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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Elections Were Marred Long Before November 28 Print
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 17:24
Last night the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced preliminary results from last Sunday's flawed elections. The results: Mirlande Manigat, and President Rene Preval's hand-picked successor, Jude Celestin, would compete in a run-off election scheduled for January. Finishing in third place was Michel Martelly, just 6,800 votes - or less than one percentage point - behind Celestin. The United States Embassy was quick to offer a response:
Like others, the Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council’s announcement of preliminary results from the November 28 national elections that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council (CNO), which had more than 5,500 observers and observed the vote count in 1,600 voting centers nationwide, election-day observations by official U.S. observers accredited by the CEP, and vote counts observed around the country by numerous domestic and international observers.
The National Election Observation Council, whose observations from election day can be seen here, announced their own preliminary results yesterday. According to the CNO, based on a sample of 15 percent of polling stations, Manigat and Martelly would reach the second round, with Celestin falling short.

Demonstrations have been ongoing since the announcement last night, and many news reports have been focusing on the election day fraud and apparent manipulation of results by the CEP, however few have noted that these elections were not free nor fair even before election day. Writing in the New York Daily News, Beatrice Lindstrom notes that:
The Election Day irregularities are just the latest in a long line of actions by the CEP to maximize the ruling party's electoral success by excluding popular opponents and reducing voter participation. The CEP rejected 15 political parties from participating in the election's parliamentary races, and efforts to re-register displaced voters were inconsistent.

In light of these problems, political parties, human rights groups and Haitian voters warned that these elections would be a sham. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 44 other members of Congress expressed grave concern, and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) warned that the "absence of democratically elected successors could potentially plunge the country into chaos."

Haitian voters deserve better. It is not too late for the Joint Mission to condemn the flawed process and call for new, fair elections. It is critical that it does so. Truly democratic elections are a prerequisite to ensuring peace and stability through the difficult rebuilding process that lies ahead.
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Wikileaks Reveals MINUSTAH Fatigue – Among MINUSTAH Members Print
Monday, 06 December 2010 16:42

As MINUSTAH attempts to blackmail Haiti’s political parties, candidates, and wider population into accepting the soon-to-be-announced results of November 28’s deeply flawed elections, secret State Department communications recently revealed by Wikileaks reveal further waning support for the UN mission among participating countries – including Brazil.

We previously noted that Wikileaked documents suggest that Brazil’s leadership of MINUSTAH lacks domestic support and that Brazil maintains that position in order to prove its worth for a possible seat on the UN Security Council. Another document from January 2009, available here, goes further, suggesting that the Brazilian Army itself has “frustration with the lack of an exit strategy in Haiti.” And another newly released cable from a year ago states (Hat tip, again, to Ansel Herz):

Less obviously, Brazil remains uncomfortable in its leadership on MINUSTAH. To the constant refrain of ‘we cannot continue this indefinitely,’ Brazil has been increasingly insistent that international efforts to promote security must go hand in hand with commitments to economic and social development-a theme it will take to the UNSC in January.

The document also notes Brazil’s goal regarding the UNSC:

Brazil's top foreign policy priority remains obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council and, as it takes its place in January as a non-permanent UNSC member for the tenth time, it is aware that its actions will be closely watched.
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Signs of International Pressure to Accept Flawed Elections Print
Friday, 03 December 2010 13:01
It started early Sunday morning. Polling stations were late to open, voters were not finding their names on the lists, and general confusion reigned. In Corail, the "model" IDP camp, only 39 people were registered out of a camp population of thousands. The voting center was closed soon after it opened. Despite the chaotic scene on the ground, the head of MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet offered his rosy view that "In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful," adding that "MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It's an electoral celebration."

But soon after, to the surprise of many, 12 of the 18 presidential candidates, from all sides of the political spectrum, held a press conference denouncing fraud and calling for the annullment of the elections. As Reuters described it on election day, "The repudiation of the elections dealt a blow to the credibility of the U.N.-supported poll."

Yet the next morning, two of the leading candidates going into the election, Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly both walked back considerably from their previous position. Many news accounts have credited the about-face to the candidates likely ascension to the second round of voting, but Reuters provides a possible alternative motive:
But after 24 hours of intense pressure from UN officials and other foreign diplomats, two presidential front-runners, opposition matriarch Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly backed down and said they wanted the vote to be counted, saying they expected to be the election race leaders.
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National Observers Denounce Election Print
Thursday, 02 December 2010 17:28
Much has been made of the preliminary observation report from the OAS-CARICOM joint observation mission, yet very little attention has been paid to reports from national electoral monitors. While the OAS mission had just 120 observers, national observers from six organizations numbered around 6,000. The national observers had previously warned the OAS about the potential for fraud, and even participated in an OAS event to brief the "Group of Friends of Haiti" on the upcoming election. The national observers released the following statement the day after the election, as translated by Haiti Libre:
The signatory institutions of the present deplore the disastrous way in which the legislative and presidential elections was held this November 28, 2010. Many citizens have lost their lives or were seriously injured. Parallel ballots were smuggled in the circuit, polling stations were ransacked or burned, regular ballots have been washed away or torn. Many polling stations were closed so early without the minutes. A wind of revolt and rebellion blew within ten departments. Thirteen presidential candidates have sought the annulment of the elections. Rather than end in the serene recount of ballot boxes, the day ended in protests and clashes in the streets.

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"Illegitimate Election Is a Setback for Haiti" - Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian Print
Thursday, 02 December 2010 11:51
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK):
The “election” in Haiti shows once again how low Washington’s standards are for democracy in countries that they want to control politically. And there is no doubt who is in charge there. There is a government, to be sure, but since the elected government in 2004 was overthrown, and even more since the earthquake, it is the “international community” that calls the shots – Hillary Clinton’s code for the U.S. State Department.

