Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

On Friday, March 4, 2016 representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS) and State Department joined two visiting Haitian human rights leaders and two U.S.-based academics in a discussion on Haiti’s current electoral crisis. Organized by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) and sponsored by Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the discussion focused on the causes of the postponement of the electoral crisis, the selection of Provisional President Jocelerme Privert and efforts to move the electoral process forward.

The five panelists made opening remarks and then moderator, Dr. Robert Maguire of the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, directed an open discussion among the speakers.

The event, in its entirety, can be viewed here. Following are excerpts from the panelists’ opening remarks and the subsequent discussion.

Professor Robert Fatton, University of Virginia

Professor Fatton opened the discussion by providing some useful background on the current situation, noting that President Martelly agreeing to step down on February 7 when his term ended and the subsequent selection of Senate president Privert as provisional president had “temporarily eased political tensions.”

Fatton noted that the accord, signed by Martelly, Privert (as Senate president) and Chancy Cholzer, the president of the Chamber of Deputies had tasked Privert with forming a new consensus government, reforming the electoral council and finally, implementing the recommendations of an evaluation commission formed in late December 2015.

“While Privert may succeed with the first two tasks, he will be hard pressed to accomplish the third,” Fatton argues. He explains further that the crisis stems from the “perceived illegitimacy of the whole electoral process,” and that without a verification commission – as has been demanded by many in Haitian civil society – “Haiti will not extricate itself from the current quagmire.”

In the clip below, Fatton makes these points and expounds further on sources of opposition to a further verification.

Believing that altering the results of the election or scrapping the process entirely will be politically untenable, Fatton instead puts forward an “extraconstitutional” approach that would see the second-round runoff opened up to the top four candidates. Privert will need the “Midas touch” to move Haiti out of the current political impasse.

Fatton ridiculed each side in Haiti for calling for the intervention of the international community when it serves their particular interests. But added that, on the other hand, the international community must “stop customary interferences and allow Haitians to devise their own history and make their own mistakes. Barring this Haiti will continue to be in a permanent state of crisis.”

Gerardo de Icaza, Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, OAS

Gerardo de Icaza, in his opening remarks, addressed criticism of the OAS and its role as an election observer in Haiti. “Without a doubt, don’t be surprised, you will be disappointed with what I say today. I know this. And I know you know it,” he opened. Icaza said that the OAS did see many irregularities during the election, but that they “were not a determining factor in the results that were presented.”

“What you expect from us is to come out and say there was a massive fraud, the results should not be accepted, everything should be scrapped and we should start from zero. Well, I cannot say that,” de Icaza continued.

De Icaza addressed the concerns around the issue of mandataires, political party representatives who have been recognized as one of the largest sources of fraud and irregularities during the election.

“Now, 900,000 mandataires. Who are registered by whom? By the political parties. Plural. By one political party? No. By many political parties. Plural.” Did they all vote and did they all vote only once, de Icaza asked rhetorically. “We do not know,” he answers, adding that OAS observers saw safeguards in place to prevent multiple voting.

“Did they all vote for the same candidate? I seriously doubt it. Because that would mean that there was a fraud that was so well orchestrated… that we would have detected that. And we did not see that.”

Kent Brokenshire, Deputy Haiti Special Coordinator, U.S. Department of State

As opposed to other panelists who focused on the current situation, Brokenshire used his opening remarks to harken back on his first tour in Haiti, during the early 90s. He discussed the connection he felt towards Haiti and how it has captivated so many others throughout the years.

Brokenshire pushed back on the idea that Haiti has not seen progress in recent decades, noting that while Haiti still is facing many political challenges, “the difference is beautiful.”

“These challenges are being addressed around tables, by politicians, by elected leaders. This was not the case before, you had people hanging on to raw power through military means.”

Pierre Esperance, Director, National Human Rights Defense Network of Haiti (RNDDH)

Esperance, who led a local electoral observation mission that was present in more than half of all polling centers in the country on election day, contrasted what the OAS observed with what his local group found and stressed the need for an independent verification commission before moving forward.

“Haiti needs the support of the international community…I think there needs to be a minimum respect for Haiti,” Esperance said. “When I say minimum respect, what do I mean by that? When we talk of democracy, what democracy are we speaking of? There should not be two levels of democracy – one for those that are advanced and one for those less advanced.”

Pointing to the high-level of violence, irregularities and “massive fraud,” Esperance noted that while the international community came to observe the election and make some recommendations, “they did not go to the lengths that we went.” But, Esperance added, “We are not the people who have the proof.”

The evidence of what Esperance alleges is, according to him, “sitting in the tabulation center and we are asking for that information to be verified.”

“If you put together an independent commission of evaluation, they will see that. The proofs are there. That is why we didn’t get a president elected on December 27 or January 24. So, when we ask for a commission of verification and evaluation, we don’t have in our head that a particular candidate will be expelled from the process. And it would be very difficult to put one particular candidate outside the process. And I don’t think that will change the results of the 4 or 5 at the top of the race but it will help us end impunity and corruption in the country. If you find the truth and seek the truth then we can organize acceptable elections,” Esperance explains.

Esperance, in a message to the international community, stated that “you cannot ask the Haitians to accept the unacceptable,” adding that “we are not seeking perfect elections, we want acceptable elections.”

Marie Frantz Joachim, Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA)

Marie Frantz opened by moving the discussion to a different aspect of the electoral process: the lack of women in parliament and how that happened.

Despite 23 Senate candidates and more than 120 Deputy candidates, Marie Frantz pointed out that there is “not a single woman inside parliament.”

She discussed the role that Martelly has played, particularly by publicly and verbally abusing a woman at a campaign rally last summer. “Basically, he said that women are just there to satisfy men sexually, therefore women do not have a role in parliament or politics.” Therefore, she added, it is “not surprising that today we don’t have a single woman in the parliament.”

Another cause was the “the corruption that existed within the electoral system.” According to Marie Frantz, many women candidates, who were expected to advance to the runoff, faced electoral contestations at the electoral courts. But, she continued, “the people that they were facing had more money and they paid and they went through.”

“The person with the most money is the person that gets elected.”

Marie Frantz then addressed the question of a verification commission, stating that “we need to know the truth.”

“It’s when we have that truth that we can truly say we have people that have been elected legitimately. We need people who are elected through credible elections so we can have peace in the country. We need to establish a sense of trust between the population and political authorities.”

Finally, Marie Frantz concluded, “without women there is no democracy.”

Panel Discussion

Dr. Maguire, the moderator of the event, opened up the panel discussion by asking about the proliferation of political parties in recent years, which contributed to the problems with mandataires on election day.

Esperance responded that while Haiti has already had many parties, it is “during the Martelly government that we see a surge in political parties.” The explanation, he continued, was that Martelly wanted additional parties to strengthen his negotiating position with the opposition.

Marie Frantz then added that according to the law on political parties that was passed in 2014, it only takes 20 people for a party to be officially recognized. She added that, “a lot of those political parties were selling their mandataires to other parties … it was strategically thought out.”

Esperance added that it was not just political parties who received accreditation passes for mandataires, but that observer groups also received these passes, sometimes up to 17,000 of them, which were then turned around and sold to political parties. “That’s what we saw and that’s what we said. That’s why the international community is not supporting a commission for verification and evaluation because that’s where the proof lies,” Esperance concluded.

De Icaza first responded to accusations that the OAS had a double standard when it came to elections in Haiti. “Without a doubt the OAS does not have a double standard. No. We have 34 different standards. Not one, not two, 34 different standards.” That is because there is no one recipe for what makes an election free and fair, adding that that is “why the work with national observers is so important.”  

De Icaza clarified that the OAS has “never asked the Haitian people to accept these results,” but has only “stated our position and what we’ve seen.” “We have said, over and over, that whatever the solution is, it has to be a democratic solution and it has to be a Haitian solution. We have not gone any further than that,” he said.

“The problem that we have, for a certain sector of the population, no result unless we reach the cancelation of the results, will be acceptable.”

Fatton fired back, noting that there was a “fetishism” of elections in Haiti. “Every election that is fraudulent is acceptable, so at the end of the day, fraud becomes the new norm. And when fraud is the new norm, there is a breakdown in the electoral process, this is inevitable.”

Fatton discussed the recent history of “ad-hoc” electoral solutions in the 2006 and 2010 elections, and noted the current disagreement between local and international observers. “Let us not try and be nice and diplomatic, there is a fundamental breakdown of trust between the international community and Haitian civil society organizations.”

“One says it was a farce and the other says, well, it wasn’t that bad, it was acceptable. And the problem is the more you accept elections that are fraudulent, the more the system literally decomposes and that’s what is happening in Haiti.”

Fatton concludes: “But I guarantee you that if you have another election, a runoff between two candidates, whoever they may be,  without the commission on verification, an independent one, the new government elected will be in deep trouble a few months afterwards because it will have very limited legitimacy … this is a recipe for another crisis.”

Esperance then addressed the OAS representative, de Icaza, noting that while the situation in each country is different, their work in Haiti is based on what is contained in the electoral law. “There are many people who voted many times, particularly the observers and political representatives. That’s fraud. Help us construct democracy, help us end impunity and corruption.”

Kent Brokenshire, the State Department representative, who remained relatively quiet throughout the panel, then chimed in to underscore that “this is a Haitian process” and the U.S. doesn’t “favor any candidate at all, what we favor is democracy.” Though not directly addressing the calls for a verification commission, Brokenshire expressed the U.S.’ desire to “see Haiti move through the electoral cycle now and have a truly elected president to represent the will of the Haitian people, have a democratically elected head of state with whom we would be able to deal country to country.”

Pushing back on other panelists comments about the unlikelihood of elections being held in April, as the political accord had called for, Brokenshire added that: “In this accord they targeted April 14 [it’s actually April 24] as the day for elections, they gave the provisional president 120 days to complete that. So, they basically set out the rules for that and this is something that was done among Haitians, there was no whispering in ears there. This is something done among Haitians and something that we respect.”

Esperance responded that the accord did not involve the entire Haitian society and that the timeframe they put forward was “impossible.” “There is not even a 1% chance that a president will be installed on May 14, even in June it’s impossible. So what do we want? First, there will be a new CEP. There will be a commission for evaluation and verification. And I guarantee you that commission must happen otherwise there will be no election.” Even if the results do not change, we need to seek the truth, he added.

De Icaza then indicated that if Haitian leaders decide that a verification commission is needed to move the process forward, then “that’s perfect and the OAS will probably accompany this process.” But, he continued, it will issue a report that will show what we already know, that there were many irregularities. “Will they be able to put a number on those irregularities? I don’t know if they can do that scientifically, to tell you the truth.”

