It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light

Mwen se echantiyon yon ras kap boujonnen men ki poko donnen

Si vous voulez vous faire des ennemis essayer de changer les choses

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Haiti Runoff Electoral Update #2 by Stanley Lucas

The CEP opens the runoff campaign with their No. 69 communiqué asking candidates to validate the ballot.  While the country’s voters and run-off candidates are mobilizing, a number of questions remain unanswered and voters were well aware of the rampant manipulation and rigging of the first round, for more see:    

The Provisional Electoral Council
During the first round under the influence of President Rene Peval and the leadership of the ruling party INITE, the CEP manipulated the results of both the Presidential and Legislative elections.  After the Haitian people protested, President Preval – in an effort to avoid having to resign – invited an OAS Commission to evaluate the results of the Presidential elections.  The OAS made recommendations about the Presidential elections and completely and totally ignored the manipulation of the legislative elections.  The OAS identified the manipulation of the tally sheets by CEP officials at the BEC, BED (local level election centers) and the tabulation center and made controversial recommendations about how to fix the situation.

Preval and the CEP used that opportunity to steal 17 deputies’ seats.  In addition the CEP manipulated the voters lists to decrease participation.  Many of the voters went back home on November 28 because they could not vote; their names did not appear on the voter list even though they had legitimate voting cards.  Low turnout facilitates the ruling party’s efforts to manipulate the process.  

People will be voting again on Sunday, March 20 but the CEP has not removed the people responsible for the manipulations of the tally sheets and results and no information concerning the correction of the voters list has not been given.  In addition, four members of the CEP, led by Ribel Pierre, and the director general of the CEP, Robert Opont, are leading an effort to ensure that three-quarters of the candidates and party poll watchers are INITE or INITE associates.  The word out is that CEP machinery received instructions to give INITE two-thirds of the seats in both chambers.  These are supposed to be “change elections”; the Haitian voters will not swallow this.

Haitian National Police and Security
The Haitian National Police headquarters issued a communiqué informing every police officer and agent of the force that the institution will be neutral.  They were reminded that every police officer has the right to vote and pick his or her candidate, but using the uniform, the armaments and the prestige of the institution to influence the elections will not be tolerated.  The Haitian National Police have put in place a security plan for the elections in conjunction with the MINUSTAH.

However, over the past few weeks, three electoral incidents have taken place.  In one incident, supporters of the two presidential candidates were involved.  But for the other two incidents, people on the street believe that supporters of former President Aristide wearing Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly campaign t-shirts were trying to create an environment of violence with a view to creating chaos and undermining the elections.

President Preval and the Government
President Rene Preval has been in Cuba for the past 11 days for medical treatment. Haiti did not even notice his absence.  The Minister of Information, Marie Laurence Lassegue, has taken a leave of absence to support Mirlande Manigat.  The Minister of Justice, Paul Denis, a member of INITE directory, is traveling around the country supporting INITE candidates and installing in many remote areas several new justices of the peace.  Haitians are questioning whether or not these new hires are political.  The government seems to be in slow motion awaiting the new president. The popular perception is that INITE is supporting candidate Mirlande Manigat.

Civil Society
Civil society is very engaged.  Women, youth, farmers, unions, and other sectors of civil society have engaged the candidates.  They have also called for change of personnel within the electoral machinery to ensure free and faire elections, but their calls have been ignored. There is a high level of awareness among civil society groups that Preval and INITE will try to steal the legislative elections.

The Haitian Press
The Haitian press is also very engaged in the electoral process.  It seems in this year’s elections, the press in divided into two groups: those that remain neutral analyzing the candidates and providing to their campaigns equal times (like Radio Kiskeya, Metropole, Signal FM and RFM Haiti), and those that endorse Mirlande Manigat (Radio Caraibes, Scoop FM, Vision 2000) saying they are helping voters pick the “right” candidates.  There is tension between these stations and the Martelly campaign believes they are trying to set him up.  During a press conference on March 15, Martelly tried to reconcile with them.

It seems that most of them are supporting INITE for the control of parliament.  They are providing support through financial donations and support of their network.  Narcotrafficking was a main element of Aristide’s corruption.  Associates of Aristide who were previously arrested by the DEA on drug trafficking charges or money laundering, were convicted by Florida’s Courts and released seem to have resumed their activities. The following departments are under the influence of narcotraffickers: South, South East, West, Central Plate Leslyau, Artibonite, the North and North West.

The Presidential Candidates
Two different profiles and styles.  Mirlande Manigat, 70 years old, is former first lady (having served for four months before her husband Lesly Manigat) and Haitian senator.  She is an academic teaching at a private university, Kiskeya.  She was elected in 2006 as senator of the West department, but decided to back off in protest of the way her husband Lesly Manigat was treated when some Latin American countries in the name of stability influenced the CEP to not organize the runoff.  Manigat is the head of the RDNP party.  She is soft spoken and talks about herself as a Hilary Clinton-like figure and the best qualified to do the job.  Popular perception is that she is honest.  Women constitute 51% of the voters, and are likely to vote for her.  She secured the support of a political organization named CORE, two youth groups RENEH and Barikad, some protestant pastors, and Nawoom Marcelus an INITE senate candidate in the north department involved in human rights violations. She has also picked up some last minutes endorsements from Mrs. Marie Laurence Lassegue, Minister of information in Preval’s cabinet, which has contributed to the popular perception that INITE is backing her.

