by Catherine Charlemagne (Haiti Liberte)
It is an unmistakable sign. Long before the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and the Haitian government gave their assessment of the Nov. 20, 2016 presidential and legislative elections, all electoral observation organizations (both Haitian and foreign) had made it clear that they felt everything had gone well.
These organizations felt that the electoral results proclaimed by the CEP also reflected the atmosphere that day. These institutions are generally very cautious about recognizing the good conduct of an election in Haiti, especially the results.
Virtually all civil society organizations clearly dubbed the election a success and congratulated the CEP for its achievement. For the Oct. 25, 2015 elections, many had deemed the voting to be acceptable, if tainted by irregularities, but others withheld their assessment, an attitude that foreshadowed the eel under the rock. We know what happened next. The elections were deemed fraudulent.
But for this new election, there was unison among Haitian and foreign election observers, recognizing that Léopold Berlanger’s CEP had made almost no fault, at least on the organizational level. Of course, they have not given a blank check to the CEP and Haitian government officials.
Nevertheless, they noted that everything was planned so that voters could choose their representatives democratically and without constraint. Kettly Julien, Director of the Mobile Institute of Democratic Education (IMED) saw "this day as a success," although she raises, like everyone else, some flaws in the whole process. Meanwhile Jean-Robert Arguant, who is the Coordinator of the December 4 Collective, welcomed the "good voting process."
Moreover, for Antonal Mortimé, Secretary General of the New England Human Rights Organization (NEHRO), everything was done according to the rules or almost. "Electoral materials were of good quality, including polling booths, distribution of sensitive materials in the polling stations was well organized, electoral staff were accessible to all,” he said. “These were among the positive points that contributed to the success of the election day on Sun., Nov. 20, 2016."
The Citizen Observatory for the Institutionalization of Democracy (OCID), which has been following the whole process from the beginning, has recognized that even if everything is not perfect, the authorities have done what was necessary for the elections’ success. With 1505 field observers in 1203 polling stations from morning to night, OCID officials considered themselves well-placed to rate the CEP’s success. Indeed, after a review of all the data on various criteria including "compliance with procedures in polling stations, presence of agents at the time of counting, conditions under which counting took place, data on turnout, particularly in areas affected by Hurricane Matthew and unaffected areas, substantial participation of women in relation to men, etc.," the organization considers the Nov. 20 election as "an important step in the realization of democratic elections in Haiti."
Rosny Desroches, Coordinator of the Civil Society Initiative (CSI) and an OCID member "welcomed the efforts of this CEP which has prepared textbooks, codes of ethics for all those who are in the BCED and the BCEN and which set a number of principles."
"Our observers were able to follow the process to the end in 99.3% of the polling stations," said Abdonel Doudou, one of OCID’s leaders. "They noted that, at the end of the process, the supervisors put the following documents in transparent envelopes to be sent to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP): the tally sheet of counting in 99.3% of the polling stations; the list of signatures in 97.8% of the polling stations; the counting sheet in 97.5% of polling stations; the tally sheet of irregularities in 88.4% of the polling stations, and the tally sheet of incidents in 86.3% of the polling stations."
In short, for this Haitian consortium of electoral observation organizations, there is nothing to suggest that there were organized frauds as was the case in past elections. They say they are satisfied with the work of the CEP but nevertheless recommend that the institution "be more vigilant, more perspicacious in order to meet the challenges that await it in the following phases."
There were also some foreign observers, among others, those of the Organization of American States (OAS) led by the Chilean Juan Raul Ferreira. At the Marriott Hotel in Port-au-Prince, the diplomat delivered the conclusions of a report by the130 OAS observers who had worked on 474 voting centers across the country on Nov. 20.
According to the head of the Electoral Observer Mission of American States (MOE-OAS), "the measures implemented by the authorities helped to improve the election day and the good conditions in which the vote took place." In the presence of several diplomats accredited in the Haitian capital, gathered for the occasion at Port-au-Prince’s Marriott Hotel, Juan Raul Ferreira team found that "the polling stations observed opened at 6:50 am. All had received the necessary electoral material. There were new polling booths promoting the vote’s confidentiality and the use of a new type of indelible ink to identify citizens who voted. The process of voting proceeded more effectively."
The final words were reserved for Gerardo de Icaza, Director of the OAS Department for Cooperation and Electoral Observation, and Cristobal Dupouy, Deputy Head of the Mission, who had made the trip. "Everything was done so that the voters voted in better conditions," they concluded.
Naturally, in these congratulatory flourishes, there was inevitably the voice of the guardian powers through the channel of the "Core Group" which claims to speak for the entire international community. Ms. Sandra Honoré, the civilian leader of the occupation force known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, hastened to salute "the Haitian people and Haitian authorities for their efforts to hold these elections." In a communiqué, MINUSTAH’s chief said: "The Core Group congratulates all actors, in particular the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), the Government, and the Haitian National Police, as well as candidates, political parties, and Civil Society for their respective contributions in this regard."
As for Washington, it applauded Haitian authorities through State Department Deputy Spokesman and Secretary of State John Kirby. "We congratulate Haitians for exercising their right to vote peacefully and, in certain areas, in difficult circumstances,” he said. “The United States congratulates the continued determination of the Provisional Electoral Council, the Haitian National Police, and the Haitian government to achieve free, fair, credible and peaceful elections."
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was not left behind. They were also satisfied with the CEP’s performance. According to the Report of the Electoral Observation Mission of the Caribbean Community (CEOM), "the CEP’s personnel were trained, committed, and dedicated to carry out effectively the elections for the presidential and legislative elections." CEOM had observed 300 polling stations in the capital and in areas hit by Hurricane Matthew.
Finally, we close this overview with the position of Paris. "France welcomes the smooth running of the Nov. 20 election day and the Haitian authorities’ efforts which have enabled the entire population, including those affected by Hurricane Matthew, to express their choice in serenity and transparency. Pending publication of the results, France calls on all political actors to respect electoral regulations,"said the spokesman of the Quai d'Orsay (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development). This position was confirmed last week by the visit to Haiti of former Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the current French foreign minister, who visited the hurricane-damaged city of Jérémie in the Grand'Anse department.
Although these observation organizations applauded the conduct of the Nov. 20 elections, it cannot be ignored that the day after the election, the Lavalas Family party took to the streets to proclaim that its candidate Maryse Narcisse won the elections, but also to claim that there had been an "electoral coup." This party was joined on the streets of the capital by Dessalines’ Children (Pitit Desalin), an FL split-off, for a large march on the 26th anniversary of the first democratic election in Haiti which took place on Dec. 16, 1990.
However, it will be necessary to wait until the end of the struggle between the protesters, the contested presidential candidate Jovenel Moise of the Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK), and the Office of National Electoral Litigation (BCEN) to know whether the electoral observers and the human rights organizations were right. Are victory and truth are on the side of the protesting crowds, or with the right-wing and imperialist forces which have never accompanied the Haitian people, from Jimmy Carter in 1990 to Hillary Clinton in 2010?
(This is a translation of the 135th installment of Catherine Charlemagne’s weekly French analysis in Haïti Liberté entitled “Haiti, the chronicle of an electoral crisis.”)