“For us, the difference between first, second and third is so clear that it would be difficult for those things to change. But if that’s what is needed and that is the Haitian solution, that’s wonderful,” he stated. De Icaza pointed out, however, that if a verification commission was formed, it would need clear timelines and rules to ensure its acceptance and success.

Marie Frantz responded by referencing the lack of trust between international actors and the Haitian people, but noted that these institutions, including the OAS, “have a great deal to gain by working hand in hand with Haitian society to put together this commission.”

“The lack of trust that exists between the population and these institutions…work to reestablish trust is work that is extremely important and I hope that the reflections we are having today will allow us…to reestablish trust.”

On Friday, March 4, 2016 representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS) and State Department joined two visiting Haitian human rights leaders and two U.S.-based academics in a discussion on Haiti’s current electoral crisis. Organized by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) and sponsored by Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the discussion focused on the causes of the postponement of the electoral crisis, the selection of Provisional President Jocelerme Privert and efforts to move the electoral process forward.

The five panelists made opening remarks and then moderator, Dr. Robert Maguire of the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, directed an open discussion among the speakers.

The event, in its entirety, can be viewed here. Following are excerpts from the panelists’ opening remarks and the subsequent discussion.

Professor Robert Fatton, University of Virginia

Professor Fatton opened the discussion by providing some useful background on the current situation, noting that President Martelly agreeing to step down on February 7 when his term ended and the subsequent selection of Senate president Privert as provisional president had “temporarily eased political tensions.”

Fatton noted that the accord, signed by Martelly, Privert (as Senate president) and Chancy Cholzer, the president of the Chamber of Deputies had tasked Privert with forming a new consensus government, reforming the electoral council and finally, implementing the recommendations of an evaluation commission formed in late December 2015.

“While Privert may succeed with the first two tasks, he will be hard pressed to accomplish the third,” Fatton argues. He explains further that the crisis stems from the “perceived illegitimacy of the whole electoral process,” and that without a verification commission – as has been demanded by many in Haitian civil society – “Haiti will not extricate itself from the current quagmire.”

In the clip below, Fatton makes these points and expounds further on sources of opposition to a further verification.

Believing that altering the results of the election or scrapping the process entirely will be politically untenable, Fatton instead puts forward an “extraconstitutional” approach that would see the second-round runoff opened up to the top four candidates. Privert will need the “Midas touch” to move Haiti out of the current political impasse.

Fatton ridiculed each side in Haiti for calling for the intervention of the international community when it serves their particular interests. But added that, on the other hand, the international community must “stop customary interferences and allow Haitians to devise their own history and make their own mistakes. Barring this Haiti will continue to be in a permanent state of crisis.”

Gerardo de Icaza, Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, OAS

Gerardo de Icaza, in his opening remarks, addressed criticism of the OAS and its role as an election observer in Haiti. “Without a doubt, don’t be surprised, you will be disappointed with what I say today. I know this. And I know you know it,” he opened. Icaza said that the OAS did see many irregularities during the election, but that they “were not a determining factor in the results that were presented.”

“What you expect from us is to come out and say there was a massive fraud, the results should not be accepted, everything should be scrapped and we should start from zero. Well, I cannot say that,” de Icaza continued.

De Icaza addressed the concerns around the issue of mandataires, political party representatives who have been recognized as one of the largest sources of fraud and irregularities during the election.

“Now, 900,000 mandataires. Who are registered by whom? By the political parties. Plural. By one political party? No. By many political parties. Plural.” Did they all vote and did they all vote only once, de Icaza asked rhetorically. “We do not know,” he answers, adding that OAS observers saw safeguards in place to prevent multiple voting.

“Did they all vote for the same candidate? I seriously doubt it. Because that would mean that there was a fraud that was so well orchestrated… that we would have detected that. And we did not see that.”

Kent Brokenshire, Deputy Haiti Special Coordinator, U.S. Department of State

As opposed to other panelists who focused on the current situation, Brokenshire used his opening remarks to harken back on his first tour in Haiti, during the early 90s. He discussed the connection he felt towards Haiti and how it has captivated so many others throughout the years.

Brokenshire pushed back on the idea that Haiti has not seen progress in recent decades, noting that while Haiti still is facing many political challenges, “the difference is beautiful.”

“These challenges are being addressed around tables, by politicians, by elected leaders. This was not the case before, you had people hanging on to raw power through military means.”

Pierre Esperance, Director, National Human Rights Defense Network of Haiti (RNDDH)

Esperance, who led a local electoral observation mission that was present in more than half of all polling centers in the country on election day, contrasted what the OAS observed with what his local group found and stressed the need for an independent verification commission before moving forward.

“Haiti needs the support of the international community…I think there needs to be a minimum respect for Haiti,” Esperance said. “When I say minimum respect, what do I mean by that? When we talk of democracy, what democracy are we speaking of? There should not be two levels of democracy – one for those that are advanced and one for those less advanced.”

Pointing to the high-level of violence, irregularities and “massive fraud,” Esperance noted that while the international community came to observe the election and make some recommendations, “they did not go to the lengths that we went.” But, Esperance added, “We are not the people who have the proof.”

The evidence of what Esperance alleges is, according to him, “sitting in the tabulation center and we are asking for that information to be verified.”

“If you put together an independent commission of evaluation, they will see that. The proofs are there. That is why we didn’t get a president elected on December 27 or January 24. So, when we ask for a commission of verification and evaluation, we don’t have in our head that a particular candidate will be expelled from the process. And it would be very difficult to put one particular candidate outside the process. And I don’t think that will change the results of the 4 or 5 at the top of the race but it will help us end impunity and corruption in the country. If you find the truth and seek the truth then we can organize acceptable elections,” Esperance explains.

Esperance, in a message to the international community, stated that “you cannot ask the Haitians to accept the unacceptable,” adding that “we are not seeking perfect elections, we want acceptable elections.”

Marie Frantz Joachim, Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA)

Marie Frantz opened by moving the discussion to a different aspect of the electoral process: the lack of women in parliament and how that happened.

Despite 23 Senate candidates and more than 120 Deputy candidates, Marie Frantz pointed out that there is “not a single woman inside parliament.”

She discussed the role that Martelly has played, particularly by publicly and verbally abusing a woman at a campaign rally last summer. “Basically, he said that women are just there to satisfy men sexually, therefore women do not have a role in parliament or politics.” Therefore, she added, it is “not surprising that today we don’t have a single woman in the parliament.”

Another cause was the “the corruption that existed within the electoral system.” According to Marie Frantz, many women candidates, who were expected to advance to the runoff, faced electoral contestations at the electoral courts. But, she continued, “the people that they were facing had more money and they paid and they went through.”

“The person with the most money is the person that gets elected.”

Marie Frantz then addressed the question of a verification commission, stating that “we need to know the truth.”

“It’s when we have that truth that we can truly say we have people that have been elected legitimately. We need people who are elected through credible elections so we can have peace in the country. We need to establish a sense of trust between the population and political authorities.”

Finally, Marie Frantz concluded, “without women there is no democracy.”

Panel Discussion

Dr. Maguire, the moderator of the event, opened up the panel discussion by asking about the proliferation of political parties in recent years, which contributed to the problems with mandataires on election day.

Esperance responded that while Haiti has already had many parties, it is “during the Martelly government that we see a surge in political parties.” The explanation, he continued, was that Martelly wanted additional parties to strengthen his negotiating position with the opposition.

Marie Frantz then added that according to the law on political parties that was passed in 2014, it only takes 20 people for a party to be officially recognized. She added that, “a lot of those political parties were selling their mandataires to other parties … it was strategically thought out.”

Esperance added that it was not just political parties who received accreditation passes for mandataires, but that observer groups also received these passes, sometimes up to 17,000 of them, which were then turned around and sold to political parties. “That’s what we saw and that’s what we said. That’s why the international community is not supporting a commission for verification and evaluation because that’s where the proof lies,” Esperance concluded.

De Icaza first responded to accusations that the OAS had a double standard when it came to elections in Haiti. “Without a doubt the OAS does not have a double standard. No. We have 34 different standards. Not one, not two, 34 different standards.” That is because there is no one recipe for what makes an election free and fair, adding that that is “why the work with national observers is so important.”  

De Icaza clarified that the OAS has “never asked the Haitian people to accept these results,” but has only “stated our position and what we’ve seen.” “We have said, over and over, that whatever the solution is, it has to be a democratic solution and it has to be a Haitian solution. We have not gone any further than that,” he said.

“The problem that we have, for a certain sector of the population, no result unless we reach the cancelation of the results, will be acceptable.”

Fatton fired back, noting that there was a “fetishism” of elections in Haiti. “Every election that is fraudulent is acceptable, so at the end of the day, fraud becomes the new norm. And when fraud is the new norm, there is a breakdown in the electoral process, this is inevitable.”

Fatton discussed the recent history of “ad-hoc” electoral solutions in the 2006 and 2010 elections, and noted the current disagreement between local and international observers. “Let us not try and be nice and diplomatic, there is a fundamental breakdown of trust between the international community and Haitian civil society organizations.”

“One says it was a farce and the other says, well, it wasn’t that bad, it was acceptable. And the problem is the more you accept elections that are fraudulent, the more the system literally decomposes and that’s what is happening in Haiti.”

Fatton concludes: “But I guarantee you that if you have another election, a runoff between two candidates, whoever they may be,  without the commission on verification, an independent one, the new government elected will be in deep trouble a few months afterwards because it will have very limited legitimacy … this is a recipe for another crisis.”

Esperance then addressed the OAS representative, de Icaza, noting that while the situation in each country is different, their work in Haiti is based on what is contained in the electoral law. “There are many people who voted many times, particularly the observers and political representatives. That’s fraud. Help us construct democracy, help us end impunity and corruption.”

Kent Brokenshire, the State Department representative, who remained relatively quiet throughout the panel, then chimed in to underscore that “this is a Haitian process” and the U.S. doesn’t “favor any candidate at all, what we favor is democracy.” Though not directly addressing the calls for a verification commission, Brokenshire expressed the U.S.’ desire to “see Haiti move through the electoral cycle now and have a truly elected president to represent the will of the Haitian people, have a democratically elected head of state with whom we would be able to deal country to country.”

Pushing back on other panelists comments about the unlikelihood of elections being held in April, as the political accord had called for, Brokenshire added that: “In this accord they targeted April 14 [it’s actually April 24] as the day for elections, they gave the provisional president 120 days to complete that. So, they basically set out the rules for that and this is something that was done among Haitians, there was no whispering in ears there. This is something done among Haitians and something that we respect.”

Esperance responded that the accord did not involve the entire Haitian society and that the timeframe they put forward was “impossible.” “There is not even a 1% chance that a president will be installed on May 14, even in June it’s impossible. So what do we want? First, there will be a new CEP. There will be a commission for evaluation and verification. And I guarantee you that commission must happen otherwise there will be no election.” Even if the results do not change, we need to seek the truth, he added.

