Haiti's new PM oversees arrest of former electoral council members

Laurent Lamothe 2.jpg
The Associated Press, published in Miami Herald, Friday, June 8, 2012

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Six former election officials in Haiti were arrested Tuesday on charges of misappropriating government property, the office of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said. Lamothe's office didn't release the names of the individuals, but said a chief prosecutor and a judge made the arrests after authorities found the stolen government property. The property that was confiscated included 460 laptops, 160 photovoltaic panels and 207 memory cards, it said.
 
Haitian President Michel Martelly fired the nine-member electoral council in December (2011) through a presidential decree.* His office at the time also ordered the ousted officials to return any government property.
 
Last month, the terms of one-third of the Senate, or 10 seats, expired because legislative elections weren't held in time to fill the vacancy. The government is expected to organize legislative elections for the empty Senate seats as well as mayoral posts, but it's unclear when the vote will be held.
 
According to precedent, the new election commission still to be named will likely be composed of the president's allies. The earlier council, whose members were appointed by former President Rene Preval, oversaw an election that was marred with fraud and irregularities and almost cost Martelly the presidency.
 
The planned election will prove critical to the Martelly administration as it tries to jump start reconstruction efforts following the 2010 earthquake. Martelly has few supporters in either house of Parliament, and his first year in office was marred with sparring with lawmakers.
 
* In early 2011, the majority of members of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (five out of nine) refused to change the Council's official count that saw candidate Michel Martelly finish third in the first round of voting and therefore be ineligible to proceed to the second round. See the three items in the dossier enclosed below.
 
Note: Soon after the official acceptance last month by Haiti's Legislature of his appointment, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe established a special committee charged with prosecuting alleged acts of contraband and theft of government property.
 
1. From a May 4, 2011 article on Al Jazeera, by Professor Greg Grandin, professor of history at New York University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Official results in the disputed first round initially had the government-supported candidate, Jude Celestin, placed second, with Martelly close behind in third. Martelly's campaign alleged widespread fraud and other irregularities. True enough, but it was not clear that the net fraud went against him. When an Organisation of American States "expert" mission was sent in to determine the actual runner-up, they selected Martelly by recounting only a sample of the ballots, without using any statistical inference. The 234 tally sheets that they disqualified turned out to be from areas where Celestin had strong support.
 
Six of the seven members of the OAS mission were from the US, Canada, and France - that is, the countries that supported the 2004 coup against Aristide. When questioned by independent experts from the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (who actually counted all the voter tally sheets in their independent election report), the mission could not explain its methodology.
 
In fact, the mission's chief statistical expert - US statistician Fritz Scheuren - admitted that the OAS mission had no statistical basis for its recommendation: to replace Celestin with Martelly. Observers noted that it was also highly unusual - perhaps unprecedented - for an election to be overturned without a full recount.
 
But that is exactly what happened. The Obama administration insisted that Haiti's electoral authorities accept the OAS mission's conclusions and put Martelly on the ballot. Hillary Clinton made a surprise trip to Haiti - in the midst of the Egypt uprising, no less - just for this purpose. Preval was threatened with a cut off of U.S. aid and even with being flown out of the country before his term was up - à la Aristide in 2004 - to pressure him to weigh in with the electoral council - even though the council, by law, is supposed to be independent.
 
Ultimately, the council never achieved a majority of members to support putting Martelly on the ballot. But the council's spokesperson publicly stated that it had, and the election proceeded - with Martelly running instead of Celestin - with legal experts unsure whether the election would have any legal validity. In short, the U.S. government got its way.
 
2. Haiti's Fatally Flawed Election
By Jake Johnston and Mark Weisbrot, CEPR, January 11, 2011
 
This report describes the results of an independent recount of vote tally sheets from Haiti’s November 28 presidential election. These 11,181 election tally sheets from across Haiti were posted online by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). It finds that for some 1,326 voting booths, or 11.9 percent of the total, tally sheets were either never received by the CEP or were quarantined for irregularities. This corresponds to about 12.7 percent of the vote, which was not counted and is not included in the final totals that were released by the CEP on December 7, 2010 and reported by the press. It also found many more tally sheets that had irregularities in the vote totals that were sufficient to disqualify them, and a large number of clerical errors that further undermines the credibility of the vote count. The report finds that based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.
 
3. CEPR Examines OAS Report on Haiti's Election, Finds It "Inconclusive, Statistically Flawed, and Indefensible"
January 11, 2012
 
Appendix

In Port de Paix, Haiti's government arrests three in anti-corruption operation

Caribbean Journal, June 10, 2012

Haiti’s government has launched the first phase of an anti-corruption initiative, according to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. The operation was conducted in the city of Port de Paix and resulted in the arrests of three executives of the regional office of the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training and the National Credit Bank.

The corruption ring reportedly included evidence of embezzlement, forgery and money laundering. According to Lamothe’s office, the ring leader, a senior manager at the Ministry’s regional office, is still on the run. The Prime Minister’s office did not release the names of the suspects or those arrested.

Another 40 suspects are awaiting hearing by relevant authorities, according to the Prime Minister’s office. The operation identified 3.7 million gourdes (approximately $87,140) associated with the suspects; those funds have now been frozen, according to the PM.

Lamothe, in a statement, said he reiterated his “firm determination” to making the fight against corruption a major priority of his administration. The operation was reportedly conducted with inter-agency cooperation including Haiti’s Financial Intelligence Unit.