of INITE, the party of then-president René Préval. Those elections were also plagued by widespread fraud, violence and irregularities, many stemming from the fact that elections were held in the same year as the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left more than a million displaced. An Organization of American States (OAS) commission recommended changing the results, removing Celestin from the race and replacing him with Michel Martelly, without providing evidence that Martelly had actually received more votes than Celestin. The US then issued diplomatic threats, including a possible cut off of desperately needed post-earthquake aid, in order force the Haitian government to accept the changes.
Many expected Celestin to eventually call off the boycott and participate in last year’s second-round election, but his position was unwavering and led to the cancellation of the election. His supporters consider him a savior for preventing the fraudulent elections from standing; adversaries see him as the primary cause of the political instability of the last year. After 2010 and his role in cancelling last year’s election, Celestin hasn’t made many friends in the international community, though many close to him have worked over the last year to reestablish a relationship.
Celestin has championed his boycott’s role in getting the rerun, and has pointed to his experience at CNE, the national construction company, to present himself as a builder who knows how to get things done. After the Hurricane, Celestin offered to rebuild a key bridge and construction equipment was seen plastered with his campaign image.
With the provisional president Privert coming from an allied political party, Celestin is perceived to have benefitted from the change in leadership. But it is important to note that the interim government consists of politicians from many different movements and it would be a mistake to think all, or even most, are willing or able to help his campaign.
Still Celestin, similar to PHTK, has received significant private sector backing and can likely count on support from those sectors that have historically been allied with President Préval, giving him a political machine that should be able to generate votes on election day. Still, it is interesting to note that of the three former presidents currently active in politics, Préval is the only one to not openly endorse a candidate. University professor Jacky Lumarque was Préval’s chosen candidate, but was excluded from participating by the previous electoral council under Martelly.
Moïse Jean-Charles, a former Senator from the North department, finished third in last year’s election and is once again expected to be a top vote getter. Jean-Charles was the leading opposition voice against the former Martelly government and led street protests against his rule. Jean-Charles joined Celestin in rejecting last year’s election results and initially supported the interim government and the decision to rerun the elections from scratch.
More recently, however, Pitit Dessalines has struck a similar tone as the other leading candidates in calling for elections to be held as soon as possible after hurricane Matthew. The party has also expressed discontent with the electoral apparatus and interim government and called for greater transparency, especially in the vote counting process.
Less than a week from now, on November 20, Haiti heads to the polls to choose a new president as well as dozens of legislative seats. The electoral process started in 2015 but has been repeatedly delayed and postponed due to post-election protests, candidates’ boycotts, and more recently Hurricane Matthew. The results of last October’s first-round presidential election were thrown out on the recommendation of an independent investigative commission that identified significant levels of fraud and other irregularities. Below is a timeline that traces the major events of Haiti’s extended electoral saga:
December 2014 - January 2015: Protests force Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to step down as the terms of many parliamentarians expire. President Michel Martelly’s government had not held elections for its first four years in office, allowing the president to begin ruling by decree. A new Prime Minister and CEP are appointed, tasked with organizing the legislative and presidential votes.
August 9, 2015: First-round legislative elections are so marred by violence and fraud that many races cannot be completed and must be re-run again in about a quarter of constituencies.
October 25, 2015: The first-round presidential election is held, alongside legislative reruns as well as legislative second-round elections in some localities. The elections are rejected by a growing opposition movement that alleges widespread fraud on behalf of the ruling party and its candidate, Jovenel Moise of the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), who came in first according to the official results.
December 17, 2015: Facing increasing criticism ahead of the planned December 27 runoff, president Martelly announces a commission to investigate the elections. Given just a few days to perform its work, the commission finds significant problems and makes a number of recommendations for moving the electoral process forward.
December 21, 2015: The scheduled runoff election is postponed. Before the commission’s recommendations can be adopted, a new runoff is scheduled for January 24.
January 11, 2016: Despite growing concerns about fraud-tainted electoral results, a partial legislature is seated, consisting of 92 newly-elected deputies and 24 senators. Races for 6 senators and 26 deputies remain incomplete.
January 22, 2016: The second-round presidential and legislative elections are indefinitely called off. Second-place finisher Jude Celestin (LAPEH) had pledged to boycott the second-round and was joined by seven other opposition presidential candidates. This stance was supported by the vast majority of civil society organizations, including human rights groups, church leaders and eventually even the private sector business associations.
February 5, 2016: With Martelly’s term expiring on February 7 and no elected successor to take his place, an agreement is reached to form a transitional government. Senator Jocelerme Privert is soon after selected as interim president and given a mandate of 120 days. The deal dissipated tensions that had been rising due to concerns that Martelly would try to hold on to power. Armed paramilitaries had appeared in Port-au-Prince and clashed with Martelly opponents.
April 30, 2016: President Privert establishes an independent investigation commission to examine fraud claims and restore confidence in the electoral process before continuing with the vote. This decision is opposed by PHTK and its political allies – who are well represented in the recently-seated parliament – as well as many actors in the international community, including the European Union (EU) and the United States.
June 6, 2016: The independent commission recommends rerunning the first round presidential vote and a new electoral council announces new first-round elections scheduled for October 9, 2016. The EU observation team pulls out of the country and the US pulls funding from the election after the decision.
June 14, 2016: The interim president’s mandate expires, but parliament is unable to reach a quorum to either replace the leader or extend his term due to obstruction by the pro-PHTK bloc. Privert’s opponents refuse to recognize him as a legitimate leader and question each decision made by the interim authorities, accusing them of simply wanting to perpetuate themselves in power.
Oct 4-5, 2016: Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, ravages the country – specifically the southern peninsula – just days before the new elections were set to take place. The election was once again postponed. One week before the scheduled October 9 vote, prospects for the vote were hopeful. Preparations were in place, electoral materials had arrived in country and were being prepared for distribution, new safeguards against fraud and abuse had been implemented and candidates had taken to the campaign trail.
Oct 14, 2016: Facing immense pressure from political actors to hold the election as soon as possible, the CEP issues a new electoral schedule calling for elections November 20. Electoral infrastructure, especially in the southern peninsula, is severely damaged with many voting centers being used as temporary shelters. The new date means that there will not be an elected president in office by February 7, as initially expected.
However with a dire humanitarian situation still raging in the southern peninsula, electoral infrastructure severely damaged and ongoing flooding in various parts of the country, skepticism remains high as to if a legitimate and free election is possible this weekend, or if it will be another blow to Haiti’s fragile democracy.
Up next, Haiti Election Primer, Part 2: The Parties, Parliament and the International Community