Haiti went to polls on Sunday, March 20 to vote in the runoff elections for a new president, six Senators and 77 Deputies. The Haitian voters entered the process with ongoing concerns about the partisan Provisional Electoral Council that attempted to rig the first round elections in favor of the ruling party, Preval’s INITE. Voters were also wary of unresolved technical issues like the integrity of the voter lists, availability of ballots to vote, the presence of former strongmen Duvalier and Aristide in-country, and the link between INITE and narcotraffickers who are trying to maintain their control over the political system and potential violence. There was also concern about domestic observers not able to do their job as several groups that participated in the first round were not accredited for the runoff.
Voters and Turnout
Despite these concerns, more voters went to the polls than in the first round. Turnout was estimated at 32-35%. Voters initially went early to the polls and encountered difficulties to vote because their names were not on the list, but were allowed to vote in the end because immediate actions taken by the CEP and local electoral officials. It seems that voters were satisfied and exercised their right to pick their leaders.
While the time was tight to update the voter lists for these elections, for the next Senatorial elections scheduled for this November, the voter list must be fixed. They also need to pay closer attention to stocking the polling stations. In more that fifty polling centers in the West department, basic materials like ballots boxes, ballots and ink were missing. The CEP reacted quickly to solve the problems, however. In some areas materials from the 2009 elections were distributed; an investigation is underway to shed light on this.
The Provisional Electoral Council
Knowing that voters remain very suspicious of them, on election day the CEP made a conscious effort to address technical issues related to voter lists, distribution of ballots that were not available at polling stations and other technical issues. Their interventions during the day to resolve these issues contributed to the level of confidence among the voters. Overall -- despite some incidents -- the day went well.
At approximately 10:00 p.m. when members of the press started to broadcast partial results, the CEP went on the attack claiming that the electoral law does not permit such announcements. Their vitriolic reaction has triggered speculation that the institution was responding that way as part of a larger effort to prevent transparency so they could manipulate the results. According to Haiti’s electoral law, the votes are counted immediately after the closing of the polling stations. Within two hours, the tally sheets are publicly posted at each polling station, so the CEP was wrong about the law. Political party poll watchers representing the candidates were given a copy of the tally sheets as were domestic observers; an additional copy remains on file at the Departmental and Municipal Bureau; and the original goes to the tabulation center at the CEP headquarters in Port-au-Prince. This process allowed the OAS Mission after the first round to identify the fraud of the CEP and the ruling party. They were able to compare the copy of the tally sheets that stayed at the polling station with the originals that they manipulated at the tabulation center. The picture below shows how the fraud was done by the CEP in the first round, at the polling station the ruling party INITE got 11 votes, at the tabulation center they turned it into 111. Hundreds of tally sheets were subject to that type of manipulation. The CEP’s efforts to stonewall the posting of results have been interpreted as a way to close the loophole that exposed their fraud in the first round. The broadcasting of the partial results directly from the polling stations would make it impossible to change the results at the tabulation center.
Counting the results
The process of counting the results at the tabulation center is underway with the presence of domestic and international observers. CEP employees have harassed the domestic observers because they speak the language and have a better understanding of how and what to observe while international observation is light. It seems according to the tally sheets that the big winner of the legislative elections will be the social democrat coalition ALTENATIV. For the presidential elections the CEP has only counted 33.80% of the tally, 23.06% for the Senate seats and 42.81% for the deputies. More details are available at: http://www.cephaiti2010.org/index.php?option=com_weblinks&view=category&id=62&Itemid=255 .
But a parallel count is being conducted by civil society and is moving faster to prevent fraud. Their count is available on the internet. As of Wednesday afternoon, they counted the results of 7,757 tally sheets of the 11,181. There are 951,050 voters in the system. Michel Martelly is significantly leading Mirlande Manigat. The following link shows Martelly’s vote in pink and Manigat’s in green, and for the vote count Manigat is “M” and Martelly is “T” for “Tet Kale” – his electoral nickname: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=fr&msa=0&msid=217196901169278928145.00049ef12ec04889d738b&z=8 .
The popular mood around the results is that the government and the CEP will make a last attempt to steal the elections or spoil the entire process. People around Haiti are so alert that the government and the CEP would be in for a bad surprise if they do.
Security, Violence and Narco traffickers
Sunday’s elections were the least violent in Haiti’s recent election history. The Haitian National Police had a good security plan and acted in a non-partisan manner. They provided security to all. On election day violence occurred in two municipalities: in Dessalines in the Artibonite Department and Mare Rouge in the North West that reflected tensions between the ruling party and two opposition parties. In the following two days, violence occurred in the West, Center, Grande Anse departments mainly from the INITE party not accepting its defeat at the polls and still trying to manipulate the results.
It seems that part of the violence in the North West, Grande Anse and Center Departments are associated with the narco traffickers that are with or associated with the INITE party. These traffickers will try to manipulate the results in order to keep the status quo. The new government will need additional support from the US Drug Enforcement Agency to maintain political stability. Meanwhile the rest of country is quiet -- but alert -- awaiting for the results.
Jean Claude Duvalier and Jean Bertrand Aristide
Some analysts thought that these former strongmen could have an impact on these elections. They did not. Haiti is ready to put them where they belong: in the past and in jail. When Jean Claude Duvalier debarked in Port-au-Prince in January that raised many hairs. The following days the Preval government -- weakened by corruption and an effort to manipulate the results of the November 28 elections -- was unable to react despite the clear corruption and human rights record of Duvalier. Meanwhile Haitian society reacted and demanded justice while only a couple hundred turned up to show support for the former president for life. Two days prior to the elections another strongmen linked to human rights violations and corruption, Jean Bertrand Aristide, landed from his exile in South Africa. He and his party Fanmi Lavalas wanted the annulment of the elections. Some analysts believed that his return could throw the country into political chaos and violence and the annulment of the elections.
Aristide’s presence had no impact; in fact, the turnout was actually increased. These two strongmen represent a threat to democracy and stability unless a process of accountability is put in place by the new government with some international support. The following shows their alleged political and economic crimes and how Haitian society is seeking a judicial framework to try them.
All international observers have reacted positively about the way that Sunday elections went. They are following the counting process and have issued statements that the will of the people should be respected. For previous electoral updates see: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2011/03/haiti-runoff-electoral-update-2.html