De Icaza then indicated that if Haitian leaders decide that a verification commission is needed to move the process forward, then “that’s perfect and the OAS will probably accompany this process.” But, he continued, it will issue a report that will show what we already know, that there were many irregularities. “Will they be able to put a number on those irregularities? I don’t know if they can do that scientifically, to tell you the truth.”

“For us, the difference between first, second and third is so clear that it would be difficult for those things to change. But if that’s what is needed and that is the Haitian solution, that’s wonderful,” he stated. De Icaza pointed out, however, that if a verification commission was formed, it would need clear timelines and rules to ensure its acceptance and success.

Marie Frantz responded by referencing the lack of trust between international actors and the Haitian people, but noted that these institutions, including the OAS, “have a great deal to gain by working hand in hand with Haitian society to put together this commission.”

“The lack of trust that exists between the population and these institutions…work to reestablish trust is work that is extremely important and I hope that the reflections we are having today will allow us…to reestablish trust.”

The following has been cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog. The agreement itself can be found at the original source. 

Update: Jocelerme Privert has been elected provisional president by the National Assembly.

President Michel Martelly managed to reach a political accord with the heads of Haiti’s parliament on the creation of a transitional government, averting a potentially dangerous political vacuum. In keeping with the deal, Martelly stepped down on February 7, meeting a major demand of his opponents. But the accord also gives a great deal of power to a contested Parliament and fixes a time frame for the transition that would appear to rule out any real investigation of fraud in the previous rounds of elections. With pro-Martelly members of Haiti’s disbanded military (FAdH) on the march, the spectre of another, more violent round of political unrest hangs over the agreement. Given the accord’s many ambiguities and contradictions, Haiti’s electoral crisis has yet to be solved.

The deal’s text, entitled “Political Accord for institutional continuity upon the end of the term of office of the President of the Republic and in the absence of a President-elect and for the continuation of the 2015 electoral process,” was finalized at 1am on Friday night, after 28 meetings between various actors. President Martelly, Senate President Jocelerme Privert and Chamber of Deputies President Chancy Cholzer signed at the National Palace on Saturday, February 6. The solution found by the Executive and the lawmakers was “inspired by constitutional dispositions” rather than directly derived from the Haitian Constitution, because the Constitution did not clearly indicate what was supposed to happen when a president’s term ended without an elected successor in place.

The political accord confirmed Martelly’s departure on the constitutionally mandated end of his term on February 7 and provided a roadmap for the establishment of a provisional government. A provisional president will be elected by the National Assembly (a joint body of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate) within five days of the signing of the accord, while executive power will be exercised in the interim by current Prime Minister Evans Paul and the Council of Ministers. Parliament has already established a bicameral committee to receive and vet applications for the post, and if all goes well, a provisional president will be sworn in on February 14. The mandate of the provisional president is limited to a maximum of 120 days, starting from the day they assume office.

The provisional president is tasked with “redynamizing” the currently “dysfunctional” CEP and finding a “consensus” Prime Minister. To do so, the political accord gives the provisional president the responsibility to establish a broad consultation process with Haitian society and the two Chambers of parliament mandate is find a consensus Prime Minister, who will then form a government and be confirmed by Parliament. Although not stated in the accord’s text, the New York Times reported that Martelly had made “an important concession” during the negotiations, agreeing to allow a member of an opposition party to be selected as interim president.

The provisional president is also called on to convoke the various social sectors to delegate new representatives (or confirm existing ones) to the CEP. At present, the CEP has only three of nine members, meaning it lacks the necessary two-third quorum for publishing electoral results. Just as important, the credibility of the current CEP has been badly eroded by corruption scandals and its complicity in Martelly’s efforts to ram through fraudulent elections despite strong opposition.

Once in place, the “redynamized” CEP will ensure the “continuation of the electoral process initiated during 2015,” according the agreement. The steps to be taken include the implementation of the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission and the finalization of municipal election results, followed by the organization of “second round of presidential elections, partial legislative elections, and local elections.” The accord fixes April 24 as the date for these elections, with final results proclaimed on May 6 and an elected president installed on May 14. Many commentators, including Senate President Privert, have pointed out that this calendar is only tentative, since only the CEP has the authority to officially set election dates.

Although the political accord’s signatories claimed to be “seeking a broad consensus of all vital forces of the nation,” support for the agreement was not unanimous. Almost immediately after it was signed, the deal was denounced in the streets by opposition protesters. The Group of Eight (G-8) characterized the agreement as “anti-popular and anti-democratic” and the Front du Refus et de la Résistance Patriotique, a grouping of political and civil society leaders, which called the deal “stillborn.” The G-30, another grouping of presidential candidates, announced that it will challenge the political accord’s legality. These critics charged that the deal did not taken into account a sufficiently wide range of perspectives. Senate President Jocelerme Privert admitted that some opposition lawmakers disagreed with the accord reached by Martelly and legislators, but Privert said they would have to accept the majority’s decision. “This is the democratic way,” he said. Some pro-Martelly legislators have also expressed discontent with the deal.

The accord confers upon Parliament a major role in the process of establishing a transitional government. Many critics, however, have questioned this aspect of the accord, given the shaky democratic credentials of many in Parliament. Gotson Pierre, editor of Alterpresse, noted that the formation of a transitional government “seems risky for a contested and incomplete Parliament (116 parliamentarians of 149), enjoying a weak legitimacy.” Given the violence and fraud that accompanied the legislative elections, Pierre warned Parliament not to “seek to take advantage of the crisis and to impose its formula without any collaboration with the rest of society and the other [governmental] powers.”

In a statement drafted by Samuel Madistin on behalf of the G-8, the outsized role given to Parliament by the accord was denounced even more strenuously as a “parliamentary coup d’État” carried out by “improperly elected parliamentarians.” It was not clear whether Jude Célestin, whose support has been crucial for the G-8, backed Madistin’s statement. Representatives of Jude Célestin’s party, LAPEH, have stated on the radio that the G-8 statements regarding the accord were drafted without their input. “Parliament is part of the crisis and cannot, as a consequence, decide on the solution,” Madistin argued. The “supposed accord attempts to validate the 2015 elections as if they were normal, without taking into account popular opposition.” As such,the accord constituted “a provocation” to the popular masses, to whom the signatories had showed “an unacceptable disdain.” The G-8 continues to put forward its preferred solution of having the provisional president selected from the Cour de Cassation, though Madistin’s claim that a “general consensus” in favour of this option is hard to believe. Madistin, presidential candidate for MOPOD, has been the only signer of the G-8’s statements recently.

The concerns about the place of Parliament in the transition are not unrelated to the major demand of the protesters and the opposition parties: a full and independent investigation of electoral fraud. The G-8 and Fanmi Lavalas, as well as many political observers, continue to demand an independent investigative commission to examine both the August 9 and October 25 elections. The accord, however, is very ambiguous about how (or even whether) this demand will be addressed. On the one hand, the accord gives some reason for the opposition to hope, as it states that elections will only proceed “after an evaluation of the phases already completed.” On the other hand, many key elements – the language of “restarting” and “continuing” the electoral process, the emphasis on implementing the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission, and the very explicit indication that the next set of elections will be for second-round presidential and partial legislative elections – all suggest that scope of the evaluation might be quite limited.

In an interview given to journalist Jean-Michel Caroît shortly before the accord was finalized, Privert indicated that he considered a far-reaching investigation unlikely. Asked whether or not the presidential elections would go forward on the basis of the announced October 25 results, Privert told Caroît:

That is the whole debate: Do we redo the elections or continue the process initiated in 2015? The duration of the transition will depend on the choice we make. I cannot easily see how we could put into question everything that has been done.

Thus, the shorter the transition period, the less feasible a thorough-going evaluation of electoral fraud in previous rounds.

Along these lines, management consultant André Lafontant Jr. has argued that by establishing such a short transition period, the political accord “implies conducting no investigation prior to the holding of elections.” Lafontant dismissed the pretense that good and credible elections could be organized within 120 days, as specified by the accord and endorsed by the international community, as “fantastical” and “unrealistic.” Based on his experience as a staffer for CEP member Lourdes Edith Joseph, Lafontant estimated that at least nine months would be necessary “to correct the numerous anomalies that tarnished the days of August 9 and October 25, and to hold, this time, a free, fair and inclusive process.”

Lafontant despaired that Haiti’s political class was trapping itself by agreeing to the demands of the so-called “Friends of Haiti” (Core Group, OAS, EU, UNDP etc.): “Once again, the pressure of the international community is pushing us to make bad choices.” Indeed, since the signing of the accord, the Core Group and the UN have stressed that Haiti’s elections must be completed “swiftly” and “as quickly as possible.” Nor have international actors hid their view that, whatever fraud or irregularities may have occurred, these were not significant enough to merit an investigation.

The political accord has temporarily eased political tensions, but it may also effectively rule out the opposition’s most fundamental demand concerning a verification inquiry due to the extremely short timetable adopted. Prime Minister Evans Paul has urged all sides that dialogue is “the only weapon that we should use.” “We don’t need to mobilize people on the streets anymore, because all the demands expressed on streets are now on the table of state institutions.” To realize their demands in spite of the accord’s contradictions and limitations, opposition protesters may again take to the streets.

Perhaps most troubling is that the very real weapons of the ex-FAdH, and not just dialogue, are now weighing in the balance. “It’s all nice and jolly, but there are real problems,” political scientist Robert Fatton Jr. told the New York Times. Pro-government paramilitary groups that clashed with opposition protesters on February 5 could engage in violent resistance, Fatton warned, should a verification commission determine that different candidates should proceed to the runoff, or that the election results should be scrapped altogether. “The old military people that are out on the streets are sending a clear signal to opposition groups: ‘If you don’t accept this compromise, we are out here, with weapons,’ ” Mr. Fatton said. “No one knows who was in charge of these people. Everyone assumes they are in fact armed people and armed by the Michel Martelly regime, otherwise they would not be so free to go to the streets.” In sum, the political accord has cooled down the situation for now, but Haiti’s political scene remains dangerously polarized.

The following has been cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog. The agreement itself can be found at the original source. 

Update: Jocelerme Privert has been elected provisional president by the National Assembly.

President Michel Martelly managed to reach a political accord with the heads of Haiti’s parliament on the creation of a transitional government, averting a potentially dangerous political vacuum. In keeping with the deal, Martelly stepped down on February 7, meeting a major demand of his opponents. But the accord also gives a great deal of power to a contested Parliament and fixes a time frame for the transition that would appear to rule out any real investigation of fraud in the previous rounds of elections. With pro-Martelly members of Haiti’s disbanded military (FAdH) on the march, the spectre of another, more violent round of political unrest hangs over the agreement. Given the accord’s many ambiguities and contradictions, Haiti’s electoral crisis has yet to be solved.