Michel Martelly, 50 years old, is a popular singer and a practical man involved in business as well.  Martelly speaks to the youth that constitutes 77% of the 4.7 million voters.  Martelly talked about the system that keeps people in poverty and change.  Martelly has secured the support of the party PAIN, Wyclef Jean (another popular singer based in the US), five presidential candidates that participated in the runoff, a network of pastors in Haiti and the Diaspora and an INITE senate candidate from the North East that switched sides stating that Martelly was his personal friend since he was a kid, and he has the utmost confidence in him.

Both candidates campaigned extensively in the countryside bringing out thousands of people in each city and have made an effort to reach out to the Diaspora.

The Presidential Debate
The debates were a win for Haiti. The debate organize by GIAP was one of the great achievements in many efforts to institutionalize democracy in Haiti.  This was the first time that a successful debate was organized.  There were some imperfections on the part of the candidates and the journalists, but overall this was a great premiere for Haiti and all radio and TV stations in Haiti and the Diaspora broadcast it.  The debate was organized on Wednesday, March 9 and was animated with candidates throwing punches at each other.  Later on the debate sparked a lot of conversation among Haitians and the radio commentators about who did better. The organizers, the GIAP, released the results on Saturday night confirming that Michel Martelly won the debate.

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Utilization of Modern Political Tools to Campaign
This election is the first where candidates clearly opted for the uses of political tools such as political consultants, campaign managers, pollsters, focus group specialists, fundraisings, polling, and tools of information technology like the internet, websites, live chat, facebook, mailing lists, and mobile phones.  This is due to the work on technical assistance provided to Haitian parties by IRI and NDI in previous years.

Duvalier and Aristide
For many, Jean Claude Duvalier and Jean Bertrand Aristide two former controversial strongmen of Haiti remain a threat to democracy.  According to Haiti’s Accounting Office both stole hundreds of millions of dollars from Haiti’s coffers and are responsible for human right violations, see: .  Duvalier has taken a low profile approach while trying to reconnect with society after 25 years in exile.  He is under house arrest but is relatively free to move about and socialize.  He has not yet faced any charges.  The Preval government appears to be weak, but many speculate his lack of action is calculated – he is afraid that by prosecuting Duvalier he could open the door for himself to be prosecuted.  Aristide’s approach is more defiant, see:  He is challenging the Obama administration’s calls for him to defer his return and using lobbyists to force them to back off their objections to his return.  

In-country his supporters have implemented a plan to annul the elections by creating violence and chaos and later retribution for all the sectors of Haitian society that called for his resignation in 2004 for his abuse of power.  He announced in the Haitian press that he rejected the Obama administration’s suggestions to postpone his trip until after the elections and that he will be in Port-au-Prince this week.  The best thing that could happen to Haiti is to create a framework to try these strongmen that are responsible for all the failures of the country and for terrorizing the Haitian population.
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Domestic Observation
The National Network for Observation requested more permits from the CEP in order to cover more polling stations on elections day to prevent fraud.  The CEP has resisted and is not allowing more domestics observers.  That has been a point of contention for the past week.  Domestic observation played a major role in exposing and documenting the manipulation of the first round.  There is no solid reason for the CEP to resist accrediting more observers unless they are just concerned about having their role in the manipulation exposed.

International Observation
The OAS international observation mission was a failure in the first round.  The mission was incompetent and poorly organized.  After the first round, while the Haitian people were protesting against the outrageous manipulation, the OAS mission gave a press conference three days after the election and stated that the elections had some problems, but they were good elections.  Haitians were upset and OAS lost credibility.  The UN had to fix their initial reaction by identifying the fraud.  The Haiti Democracy Project (HDP) observation did the best job and provided accurate information on how the fraud of the first round was conducted.  It seems that the Haiti Project Observation has annoyed some actors because the State Department denied them funding to observe the runoff providing no explanation.  Many analysts believed that was strange since they have done a good job supporting the Haitian people in their quest for free and fair elections.

Presidential Swearing In and Challenges
Haitians believe that the new president should take his oath in office no later than April 7, two months later than expected since the official date should have been February 7, 2011.  The new president will face several challenges: one million people living in tent for 15 months with no serious effort to move them into permanent housing; they will likely face the new hurricane season starting in two months on June 1; the UN cholera epidemic that has killed 7,500 people and contaminated 120,000; and of course the crushing poverty of the country and devastated infrastructure.  The departing government will leave the state coffers empty.  The prices of oil and food products are rising steadily.  Haiti imports 85% of what it consumes.  And, the prospect of budget cutting in the US could reduce assistance to Haiti.  Furthermore, the failure of the Interim Commission of Reconstruction to make any progress in rebuilding, and Duvalier and Aristide are actively undermining the fragile Haitian state.  The new president will have less than 100 days to prove him or herself because impatience is already growing.