The election was a farce to begin with, once the non-independent CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) decided to exclude the country’s largest political party from participating – along with other parties. Fanmi Lavalas is the party of Haiti’s most popular political leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It has won every election that it has contested. Aristide himself remains in exile – unable to return since the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of his government in 2004.

Imagine holding an election in the United States with both the Democratic and Republican parties prohibited from participating. If we look at other troubled elections in the world – Iran in 2009, or Afghanistan more recently – Haiti’s is even less legitimate. It is perhaps most comparable to the recent election in Burma.
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Wikileaked Document on MINUSTAH Describes Lack of Public Support, Political Motives for Brazilian Leadership Print
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 15:54

A newly-available State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks supports what many critics of MINUSTAH have long alleged: that Brazil maintains its leadership of the mission out of political motives – in particular, to prove its worthiness for a seat on the UN Security Council. The document, from March 2008, also reveals that State Department officials acknowledged that there is very little public support for Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH back home in Brazil [Hat tip: Ansel Herz]:

7. (C) Brazil has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO. The MRE has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves FM Amorim's obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Brazilian military remains committed as well, because the mission enhances its international prestige and provides training and operational opportunities. So far, President Lula has backed the Foreign Ministry's position, and Brazil will likely continue to provide leadership and troops to MINUSTAH for the conceivable future. Despite the success of the MINUSTAH deployment, Brazil has not shown any interest in undertaking further peacekeeping operations, although Brazilian contributions to UN operations in such places as Darfur have been requested.

[Glossary: PKO = Peace Keeping Operation; MRE = Ministry of External Relations; FM = Foreign Minister]

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OAS Approves of Electoral Process Despite Admitting Numerous Irregularities and Violence; CBC Urges More Caution Print
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 11:32
After cancelling a press conference set for Sunday evening, the OAS-CARICOM Joint Observation Mission announced their preliminary findings yesterday. There was a long list of irregularities on election day that echoed numerous media reports and what was witnessed by foreign observers, such as CEPR's Alex Main, including:
- late opening of Polling Stations

- inability of many voters to find the correct Voting Centre and/or Polling Station;

- inability of voters to find their names on the electoral registers posted up outside the Polling Stations;

- saturation of the call centres overwhelmed by callers seeking where to vote;

- instances of incorrect application of voting procedures ( the signing of the ballots by BV Presidents before the arrival of the voter);

- instances of voter manipulation – repeat voting of some voters facilitated by complicit poll workers and unidentified party agents;

- the lack of control of already limited voting space by the poll workers , as well as the indiscipline of many mandataires, led to clogged polling stations where control of the process became tenuous and facilitated misconduct.
The mission also noted that "There were also deliberate acts of violence and intimidation to derail the electoral process both in Port-au-Prince and the provinces." Yet despite this, the mission reached the conclusion that "the Joint Mission does not believe that these irregularities, serious as they were, necessarily invalidated the process."
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MINUSTAH Admits There Were Some Problems Print
Monday, 29 November 2010 18:31
A full day after polls closed in Haiti, MINUSTAH issued a statement describing its account of what happened yesterday. For the first time, the organization acknowledges some of the more serious irregularities in the vote [Google translation]:
If everyone wants to use the power of the polls, very few of them succeed. Because their name is not on the electoral register. "I have my card, I can not vote. Yet it is in this camp that I had signed up, "says one voter, visibly angry. A similar situation in the camp Jean-Marie Vincent had resulted in an early event and widespread panic despite a very noticeable presence of the Haiti National Police (HNP) and MINUSTAH peacekeepers.
The statement goes on to acknowledge other problems, and to cite presidential candidates’ condemnation of the elections and protests and “unrest” by thousands of Haitians. But it also falls far short of acknowledging the scale of the problems that beset yesterday’s vote, and cites CEP head Gaillot Dorsinvil downplaying the instances of irregularities.
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Call for International Community to Reject Haiti’s "Sham" Elections Widely Reported Print
Monday, 29 November 2010 15:26
CEPR’s statement, citing Co-Director Mark Weisbrot’s calling for the international community to reject Haiti’s flawed elections, and describing the numerous irregularities that CEPR’s Alex Main witnessed and others that were reported in the press, has been cited in numerous media reports today. The Miami Herald, BBC, Reuters, AFP, Radio France, and Deutsche Welle are among the outlets reporting on it, and it has received a good deal of attention in Brazilian and other Latin American media as well. Alex, Mark and other CEPR staff have been doing interviews today on the situation in Haiti with a number of radio, TV, and press outlets – you can listen, e.g. to Alex’s interview with WBAI’s Wake Up Call this morning here (Alex joins the program at 33:40).
 
Growing International Concern Over Haiti's Flawed Elections as 15 Presidential Candidates Call for Annulment Print
Monday, 29 November 2010 14:07
Official election observers from the OAS and CARICOM are staying quiet on their assessment on the elections, but others are beginning to express their concern over the numerous serious problems that affected yesterday’s vote. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – soon expected to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- issued a statement today saying:
I am deeply concerned about and deeply regret reports of serious irregularities in today's elections in Haiti. They must be investigated immediately and steps taken to correct this wrong perpetrated against the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people.
Meanwhile Haiti Libre is reporting that a total of 15 presidential candidates are now calling for the election results to be annulled, with Génard Joseph (Groupement Solidarité), Yves Cristalin (Oganizasyon Lavni -LAVNI) and Yvon Neptune (Ayisyen Pou Ayiti) endorsing the sentiments of the previous 12 candidates. Various media reports have noted that annulment is favored by “all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President Rene Preval.” 
 
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