The deal’s text, entitled “Political Accord for institutional continuity upon the end of the term of office of the President of the Republic and in the absence of a President-elect and for the continuation of the 2015 electoral process,” was finalized at 1am on Friday night, after 28 meetings between various actors. President Martelly, Senate President Jocelerme Privert and Chamber of Deputies President Chancy Cholzer signed at the National Palace on Saturday, February 6. The solution found by the Executive and the lawmakers was “inspired by constitutional dispositions” rather than directly derived from the Haitian Constitution, because the Constitution did not clearly indicate what was supposed to happen when a president’s term ended without an elected successor in place.

The political accord confirmed Martelly’s departure on the constitutionally mandated end of his term on February 7 and provided a roadmap for the establishment of a provisional government. A provisional president will be elected by the National Assembly (a joint body of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate) within five days of the signing of the accord, while executive power will be exercised in the interim by current Prime Minister Evans Paul and the Council of Ministers. Parliament has already established a bicameral committee to receive and vet applications for the post, and if all goes well, a provisional president will be sworn in on February 14. The mandate of the provisional president is limited to a maximum of 120 days, starting from the day they assume office.

The provisional president is tasked with “redynamizing” the currently “dysfunctional” CEP and finding a “consensus” Prime Minister. To do so, the political accord gives the provisional president the responsibility to establish a broad consultation process with Haitian society and the two Chambers of parliament mandate is find a consensus Prime Minister, who will then form a government and be confirmed by Parliament. Although not stated in the accord’s text, the New York Times reported that Martelly had made “an important concession” during the negotiations, agreeing to allow a member of an opposition party to be selected as interim president.

The provisional president is also called on to convoke the various social sectors to delegate new representatives (or confirm existing ones) to the CEP. At present, the CEP has only three of nine members, meaning it lacks the necessary two-third quorum for publishing electoral results. Just as important, the credibility of the current CEP has been badly eroded by corruption scandals and its complicity in Martelly’s efforts to ram through fraudulent elections despite strong opposition.

Once in place, the “redynamized” CEP will ensure the “continuation of the electoral process initiated during 2015,” according the agreement. The steps to be taken include the implementation of the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission and the finalization of municipal election results, followed by the organization of “second round of presidential elections, partial legislative elections, and local elections.” The accord fixes April 24 as the date for these elections, with final results proclaimed on May 6 and an elected president installed on May 14. Many commentators, including Senate President Privert, have pointed out that this calendar is only tentative, since only the CEP has the authority to officially set election dates.

Although the political accord’s signatories claimed to be “seeking a broad consensus of all vital forces of the nation,” support for the agreement was not unanimous. Almost immediately after it was signed, the deal was denounced in the streets by opposition protesters. The Group of Eight (G-8) characterized the agreement as “anti-popular and anti-democratic” and the Front du Refus et de la Résistance Patriotique, a grouping of political and civil society leaders, which called the deal “stillborn.” The G-30, another grouping of presidential candidates, announced that it will challenge the political accord’s legality. These critics charged that the deal did not taken into account a sufficiently wide range of perspectives. Senate President Jocelerme Privert admitted that some opposition lawmakers disagreed with the accord reached by Martelly and legislators, but Privert said they would have to accept the majority’s decision. “This is the democratic way,” he said. Some pro-Martelly legislators have also expressed discontent with the deal.

The accord confers upon Parliament a major role in the process of establishing a transitional government. Many critics, however, have questioned this aspect of the accord, given the shaky democratic credentials of many in Parliament. Gotson Pierre, editor of Alterpresse, noted that the formation of a transitional government “seems risky for a contested and incomplete Parliament (116 parliamentarians of 149), enjoying a weak legitimacy.” Given the violence and fraud that accompanied the legislative elections, Pierre warned Parliament not to “seek to take advantage of the crisis and to impose its formula without any collaboration with the rest of society and the other [governmental] powers.”

In a statement drafted by Samuel Madistin on behalf of the G-8, the outsized role given to Parliament by the accord was denounced even more strenuously as a “parliamentary coup d’État” carried out by “improperly elected parliamentarians.” It was not clear whether Jude Célestin, whose support has been crucial for the G-8, backed Madistin’s statement. Representatives of Jude Célestin’s party, LAPEH, have stated on the radio that the G-8 statements regarding the accord were drafted without their input. “Parliament is part of the crisis and cannot, as a consequence, decide on the solution,” Madistin argued. The “supposed accord attempts to validate the 2015 elections as if they were normal, without taking into account popular opposition.” As such,the accord constituted “a provocation” to the popular masses, to whom the signatories had showed “an unacceptable disdain.” The G-8 continues to put forward its preferred solution of having the provisional president selected from the Cour de Cassation, though Madistin’s claim that a “general consensus” in favour of this option is hard to believe. Madistin, presidential candidate for MOPOD, has been the only signer of the G-8’s statements recently.

The concerns about the place of Parliament in the transition are not unrelated to the major demand of the protesters and the opposition parties: a full and independent investigation of electoral fraud. The G-8 and Fanmi Lavalas, as well as many political observers, continue to demand an independent investigative commission to examine both the August 9 and October 25 elections. The accord, however, is very ambiguous about how (or even whether) this demand will be addressed. On the one hand, the accord gives some reason for the opposition to hope, as it states that elections will only proceed “after an evaluation of the phases already completed.” On the other hand, many key elements – the language of “restarting” and “continuing” the electoral process, the emphasis on implementing the “technical recommendations” of the Evaluation Commission, and the very explicit indication that the next set of elections will be for second-round presidential and partial legislative elections – all suggest that scope of the evaluation might be quite limited.

In an interview given to journalist Jean-Michel Caroît shortly before the accord was finalized, Privert indicated that he considered a far-reaching investigation unlikely. Asked whether or not the presidential elections would go forward on the basis of the announced October 25 results, Privert told Caroît:

That is the whole debate: Do we redo the elections or continue the process initiated in 2015? The duration of the transition will depend on the choice we make. I cannot easily see how we could put into question everything that has been done.

Thus, the shorter the transition period, the less feasible a thorough-going evaluation of electoral fraud in previous rounds.

Along these lines, management consultant André Lafontant Jr. has argued that by establishing such a short transition period, the political accord “implies conducting no investigation prior to the holding of elections.” Lafontant dismissed the pretense that good and credible elections could be organized within 120 days, as specified by the accord and endorsed by the international community, as “fantastical” and “unrealistic.” Based on his experience as a staffer for CEP member Lourdes Edith Joseph, Lafontant estimated that at least nine months would be necessary “to correct the numerous anomalies that tarnished the days of August 9 and October 25, and to hold, this time, a free, fair and inclusive process.”

Lafontant despaired that Haiti’s political class was trapping itself by agreeing to the demands of the so-called “Friends of Haiti” (Core Group, OAS, EU, UNDP etc.): “Once again, the pressure of the international community is pushing us to make bad choices.” Indeed, since the signing of the accord, the Core Group and the UN have stressed that Haiti’s elections must be completed “swiftly” and “as quickly as possible.” Nor have international actors hid their view that, whatever fraud or irregularities may have occurred, these were not significant enough to merit an investigation.

The political accord has temporarily eased political tensions, but it may also effectively rule out the opposition’s most fundamental demand concerning a verification inquiry due to the extremely short timetable adopted. Prime Minister Evans Paul has urged all sides that dialogue is “the only weapon that we should use.” “We don’t need to mobilize people on the streets anymore, because all the demands expressed on streets are now on the table of state institutions.” To realize their demands in spite of the accord’s contradictions and limitations, opposition protesters may again take to the streets.

Perhaps most troubling is that the very real weapons of the ex-FAdH, and not just dialogue, are now weighing in the balance. “It’s all nice and jolly, but there are real problems,” political scientist Robert Fatton Jr. told the New York Times. Pro-government paramilitary groups that clashed with opposition protesters on February 5 could engage in violent resistance, Fatton warned, should a verification commission determine that different candidates should proceed to the runoff, or that the election results should be scrapped altogether. “The old military people that are out on the streets are sending a clear signal to opposition groups: ‘If you don’t accept this compromise, we are out here, with weapons,’ ” Mr. Fatton said. “No one knows who was in charge of these people. Everyone assumes they are in fact armed people and armed by the Michel Martelly regime, otherwise they would not be so free to go to the streets.” In sum, the political accord has cooled down the situation for now, but Haiti’s political scene remains dangerously polarized.

Months before the August legislative elections last year, a small scandal erupted in the electoral bureau of Haiti’s Artibonite department. Nine months later Haiti remains mired in a political crisis, but how this came to be has faded from the headlines.

Tracing the election’s flaws from the beginning, in the Artibonite Valley, reveals just how corrupt the electoral process has been and how the politics of power and money have subverted the democratic will of the Haitian people and the elections’ credibility from day one.

In April, Louis Frantz Dort replaced Ralph Ederson Dieuconserve in the departmental electoral bureau of the Artibonite. “This suspicious change is evidence that an electoral coup is being prepared for the Parti Haitien Tet Kale (PHTK) in the Artibonite,” political activist, Délice Jacques, told the local press. The PHTK is the party of current president Michel Martelly, whom human rights organizations, religious leaders and the political opposition have accused of manipulating the elections for his own benefit and that of his allies. But in the Artibonite, this takes on a unique dynamic.

The PHTK openly allied with a number of political parties, but “then you have the local potentates,” explained an official with an international election observation mission, who requested anonymity since the process is ongoing. “It’s lord logic. They may not be part of PHTK, but the local leader wants to maintain control of his area for himself, not just for the party.” For the better part of the last decade, Haiti’s second-largest department, the Artibonite, has increasingly been controlled by Youri Latortue — a former senator and nephew of former Prime Minister Gerard Latortue — and his political party, Haiti in Action (AAA).

An advisor to President Martelly, Latortue was described by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson in a 2007 cable published by WikiLeaks, as “the poster boy for political corruption in Haiti.” The former head of the United Nations in Haiti referred to him as a “drug dealer.” A year prior, after speaking with a close colleague of Latortue, Sanderson cabled that Latortue “may well be the most brazenly corrupt of leading Haitian politicians,” adding that “The Latortue family is crawling all over Haitian politics.”

***

Haiti remained on edge in the lead-up to the August election. After the terms of the entire Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the Senate expired in January 2015, Martelly ruled the country without legislative oversight. Without elections, local officials had, years earlier, been replaced by political appointees. Despite pledges from the national electoral council (CEP) and positive assessments from international observers, the vote on August 9 was plagued by widespread violence, intimidation and outright fraud. It was, arguably, the worst in the Artibonite.

