Haitian Election Shenanigans: Legislative Edition
|Friday, 22 April 2011 16:49|
Late Wednesday night the CEP announced the final results of the second round of Haiti’s elections, formalizing Michel Martelly’s ascension from kompa musician to the presidency. Yet although it was largely ignored yesterday, the story that is now receiving the most attention from the media, as a result of statements of “concern” from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and the UN, has to do with the long-ignored legislative elections. In a controversial move, the CEP switched the winners of 17 out of 77 seats that were in the running in the Chamber of Deputies were changed from the preliminary results. 15 of these went from an opposition party to INITE, the governing party, while INITE lost the other two seats. Many of the changes appear far-fetched, as shown below. The net result was that INITE increased their plurality in the Chamber of Deputies, going from 33 to 46 of the 99 seats. Three of the 99 seats are still in play, with another round in May. The international community was quick to react, with the OAS issuing a strongly worded statement last night questioning the CEP:
the Joint Mission can only question whether the eighteen changes in position announced during the proclamation of the final results in fact express the will of the voters in those constituencies.
Anonymous diplomats, speaking with AFP, were even clearer in laying the blame on President Preval:
Matching diplomatic sources have told AFP that the Inité party of outgoing President René Préval have exerted significant pressure to modify the Haitian legislative elections in its favor and increase its representation in Parliament.
“It's clear as day, a great deal of pressure” was put on the CEP which unveiled, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, the results of the presidential and legislative elections, according to a European source.
However this should come as little surprise to the foreign entities that have been most involved in the electoral process, namely the U.S., the European Union and Canada. In an effort to gain legitimacy for the presidential elections, these powers have largely ignored or papered over the serious flaws that had been present since the beginning of the electoral process. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (funded by USAID), in a report over a year ago on organizing elections in Haiti, wrote that, “Giving the mandate of organizing the upcoming elections to the current CEP would mean that the electoral process would be considered flawed and questionable from the start.” While the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti warned that, “The CEP’s close relationship with President Rene Préval has raised doubts about its ability to be politically neutral.” Rather than addressing these problems, the three aforementioned international entities funded the elections to the tune of $30 million and then pressured Haiti to accept the results despite an unprecedented low turnout, a high level of fraud and other irregularities and a politically motivated electoral council.
Changes Appear Far-Fetched
Although the CEP has not explained its rationale for changing the results, and it remains possible that the changes were justified, some of the cases seem incredibly far-fetched. The most egregious case was in Mole Saint Nicholas where an 18.77 percentage point (1,057 votes) preliminary lead for the ALTENATIV candidate turned into a win for INITE. In l’Estere in the Artibonite department only 16 of 44 tally sheets were counted in the preliminary results and the candidate from Ansanm Nou Fo had a 10 percentage point lead (227 votes). Yet when the CEP announced the final results, the race went to the INITE candidate. In Petit Riviere de l'Artibonite the RASAMBLE candidate had a 12.3 percentage point (953 votes) lead after the preliminary results, only to have INITE announced the winner on Wednesday.
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti said in a statement today, “we have found no explanation for the reversals of 18 legislative races in the final results, which in all except two cases benefited the incumbent party.” The Embassy released a document, which shows that from preliminary results to the final results the CEP counted thousands more votes. Many tally sheets that had been excluded for irregularities appear to have ended up being counted. On average the winning candidates received 1,000 more votes than they had been credited with in the preliminary results.
In Petite Riviere de Nippes, preliminary results gave the INITE candidate 3,694 votes and a second place finish. Only 3 of the 61 tally sheets were discarded due to irregularities. Yet when the final results were announced, the INITE candidate was credited with 4,683 votes. If the CEP counted the three tally sheets that originally were excluded, the INITE candidate would have to get about 330 votes per tally sheet to increase their total that much. That would compare to an average of just 64 votes per tally sheet on the other 58 sheets.
INITE Gets Closer to Absolute Majority
The reversals by the CEP drastically change the make-up of the chamber of deputies, as can be seen in the table below. Three races will be decided in run-off elections in May. In the table the leading candidate in those three races was credited with the seat. The parties that are affected are those with asterisks. The biggest losers were the Altenativ party (6 seats) and Ansanm Nou Fo (5 seats).
Martelly Calls for Investigation
President-elect Martelly issued a statement last night calling for "independent verification that the people's vote was respected." Martelly had originally called for the first round election's annulment because of the suspected fraud perpetrated by the CEP and before the second round conditioned his particpation on reform of the CEP. He later ended up backing down on both of those calls. Martelly could make a positive first step as president by working to establish a Permanent Electoral Council, as opposed to the Provisional Electoral Council, as called for in the Haitian constitution.
As the Institute for Justice and Democracy has written, “Under the 1987 Constitution, elections are to be administered by a Permanent Electoral Council, which is to be chosen through the “ASEC system.” The ASEC system is a large pyramid structure, designed to decentralize democracy by ensuring that those in power are involved in politics at the very local level, where it is hard for centralized money to penetrate.” Yet, “Unfortunately, the decentralized ASEC system has never been implemented in the Constitution’s 23 years. Instead, a provisional electoral council has run every election held during that period.”