by Kim Ives
A letter from Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to interim President Jocelerme Privert suggests that the first round of do-over presidential elections as well as several legislative run-offs might not take place on Nov. 20 as currently planned.
In the Oct. 27, 2016 letter, which was obtained by the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, CEP chief Léopold Berlanger gives Privert’s government ten days to repair 280 voting centers, make passable the roads leading to 161 others, and provide potentially tens of thousands of voter identification cards to people who lost them due to Hurricane Matthew.
About 40 of the would-be voting centers – mostly schools – are being used to temporarily house people made homeless when Hurricane Matthew passed over the tip of Haiti’s southern peninsula on Oct. 4, devastating the geographic departments of the South, Grand-Anse, and Nippes.
At this writing (Nov. 1), five of the ten days have already elapsed with Privert giving no public response. However, a presidential spokesman, Eddy Jackson Alexis, told the Haitian Press Agency (AHP) on Oct. 31 that the government is working on the problems.
“There has emerged an urgent need for the government to immediately and without delay during the next 10 days take the following steps: a focused campaign of rapid rehabilitation necessary to make functional 280 premises across the country to be used as polling centers on Nov. 20, 2016 and Jan. 29, 2017,” Berlanger wrote. “Then there should be consultation with the appropriate bodies such as mayors, delegates, and vice delegates who will release about 40 establishments that are voting centers now being used as temporary shelters.”
“It is equally important that the government make passable the roads that lead to 161 polling centers,” Berlanger wrote, adding that the National Identification Office (ONI) had “to accelerate its work of identifying voters who lost their CIN [national ID card] during the passage of Hurricane Matthew, replacing them before Nov. 20.”
Le Nouvelliste contacted by telephone CEP member Jean Simon Saint-Hubert who confirmed that Berlanger’s letter had been sent to Privert, saying that “the country cannot again miss the date of Nov. 20 to hold elections.” His professed determination “does not prevent Jean Simon Saint-Hubert from having doubts,” Le Nouvelliste wrote.
Mr. Alexis, the Presidential spokesman, took issue with Mr. Saint-Hubert’s equivocation, saying: “This is an issue that needs to be clarified when a member of the council that itself, let’s remember, set the date of the election now has reservations as to its fulfillment.”
It should be noted that the CEP had not toured the wind-lashed, flooded southern peninsula before setting its new electoral calendar.
In what amounts to finger-pointing between the CEP and Presidency, Mr. Alexis “reiterated the willingness of the Executive to create favorable conditions for the organization of elections, as scheduled by the CEP, including readying the logistical and economic resources necessary to carry out the elections,” the AHP reported.
Presidential elections were held on Oct. 25, 2015, but an independent verification commission found them fraudulent. A new CEP scheduled a re-do election for Oct. 9, 2016, but Hurricane Matthew forced its postponement until Nov. 20, although most major candidates wanted to reschedule for Oct. 30.
In addition to the presidential first-round, there will be run-offs for 16 Senate seats and 25 in the Chamber of Deputies. Run-offs for the presidential contest and one Senate race are planned for Jan. 29, 2017.