Votes from more than 30 percent of ballot boxes across the department were never counted, as voting was shut down by armed gangs. In other cases, ballots disappeared en route to the tabulation center. The Artibonite was the only one of Haiti’s 10 departments that failed to reach the threshold of 70-percent-of-votes-counted, an arbitrary and after-the-fact benchmark instituted by the CEP. When the CEP announced preliminary results on August 17, it declared that the entire Senate election in the Artibonite was to be done over and in addition, in eight districts where fewer than 70 percent of votes were counted, races would also have to be rerun. In five areas, the vote was so marred that not a single vote was counted.

Later, the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) election monitoring division, Gerardo de Icaza, said that the number of missing votes in August would have been “enough to void” the results had they been in a national race. But De Icaza suggested that because the August vote was for local races, problems could be handled at the local level by rerunning the races. In reality, many of the problems were never addressed, setting the electoral process off course from the beginning and undermining the legitimacy of the incoming legislature that was partially sworn in last month.

The CEP, in an attempt to assuage concerns over the August violence, sanctioned 16 candidates, excluding them from the electoral process. It also issued a communiqué, warning political parties involved in “ransacking voting centers” and “removing electoral materials” that further acts would lead to harsher sanctions. But it stopped short of any direct action against parties.

In the Artibonite, the CEP warned five groups: the ruling-party’s PHTK; Latortue’s AAA; the Prime Minister’s KID party; a smaller party, REPAREN, closely linked to Latortue; and the Bouclier party. This latter party was created by Calixte Valentine, an accused murderer and a close advisor to President Martelly. Its presidential candidate’s chief of staff was another Martelly advisor. The party was so controversial that in the days after the August 9 vote, a campaign advisor to the PHTK, Roudy Choute, seeking to distance his party from Bouclier, described them as “the party with the worst drug connections.” 

Despite — or perhaps because of —clear involvement in electoral violence, pro-government parties did exceptionally well in the Artibonite. Of the 11 races which eventually stood, government allies won seven seats, including five for Latortue’s AAA. The two senate seats up for grabs went to Latortue and his cousin, Carl Murat Cantave.

“The benefactors of the elections were the people who used violence, massive fraud and intimidation,” said Pierre Esperance, the head of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), which observed the elections with two other local civil society organizations. After the announcement of results, the groups called for further investigation into the violence and the fraud-marred legislative race.

“It’s not a glorious roster of candidates” who advanced from the first-round, a foreign diplomat, who requested anonymity, said in an interview after the August vote.

***

Though pro-government parties clearly benefitted from the high-levels of violence, the gains were not yet secured. Given the CEP’s requirement that 70 percent of votes be counted for results to stand, two deputies (Garcia Delva of the PHTK, and Chancy Cholzer of the AAA), and Latortue himself, were set to face do-overs come the October second round. Their cases went to the departmental electoral court (BCED) of the Artibonite. The president of the BCED was Louis Frantz Dort, the controversial figure who had quietly replaced his predecessor in April.

In the cases of both Cholzer and Delva, the court, led by Mr. Dort, reintroduced tally sheets that had been excluded due to fraud or other irregularities, pushing the percent of the vote counted above 70 and allowing the results to stand. The candidates’ lawyer was Jacob Latortue, who himself would be elected to the Chamber following a court ruling in November. But for Youri Latortue, the court decision was even more controversial.

To secure a first-round win, a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote, or a 25-percent lead over the second place finisher. Latortue had neither. But not only did the court reintroduce tally sheets to get over the 70-percent barrier, it applied a different calculation method to allow Latortue to advance to the second round. Despite being completely in conflict with the regulations and interpretation put forth by the CEP, Latortue advanced based on the court’s ruling while receiving only 27 percent of the vote.

The case was appealed and went to the country’s highest electoral court, the BCEN. Court judges included Yolette Mengual, a member of the CEP and close associate of Latortue who later resigned from the CEP after allegations surfaced that she had received bribes from legislative candidates. She denies the allegations. Also on the court was Jugnace Pierre, whom a different legislative candidate claims to have bribed in an attempt to obtain a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. The bribe is the subject of an ongoing legal complaint.

The BCEN appeal was denied and Latortue was awarded a first-round victory. While Latortue’s quest to become president of the Senate was thwarted last month, in the Chamber of Deputies the presidency went to his colleague, Chancy Cholzer. Delva also secured a leadership spot in the legislature.

After the decision, an anonymous member of the CEP spoke to Haiti’s leading daily,Le Nouvelliste, explaining that the departmental electoral court had no jurisdiction to put excluded tally sheets back into the count. “Yes, there was influence peddling, bargaining,” the member told the paper. “With advisors clearly at the service of power and other interests, it is difficult to guarantee elections and the credibility of results.”

A week later, facing protests from local opposition, Mr. Dort resigned from the Artibonite electoral bureau.

“If you have money, you can win. If you have power, you can win,” a candidate for the Senate in the West department explained in an interview. 

Months before the August legislative elections last year, a small scandal erupted in the electoral bureau of Haiti’s Artibonite department. Nine months later Haiti remains mired in a political crisis, but how this came to be has faded from the headlines.

Tracing the election’s flaws from the beginning, in the Artibonite Valley, reveals just how corrupt the electoral process has been and how the politics of power and money have subverted the democratic will of the Haitian people and the elections’ credibility from day one.

In April, Louis Frantz Dort replaced Ralph Ederson Dieuconserve in the departmental electoral bureau of the Artibonite. “This suspicious change is evidence that an electoral coup is being prepared for the Parti Haitien Tet Kale (PHTK) in the Artibonite,” political activist, Délice Jacques, told the local press. The PHTK is the party of current president Michel Martelly, whom human rights organizations, religious leaders and the political opposition have accused of manipulating the elections for his own benefit and that of his allies. But in the Artibonite, this takes on a unique dynamic.

The PHTK openly allied with a number of political parties, but “then you have the local potentates,” explained an official with an international election observation mission, who requested anonymity since the process is ongoing. “It’s lord logic. They may not be part of PHTK, but the local leader wants to maintain control of his area for himself, not just for the party.” For the better part of the last decade, Haiti’s second-largest department, the Artibonite, has increasingly been controlled by Youri Latortue — a former senator and nephew of former Prime Minister Gerard Latortue — and his political party, Haiti in Action (AAA).

An advisor to President Martelly, Latortue was described by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson in a 2007 cable published by WikiLeaks, as “the poster boy for political corruption in Haiti.” The former head of the United Nations in Haiti referred to him as a “drug dealer.” A year prior, after speaking with a close colleague of Latortue, Sanderson cabled that Latortue “may well be the most brazenly corrupt of leading Haitian politicians,” adding that “The Latortue family is crawling all over Haitian politics.”

***

Haiti remained on edge in the lead-up to the August election. After the terms of the entire Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the Senate expired in January 2015, Martelly ruled the country without legislative oversight. Without elections, local officials had, years earlier, been replaced by political appointees. Despite pledges from the national electoral council (CEP) and positive assessments from international observers, the vote on August 9 was plagued by widespread violence, intimidation and outright fraud. It was, arguably, the worst in the Artibonite.

Votes from more than 30 percent of ballot boxes across the department were never counted, as voting was shut down by armed gangs. In other cases, ballots disappeared en route to the tabulation center. The Artibonite was the only one of Haiti’s 10 departments that failed to reach the threshold of 70-percent-of-votes-counted, an arbitrary and after-the-fact benchmark instituted by the CEP. When the CEP announced preliminary results on August 17, it declared that the entire Senate election in the Artibonite was to be done over and in addition, in eight districts where fewer than 70 percent of votes were counted, races would also have to be rerun. In five areas, the vote was so marred that not a single vote was counted.

Later, the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) election monitoring division, Gerardo de Icaza, said that the number of missing votes in August would have been “enough to void” the results had they been in a national race. But De Icaza suggested that because the August vote was for local races, problems could be handled at the local level by rerunning the races. In reality, many of the problems were never addressed, setting the electoral process off course from the beginning and undermining the legitimacy of the incoming legislature that was partially sworn in last month.

The CEP, in an attempt to assuage concerns over the August violence, sanctioned 16 candidates, excluding them from the electoral process. It also issued a communiqué, warning political parties involved in “ransacking voting centers” and “removing electoral materials” that further acts would lead to harsher sanctions. But it stopped short of any direct action against parties.

In the Artibonite, the CEP warned five groups: the ruling-party’s PHTK; Latortue’s AAA; the Prime Minister’s KID party; a smaller party, REPAREN, closely linked to Latortue; and the Bouclier party. This latter party was created by Calixte Valentine, an accused murderer and a close advisor to President Martelly. Its presidential candidate’s chief of staff was another Martelly advisor. The party was so controversial that in the days after the August 9 vote, a campaign advisor to the PHTK, Roudy Choute, seeking to distance his party from Bouclier, described them as “the party with the worst drug connections.” 

Despite — or perhaps because of —clear involvement in electoral violence, pro-government parties did exceptionally well in the Artibonite. Of the 11 races which eventually stood, government allies won seven seats, including five for Latortue’s AAA. The two senate seats up for grabs went to Latortue and his cousin, Carl Murat Cantave.

“The benefactors of the elections were the people who used violence, massive fraud and intimidation,” said Pierre Esperance, the head of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), which observed the elections with two other local civil society organizations. After the announcement of results, the groups called for further investigation into the violence and the fraud-marred legislative race.

“It’s not a glorious roster of candidates” who advanced from the first-round, a foreign diplomat, who requested anonymity, said in an interview after the August vote.

***

Though pro-government parties clearly benefitted from the high-levels of violence, the gains were not yet secured. Given the CEP’s requirement that 70 percent of votes be counted for results to stand, two deputies (Garcia Delva of the PHTK, and Chancy Cholzer of the AAA), and Latortue himself, were set to face do-overs come the October second round. Their cases went to the departmental electoral court (BCED) of the Artibonite. The president of the BCED was Louis Frantz Dort, the controversial figure who had quietly replaced his predecessor in April.

In the cases of both Cholzer and Delva, the court, led by Mr. Dort, reintroduced tally sheets that had been excluded due to fraud or other irregularities, pushing the percent of the vote counted above 70 and allowing the results to stand. The candidates’ lawyer was Jacob Latortue, who himself would be elected to the Chamber following a court ruling in November. But for Youri Latortue, the court decision was even more controversial.

To secure a first-round win, a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote, or a 25-percent lead over the second place finisher. Latortue had neither. But not only did the court reintroduce tally sheets to get over the 70-percent barrier, it applied a different calculation method to allow Latortue to advance to the second round. Despite being completely in conflict with the regulations and interpretation put forth by the CEP, Latortue advanced based on the court’s ruling while receiving only 27 percent of the vote.

