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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch Calls of Fraud, Even Before Election Day

Calls of Fraud, Even Before Election Day

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Sunday, 20 March 2011 16:58

Supporters of presidential candidate Michel Martelly (including military contractors) have been complaining of allegedly “fraudulent” polls showing Mirlande Manigat with a lead over Martelly. Instead, Martelly backers claim that “real numbers show Martelly with 70% to low double-digits for Manigat.” Martelly supporters such as Hotel Oloffson proprietor (and Martelly’s cousin) Richard Morse claim that even some polls showing Martelly leading are fraudulent, and that his support is actually much higher. AFP reports:

Poll results released Thursday showed Martelly with a comfortable lead -- 53 percent support against 47 percent for Manigat.

However, experts warn that historically weak voter turnout makes forecasts unreliable: just 23 percent of 4.7 million eligible voters cast ballots in the first round November 28.
AFP also reports that “singer Michel Martelly …has a strong following among Haiti's youth,” although providing no information to support this statement. Martelly is well-known for his music, but this did not seem to lead to popularity at the ballot box in November; he received only 4.5 percent of votes from registered voters.

The cries of “fraud” could be cause for concern, considering the pro-Martelly riots that lasted for days following the first round of elections. While the first round was indeed marked by numerous irregularities, and some documented fraud, ultimately a review of the tally sheets from the election showed that it was impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. The CEP’s results showing government-backed Jude Celestin placing second were arbitrary, but so were claims that Martelly definitively edged out Celestin. Rather than proceed with caution, Martelly supporters burned government offices and Celestin’s party headquarters, with at least two people being killed in the violence. Martelly did or said little to attempt to reign in the rioters.

In the wake of Aristide’s return to Haiti, and Manigat’s high-profile, if last minute, support for his coming back, it is possible that Manigat could receive an “Aristide bump”, with more people heading to the polls, or deciding to shift their support to Manigat. This could easily sway electoral victory in her direction, and the bump in support would probably not even be reflected in the most recent polling.

But signals from the Martelly camp have been troubling, suggesting that anything less than victory will be seen as fraud, and, therefore, cause for riots by Martelly supporters whom Manigat has described as a “pink militia”, in reference to the trademark color of the Martelly campaign.

Reuters reported last week:
In an echo of the ill-tempered first round, Martelly exhorted supporters to "vote -- and watch out," saying plans were afoot to "steal" what he forecast would be his victory.

Also contained in the the same Reuters report:
Manigat accused Martelly supporters of attacking with stones and bottles a rally she tried to hold in Mirebalais, south of Thomonde, in the Central Plateau on Tuesday. At least one person was hurt, she said.

Referring to the party color of pink worn by Martelly and his fanatical young backers, she denounced what she called the apparent formation of a "pink militia" that she said could pose a dangerous threat of political intolerance.

"I don't desire a dictatorship for my country, wherever it comes from," she said, appealing for calm among voters.
The attack on Manigat supporters was not the first; AFP reported March 8 that:
Three men who were putting up posters in support of Haitian presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat have been found dead, their families announced today after finding their mutilated bodies.

It is also possible that polls showing Martelly in the lead are inflated. It would not be the first case in which less-than-credible polls showing a rightwing candidate in the lead were used as justification to cry “fraud” when the results came in. The Venezuelan opposition, for example, cited polls fabricated by Penn, Shoen, Berland & Associates in crying fraud following President Hugo Chavez’s overwhelming victory in the 2004 recall referendum. The international media were little impressed by the claims, and following the release of polls in the lead-up to Venezuela’s 2006 presidential elections showing opposition candidate Manuel Rosales with a significant lead, Doug Schoen made a hasty and unexpected departure from the polling firm (he then went on to write the little-read anti-Chavez screed, The Threat Closer to Home). 

In this regard, it is worth noting that Martelly campaign manager Damian Merlo formerly worked with the International Republican Institute – known for conducting polls that often produce an outcome reflecting IRI policy positions.
 

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