The case was appealed and went to the country’s highest electoral court, the BCEN. Court judges included Yolette Mengual, a member of the CEP and close associate of Latortue who later resigned from the CEP after allegations surfaced that she had received bribes from legislative candidates. She denies the allegations. Also on the court was Jugnace Pierre, whom a different legislative candidate claims to have bribed in an attempt to obtain a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. The bribe is the subject of an ongoing legal complaint.

The BCEN appeal was denied and Latortue was awarded a first-round victory. While Latortue’s quest to become president of the Senate was thwarted last month, in the Chamber of Deputies the presidency went to his colleague, Chancy Cholzer. Delva also secured a leadership spot in the legislature.

After the decision, an anonymous member of the CEP spoke to Haiti’s leading daily,Le Nouvelliste, explaining that the departmental electoral court had no jurisdiction to put excluded tally sheets back into the count. “Yes, there was influence peddling, bargaining,” the member told the paper. “With advisors clearly at the service of power and other interests, it is difficult to guarantee elections and the credibility of results.”

A week later, facing protests from local opposition, Mr. Dort resigned from the Artibonite electoral bureau.

“If you have money, you can win. If you have power, you can win,” a candidate for the Senate in the West department explained in an interview. 

Less than three percent of Haitians would have voted in the planned January 24 election, according to a new survey. As political leaders and international officials meet and discuss a way out of Haiti’s current political crisis, the survey sheds light on what the Haitian people would like to see happen.

Released today by the Brazilian Igarape Institute, the report, co-authored by Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah, shows a tremendous lack of faith in the current electoral process, but indicates that it could be restored if certain actions are taken. Three quarters of all respondents said they would vote if they believed elections were free and fair. Getting there will be the tough part.

“Haitian citizens need to be informed of the process behind every key decision made for the resulting actions to have a chance of being viewed as legitimate,” the authors write. “And ordinary Haitian people need to be confident that their needs, opinions, and votes are driving the democratic process.”

After violent and fraud marred legislative elections in August, many voters were wary about going to the polls in the October presidential elections. 41 percent of respondents indicated they stayed home due to fraud or security concerns. Many also said that there was no point in voting and candidates didn’t care about people like them.

These concerns only increased in anticipation of the planned January 24 election. Only three percent intended to vote, with 68 percent citing “election fraud” as the reason why they would stay home. The election was officially cancelled due to security concerns, but it was this lack of faith in the process that had doomed the election.

Looking forward, respondents identified clear actions that could be taken to restore trust in the electoral process. Asked what needed to be done to restore confidence, the most popular answers involved conducting an independent investigation into fraud and intimidation in previous elections before moving forward. “Respondents, overall, preferred options that excluded Jovenel Moïse from automatic participation in a second round election,” the authors conclude.

Moïse, the government-backed candidate, came in first in official results, but a previous Igarape Institute survey found that only a small fraction of respondents said they had voted for him. The most recent survey confirms this finding and indicates a deeper level of fraud impacting the results of the October election.

Only four percent of respondents said they would vote for Moïse if free and fair elections were held today. More than 40 percent said they would vote for Jude Celestin, who came in second according to official results. Jovenel Moïse was also behind both Moïse Jean Charles and Maryse Narcisse, opposition presidential candidates that are contesting the results, the survey showed.

Interestingly, the survey found that far fewer Haitians had participated in the October election than the official results indicated. While participation was reported as 26.6 percent, only 19.5 percent of registered voters responded that they had voted. One possible explanation is the repeat voting from political party monitors, recognized as one of the biggest sources of fraud in the election.

More than 900,000 accreditation passes were distributed to these monitors, in many cases allowing them to vote multiple times as safeguards were not always implemented. The impact of these votes is one of the most pressing outstanding questions from the October vote and, based on survey responses, what Haitians want to see answered before moving forward.

Presented with different possible solutions to the current impasse, respondents overwhelming indicated they wanted to see Martelly step down on February 7, as the constitution requires. The plans with the most support generally included re-doing the first round of the presidential elections and establishing an independent committee to monitor and prevent fraud.

Less than three percent of Haitians would have voted in the planned January 24 election, according to a new survey. As political leaders and international officials meet and discuss a way out of Haiti’s current political crisis, the survey sheds light on what the Haitian people would like to see happen.

Released today by the Brazilian Igarape Institute, the report, co-authored by Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah, shows a tremendous lack of faith in the current electoral process, but indicates that it could be restored if certain actions are taken. Three quarters of all respondents said they would vote if they believed elections were free and fair. Getting there will be the tough part.

“Haitian citizens need to be informed of the process behind every key decision made for the resulting actions to have a chance of being viewed as legitimate,” the authors write. “And ordinary Haitian people need to be confident that their needs, opinions, and votes are driving the democratic process.”

After violent and fraud marred legislative elections in August, many voters were wary about going to the polls in the October presidential elections. 41 percent of respondents indicated they stayed home due to fraud or security concerns. Many also said that there was no point in voting and candidates didn’t care about people like them.

These concerns only increased in anticipation of the planned January 24 election. Only three percent intended to vote, with 68 percent citing “election fraud” as the reason why they would stay home. The election was officially cancelled due to security concerns, but it was this lack of faith in the process that had doomed the election.

Looking forward, respondents identified clear actions that could be taken to restore trust in the electoral process. Asked what needed to be done to restore confidence, the most popular answers involved conducting an independent investigation into fraud and intimidation in previous elections before moving forward. “Respondents, overall, preferred options that excluded Jovenel Moïse from automatic participation in a second round election,” the authors conclude.

Moïse, the government-backed candidate, came in first in official results, but a previous Igarape Institute survey found that only a small fraction of respondents said they had voted for him. The most recent survey confirms this finding and indicates a deeper level of fraud impacting the results of the October election.

Only four percent of respondents said they would vote for Moïse if free and fair elections were held today. More than 40 percent said they would vote for Jude Celestin, who came in second according to official results. Jovenel Moïse was also behind both Moïse Jean Charles and Maryse Narcisse, opposition presidential candidates that are contesting the results, the survey showed.

Interestingly, the survey found that far fewer Haitians had participated in the October election than the official results indicated. While participation was reported as 26.6 percent, only 19.5 percent of registered voters responded that they had voted. One possible explanation is the repeat voting from political party monitors, recognized as one of the biggest sources of fraud in the election.

More than 900,000 accreditation passes were distributed to these monitors, in many cases allowing them to vote multiple times as safeguards were not always implemented. The impact of these votes is one of the most pressing outstanding questions from the October vote and, based on survey responses, what Haitians want to see answered before moving forward.

Presented with different possible solutions to the current impasse, respondents overwhelming indicated they wanted to see Martelly step down on February 7, as the constitution requires. The plans with the most support generally included re-doing the first round of the presidential elections and establishing an independent committee to monitor and prevent fraud.

With less than a week left in Haitian President Michel Martelly’s term, and no elected successor to take office, Haiti remains mired in political uncertainty. As negotiations take place over what comes next, one key issue will be whether to go back and investigate the first round results before moving forward.

Many within the international community and the Haitian government are seeking to move forward as quickly as possible with the same two candidates that were scheduled to participate in the January 24 runoff. On the other hand, protesters and many within civil society are advocating a further investigation and verification of the vote.  The Organization of American States (OAS) dispatched a special mission to Haiti yesterday to facilitate dialogue on next steps.

The main argument against further verification has relied on the “quick count” conducted by the OAS on election day that was based on a sample of tally sheets observed from polling centers throughout the country.

The OAS count has been used by others to argue that fraud allegations are overblown. During an OAS council meeting last week on the situation in Haiti, Gerardo de Icaza, the head of the OAS electoral observation department, said the “results published by the CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] agreed with the OAS statistical sample,” and that the organization had conducted three other statistical tests that all showed the same top four candidates.

During an interview in December, State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten told me that there had not been credible proof of fraud and the U.S. “understanding is that both the U.N. and OAS think the results were close to the quick count.”

Telegraphing why this matters in the current context, the European Union representative, speaking at the same OAS meeting last week, stated the EU’s desire to see the electoral process move forward, “considering the results of the process so far.” In other words, this means moving forward without any verification of the first round results.

But the OAS’s quick count does not mean what they want you to think it means. There are serious concerns about what percentage of the votes cast were legitimate votes but the OAS count sheds no light on this crucial issue.

The evaluation commission, set up by President Martelly himself in late December, showed explicitly why simply verifying the count is not adequate to validate results. The commission found that only 8 percent of tally sheets (the basis for the OAS count) were completely free from irregularities. 57.1 percent of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8 percent of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid ID number, and 30.6 percent of tally sheets had votes lacking an ID number altogether.

The most serious and pervasive questions raised about the legitimacy of the election concern repeat voting by political party monitors (mandataires). The CEP issued over 900,000 accreditation passes to political party observers before the election and several thousand other observer passes. These passes allowed monitors to vote wherever they were without being on voter lists, and in many cases, safeguards to prevent these monitors from voting multiple times were not implemented.

With the streets flooded with these passes prior to the elections, accreditations were bought and sold, turning the system into a black market where those with the most money were best able to take advantage. The evaluation commission found that off-list voters —mainly political party monitors —made up more than 15 percent of the total votes in more than a quarter of polling centers across the country. The impact was potentially massive. The OAS itself acknowledged that this “has been generally seen as one of the main sources of irregularities.”

Even those who have cited the OAS quick count as validating the results acknowledge, when pressed, that it says nothing about the actual legitimacy of the votes cast. When asked if the quick count proved the legitimacy of the vote, Icaza clarified that it only showed that results were “consistent with the counting at the voting centers.”  When it was pointed out that the OAS had only confirmed the actual counting of votes and not the votes themselves, Merten responded: “I don’t disagree with that but I don’t think there is any way to prove it. We’ll probably never know.”

But with the elections cancelled, there is the possibility to know – if a true independent investigation into the results is allowed before moving forward. In a press release on Friday, the International Federation for Human Rights, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, and the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights called on both Haitian actors and the international community to support a “verification of votes in the first round by an independent body” in order to “legitimize this process.”

To restore credibility to the process, Haitians must have faith that their votes matter, and that means first ensuring the legitimacy of results. Arithmetic is easy, but determining whether those underlying numbers are real will require further investigation.

With less than a week left in Haitian President Michel Martelly’s term, and no elected successor to take office, Haiti remains mired in political uncertainty. As negotiations take place over what comes next, one key issue will be whether to go back and investigate the first round results before moving forward.

Many within the international community and the Haitian government are seeking to move forward as quickly as possible with the same two candidates that were scheduled to participate in the January 24 runoff. On the other hand, protesters and many within civil society are advocating a further investigation and verification of the vote.  The Organization of American States (OAS) dispatched a special mission to Haiti yesterday to facilitate dialogue on next steps.

The main argument against further verification has relied on the “quick count” conducted by the OAS on election day that was based on a sample of tally sheets observed from polling centers throughout the country.

The OAS count has been used by others to argue that fraud allegations are overblown. During an OAS council meeting last week on the situation in Haiti, Gerardo de Icaza, the head of the OAS electoral observation department, said the “results published by the CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] agreed with the OAS statistical sample,” and that the organization had conducted three other statistical tests that all showed the same top four candidates.

During an interview in December, State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten told me that there had not been credible proof of fraud and the U.S. “understanding is that both the U.N. and OAS think the results were close to the quick count.”

Telegraphing why this matters in the current context, the European Union representative, speaking at the same OAS meeting last week, stated the EU’s desire to see the electoral process move forward, “considering the results of the process so far.” In other words, this means moving forward without any verification of the first round results.

But the OAS’s quick count does not mean what they want you to think it means. There are serious concerns about what percentage of the votes cast were legitimate votes but the OAS count sheds no light on this crucial issue.

The evaluation commission, set up by President Martelly himself in late December, showed explicitly why simply verifying the count is not adequate to validate results. The commission found that only 8 percent of tally sheets (the basis for the OAS count) were completely free from irregularities. 57.1 percent of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8 percent of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid ID number, and 30.6 percent of tally sheets had votes lacking an ID number altogether.

The most serious and pervasive questions raised about the legitimacy of the election concern repeat voting by political party monitors (mandataires). The CEP issued over 900,000 accreditation passes to political party observers before the election and several thousand other observer passes. These passes allowed monitors to vote wherever they were without being on voter lists, and in many cases, safeguards to prevent these monitors from voting multiple times were not implemented.

With the streets flooded with these passes prior to the elections, accreditations were bought and sold, turning the system into a black market where those with the most money were best able to take advantage. The evaluation commission found that off-list voters —mainly political party monitors —made up more than 15 percent of the total votes in more than a quarter of polling centers across the country. The impact was potentially massive. The OAS itself acknowledged that this “has been generally seen as one of the main sources of irregularities.”

Even those who have cited the OAS quick count as validating the results acknowledge, when pressed, that it says nothing about the actual legitimacy of the votes cast. When asked if the quick count proved the legitimacy of the vote, Icaza clarified that it only showed that results were “consistent with the counting at the voting centers.”  When it was pointed out that the OAS had only confirmed the actual counting of votes and not the votes themselves, Merten responded: “I don’t disagree with that but I don’t think there is any way to prove it. We’ll probably never know.”

But with the elections cancelled, there is the possibility to know – if a true independent investigation into the results is allowed before moving forward. In a press release on Friday, the International Federation for Human Rights, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, and the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights called on both Haitian actors and the international community to support a “verification of votes in the first round by an independent body” in order to “legitimize this process.”

To restore credibility to the process, Haitians must have faith that their votes matter, and that means first ensuring the legitimacy of results. Arithmetic is easy, but determining whether those underlying numbers are real will require further investigation.

Second-round presidential and legislative runoffs, scheduled for Sunday January 24, were abruptly cancelled on Friday, less than 48 hours before polls were to open. Ruling-party backed Jovenel Moise was set to face off against Jude Celestin, who had pledged to boycott the race. Protests against the election increased throughout the week, culminating in a massive demonstration that made its way to the headquarters of the electoral council (CEP) on Friday morning.

“Jan. 24 is no longer opportune for having elections considering the threats against the electoral infrastructure and on the population who would have to go vote,” said CEP president Pierre Louis Opont in cancelling the election.

But if the threat of violence provided the necessary pretext, the writing was already on the wall. Since fraud and irregularity-marred first-round presidential elections in October (and really, since the violent August legislative elections), a growing chorus of Haitian civil society had spoken out against the continuation of the electoral process as is. An evaluation commission, created by the president, found that only eight percent of tally sheets were free from irregularities or manipulation.

“It is crazy to see that it was contemplated to hold a round in these conditions,” on January 24, said a western official working on election-related matters.

The nine-member electoral council had already seen two members resign and two more suspend their activities (one due to corruption allegations). But on Friday, as calls for the election’s cancellation increased and officials frantically rushed to reach a deal, another CEP member threatened to resign. It would have left the institution without a quorum, rendering it unable to legally sign off on election results.

Still, the large demonstration on Friday sent a message, particularly to the international backers of the election. Donors have financed the bulk of the $100 million electoral process, with the U.S. alone chipping in more than $30 million. Despite months of fraud allegations and calls from civil society, the so-called “Core Group,” consisting of the major foreign embassies, the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) had continued to insist on the completion of the electoral process on the 24th. “A few days ago some diplomats questioned the capacity of the opposition to mobilize,” the western official said, “obviously it does not look good now that they are on the streets.”

International actors have denounced the violent protests and called for the electoral process to be completed as soon as possible. The U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, said it “expects that persons responsible for organizing, financing, or participating in electoral intimidation and violence will be held accountable in accordance with Haitian law.”

There had been signs that some within the diplomatic community were reluctant to push forward with an election that would lack credibility. Earlier in the week, the OAS issued a statement acknowledging flaws in the process and that corrective measures “have not achieved the intended level of confidence.” With Martelly digging his heels in and conflicts on the streets increasing, the “Core Group” issued a statement Friday morning, for the first time making no mention of January 24 or February 7, and calling on all sides to dialogue. It was an implicit rejection of moving forward with the election.

In an interview with Le Monde, after the elections cancellation, the head of the OAS electoral observation mission and former Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, acknowledged, “behind the security concerns, there are also important political issues.” An election with one candidate, he said, “would not have been accepted by the majority.”

Amorim said that Haitians “must choose the best path, have a real negotiation without external interference.” But, Amorim also warned: “What I can say is that leaving a power vacuum for too long is dangerous.”

Just days earlier, backroom negotiations, spearheaded by powerful private sector actors and religious leaders, were on the cusp of a deal. But on Thursday morning, a combative Martelly took to the airwaves, doubling down on his insistence that elections take place and accusing his opponents of wanting to seize power by delaying elections.

“Martelly wanted to push for the 24th to get a compromise,” the western official said. But with CEP’s announcement and declining international support, Martelly’s hand was undercut. “Of course, Martelly is weaker now for dragging this out,” a presidential advisor said, adding that Martelly “misunderstood” the support of the U.S. and others in the international community. A member of parliament, speaking to Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, said “now January 24th, its over. The negotiations are for after February 7 and a new date for elections.”

But those close to the president contend that a deal would not have been accepted by all of the groups in the streets. Martelly is “negotiating his own surrender to people who don’t trust one another. So he’s between a proverbial rock and a hard place,” the presidential advisor commented.

Jocelerme Privert, the president of the newly installed Senate, who has quickly become one of the most influential Haitian politicians in the current crisis, has urged any dialogue to include more voices. “There was a weakness on the number of players involved” in previous discussions, Privert told John-Michel Caroit of Le Monde. “The solution that will emerge will not be unanimous, but to succeed there must be a critical mass of people who adhere to it.”

The election’s cancellation, however, has emboldened opposition groups, some of whom are now openly calling for Martelly to leave office before the end of his term. It has also highlighted other divisions within the opposition. Some groups would be more willing to accept reforms to the electoral apparatus before moving forward while others are insisting on a further investigation into the fraud from earlier rounds?—?opening the door to changing the runoff candidates or rerunning the presidential election entirely.

International officials have supported moving forward while keeping the same runoff candidates. After unflinchingly backing the process, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten has since acknowledged the new reality. “We may be looking at some sort of temporary solution until there is a handover to a new elected president,” he told Reuters, indicating that Martelly would step down on February 7. But, Merten added, “Our fear is that we go into a situation that is open ended.”

Further delays or investigations could reveal deeper problems with the elections, which could look bad for those who backed the process, both financially and politically. Any further investigation also raises the possibility of excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they [the international community] dread,” as a source told Le Nouvelliste last month. Jean-Charles, a former ally of twice-ousted former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, finished third in the October vote.

In response to the election’s cancellation and the large turnout of opposition protesters, pro-government supporters have begun mobilizing throughout the country. They are calling for elections as soon as possible and have raised concerns of violent confrontations between the two groups. “If Jovenel is excluded from the elections, there will be a civil war,” one protester told the AFP.

In the Grand-Anse, a sparsely populated department in southwestern Haiti, former paramilitary death squad leader Guy Philippe, a front runner in second round senatorial elections that had been scheduled for the 24th, threatened, “we are ready for war…We will divide the country.”

Philippe helped lead the 2004 coup against former president Jean Bertrand Aristide and is still listed as a fugitive by the DEA, wanted on drug-trafficking and money laundering charges. Last month he endorsed Martelly’s successor, Moise, and appeared at a campaign rally in his home region. Legislative elections in Philippe’s department were some of the most problematic in August, resulting in partial reruns in October that have yet to be settled.

Regardless of what happens with presidential elections, the deeply flawed legislative race appears set to stand, with its members playing an increasingly larger role in the current crisis. 24 of the 30 members of the senate have been sworn in, along with 92 of the 119 deputies in the lower house. Martelly allies won control over the lower house, but the senate presidency went to Privert, a former minister under Aristide and current representative of former-president Rene Preval’s political coalition. Privert is one of 10 elected officials who remained in office after Martelly failed to hold elections his first four years in power. Some opposition groups, however, have urged the recent legislative elections to also be scrapped.

Privert said he was “working with my colleagues” and was meeting with many “Haitian organizations “and “some diplomats” in order to solve the crisis. As negotiations continue for what comes after February 7, all sides are jostling for power and influence.

Prime Minister Evans Paul told the press that Martelly would be willing to step down on February 7, but others close to the president have suggested he could stay to hand over the presidential sash to his successor after new elections are held. Who who would take the reigns of government if Martelly does step down, however, remains a sticking point in negotiations. According to sources close to the negotiations, one option would have current Prime Minister Evans Paul stay on through the transition.

Paul became de facto prime minister in 2015, as he was never ratified by parliament, whose terms had recently expired. The political deal that brought Paul to office was brokered by many of the same actors involved in current negotiations, including the U.S., private sector groups and the Catholic Church. Though the agreement led to the current electoral process, it failed to ensure systemic changes that could lead to its credibility.

As negotiations drag out and street protests continue, the international community is tightly managing the fall out. For the last dozen years, explains Haitian poet Lyonel Trouillot, “all Haitian political decisions are made practically under the diktat of this nebula that is called the international community.”

A military presence under U.N. auspices has been in the country since the 2004 coup, backed by the U.S., France and others. The U.N. troops, responsible for a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 and numerous sexual abuse cases, are reviled by many Haitians but seen as a political necessity by international actors and many among the economic elite in Haiti. Billions of dollars have been spent on the mission, whose mandate includes political stability and security.

After directly intervening in the 2010 election and overturning the results, ensuring Martelly’s ascension to the presidency, international officials had hoped that a successful transfer of power at the end of his term could facilitate the departure of the politically and financially costly U.N. mission. In early October the mission’s mandate was extended by one, “possible final” year. The head of the mission, Sandra Honore, told the Security Council that an assessment would be conducted “after completion of the electoral cycle” to determine its future.

“Investing $ 100 million for elections that do not lead to political stability, it is wasteful,” Senate president Privert said. “Too bad the representatives of the international community have understood too late, we could have avoided many acts of violence.”

Ricardo Seitenfus, the OAS representative who blew the whistle on international intervention in the 2010 election, believes the Haiti electoral schedule was designed with U.S. politics in mind. 

“Since Mrs. Clinton was well involved in the 2010–2011 decisions, if we started badly, we must end well. That is to say, February 7 President Michel Martelly must leave, and (Haiti) should have a new president,” Seitenfus said on local radio.

“If I have any advice to give to the international community,” Seitenfus continued, “it is to listen to Haitian actors. Without a Haitian solution to the Haitian crisis, there is no salvation.”

Any deal must first a foremost provide for a credible and fair election, one that can restore Haitian’s trust in their political system. In the October elections, only a quarter of registered voters participated, a sign of the deep distrust in an electoral system seen as dominated by the international community, unaccountable politicians and their elite backers.

Second-round presidential and legislative runoffs, scheduled for Sunday January 24, were abruptly cancelled on Friday, less than 48 hours before polls were to open. Ruling-party backed Jovenel Moise was set to face off against Jude Celestin, who had pledged to boycott the race. Protests against the election increased throughout the week, culminating in a massive demonstration that made its way to the headquarters of the electoral council (CEP) on Friday morning.

“Jan. 24 is no longer opportune for having elections considering the threats against the electoral infrastructure and on the population who would have to go vote,” said CEP president Pierre Louis Opont in cancelling the election.

But if the threat of violence provided the necessary pretext, the writing was already on the wall. Since fraud and irregularity-marred first-round presidential elections in October (and really, since the violent August legislative elections), a growing chorus of Haitian civil society had spoken out against the continuation of the electoral process as is. An evaluation commission, created by the president, found that only eight percent of tally sheets were free from irregularities or manipulation.

“It is crazy to see that it was contemplated to hold a round in these conditions,” on January 24, said a western official working on election-related matters.

The nine-member electoral council had already seen two members resign and two more suspend their activities (one due to corruption allegations). But on Friday, as calls for the election’s cancellation increased and officials frantically rushed to reach a deal, another CEP member threatened to resign. It would have left the institution without a quorum, rendering it unable to legally sign off on election results.

Still, the large demonstration on Friday sent a message, particularly to the international backers of the election. Donors have financed the bulk of the $100 million electoral process, with the U.S. alone chipping in more than $30 million. Despite months of fraud allegations and calls from civil society, the so-called “Core Group,” consisting of the major foreign embassies, the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) had continued to insist on the completion of the electoral process on the 24th. “A few days ago some diplomats questioned the capacity of the opposition to mobilize,” the western official said, “obviously it does not look good now that they are on the streets.”

International actors have denounced the violent protests and called for the electoral process to be completed as soon as possible. The U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, said it “expects that persons responsible for organizing, financing, or participating in electoral intimidation and violence will be held accountable in accordance with Haitian law.”

There had been signs that some within the diplomatic community were reluctant to push forward with an election that would lack credibility. Earlier in the week, the OAS issued a statement acknowledging flaws in the process and that corrective measures “have not achieved the intended level of confidence.” With Martelly digging his heels in and conflicts on the streets increasing, the “Core Group” issued a statement Friday morning, for the first time making no mention of January 24 or February 7, and calling on all sides to dialogue. It was an implicit rejection of moving forward with the election.

In an interview with Le Monde, after the elections cancellation, the head of the OAS electoral observation mission and former Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, acknowledged, “behind the security concerns, there are also important political issues.” An election with one candidate, he said, “would not have been accepted by the majority.”

Amorim said that Haitians “must choose the best path, have a real negotiation without external interference.” But, Amorim also warned: “What I can say is that leaving a power vacuum for too long is dangerous.”

Just days earlier, backroom negotiations, spearheaded by powerful private sector actors and religious leaders, were on the cusp of a deal. But on Thursday morning, a combative Martelly took to the airwaves, doubling down on his insistence that elections take place and accusing his opponents of wanting to seize power by delaying elections.

“Martelly wanted to push for the 24th to get a compromise,” the western official said. But with CEP’s announcement and declining international support, Martelly’s hand was undercut. “Of course, Martelly is weaker now for dragging this out,” a presidential advisor said, adding that Martelly “misunderstood” the support of the U.S. and others in the international community. A member of parliament, speaking to Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, said “now January 24th, its over. The negotiations are for after February 7 and a new date for elections.”

But those close to the president contend that a deal would not have been accepted by all of the groups in the streets. Martelly is “negotiating his own surrender to people who don’t trust one another. So he’s between a proverbial rock and a hard place,” the presidential advisor commented.

Jocelerme Privert, the president of the newly installed Senate, who has quickly become one of the most influential Haitian politicians in the current crisis, has urged any dialogue to include more voices. “There was a weakness on the number of players involved” in previous discussions, Privert told John-Michel Caroit of Le Monde. “The solution that will emerge will not be unanimous, but to succeed there must be a critical mass of people who adhere to it.”

The election’s cancellation, however, has emboldened opposition groups, some of whom are now openly calling for Martelly to leave office before the end of his term. It has also highlighted other divisions within the opposition. Some groups would be more willing to accept reforms to the electoral apparatus before moving forward while others are insisting on a further investigation into the fraud from earlier rounds?—?opening the door to changing the runoff candidates or rerunning the presidential election entirely.

International officials have supported moving forward while keeping the same runoff candidates. After unflinchingly backing the process, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator Ken Merten has since acknowledged the new reality. “We may be looking at some sort of temporary solution until there is a handover to a new elected president,” he told Reuters, indicating that Martelly would step down on February 7. But, Merten added, “Our fear is that we go into a situation that is open ended.”

Further delays or investigations could reveal deeper problems with the elections, which could look bad for those who backed the process, both financially and politically. Any further investigation also raises the possibility of excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they [the international community] dread,” as a source told Le Nouvelliste last month. Jean-Charles, a former ally of twice-ousted former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, finished third in the October vote.

In response to the election’s cancellation and the large turnout of opposition protesters, pro-government supporters have begun mobilizing throughout the country. They are calling for elections as soon as possible and have raised concerns of violent confrontations between the two groups. “If Jovenel is excluded from the elections, there will be a civil war,” one protester told the AFP.

In the Grand-Anse, a sparsely populated department in southwestern Haiti, former paramilitary death squad leader Guy Philippe, a front runner in second round senatorial elections that had been scheduled for the 24th, threatened, “we are ready for war…We will divide the country.”

Philippe helped lead the 2004 coup against former president Jean Bertrand Aristide and is still listed as a fugitive by the DEA, wanted on drug-trafficking and money laundering charges. Last month he endorsed Martelly’s successor, Moise, and appeared at a campaign rally in his home region. Legislative elections in Philippe’s department were some of the most problematic in August, resulting in partial reruns in October that have yet to be settled.

Regardless of what happens with presidential elections, the deeply flawed legislative race appears set to stand, with its members playing an increasingly larger role in the current crisis. 24 of the 30 members of the senate have been sworn in, along with 92 of the 119 deputies in the lower house. Martelly allies won control over the lower house, but the senate presidency went to Privert, a former minister under Aristide and current representative of former-president Rene Preval’s political coalition. Privert is one of 10 elected officials who remained in office after Martelly failed to hold elections his first four years in power. Some opposition groups, however, have urged the recent legislative elections to also be scrapped.

Privert said he was “working with my colleagues” and was meeting with many “Haitian organizations “and “some diplomats” in order to solve the crisis. As negotiations continue for what comes after February 7, all sides are jostling for power and influence.

Prime Minister Evans Paul told the press that Martelly would be willing to step down on February 7, but others close to the president have suggested he could stay to hand over the presidential sash to his successor after new elections are held. Who who would take the reigns of government if Martelly does step down, however, remains a sticking point in negotiations. According to sources close to the negotiations, one option would have current Prime Minister Evans Paul stay on through the transition.

Paul became de facto prime minister in 2015, as he was never ratified by parliament, whose terms had recently expired. The political deal that brought Paul to office was brokered by many of the same actors involved in current negotiations, including the U.S., private sector groups and the Catholic Church. Though the agreement led to the current electoral process, it failed to ensure systemic changes that could lead to its credibility.

As negotiations drag out and street protests continue, the international community is tightly managing the fall out. For the last dozen years, explains Haitian poet Lyonel Trouillot, “all Haitian political decisions are made practically under the diktat of this nebula that is called the international community.”

A military presence under U.N. auspices has been in the country since the 2004 coup, backed by the U.S., France and others. The U.N. troops, responsible for a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 and numerous sexual abuse cases, are reviled by many Haitians but seen as a political necessity by international actors and many among the economic elite in Haiti. Billions of dollars have been spent on the mission, whose mandate includes political stability and security.

After directly intervening in the 2010 election and overturning the results, ensuring Martelly’s ascension to the presidency, international officials had hoped that a successful transfer of power at the end of his term could facilitate the departure of the politically and financially costly U.N. mission. In early October the mission’s mandate was extended by one, “possible final” year. The head of the mission, Sandra Honore, told the Security Council that an assessment would be conducted “after completion of the electoral cycle” to determine its future.

“Investing $ 100 million for elections that do not lead to political stability, it is wasteful,” Senate president Privert said. “Too bad the representatives of the international community have understood too late, we could have avoided many acts of violence.”

Ricardo Seitenfus, the OAS representative who blew the whistle on international intervention in the 2010 election, believes the Haiti electoral schedule was designed with U.S. politics in mind. 

“Since Mrs. Clinton was well involved in the 2010–2011 decisions, if we started badly, we must end well. That is to say, February 7 President Michel Martelly must leave, and (Haiti) should have a new president,” Seitenfus said on local radio.

“If I have any advice to give to the international community,” Seitenfus continued, “it is to listen to Haitian actors. Without a Haitian solution to the Haitian crisis, there is no salvation.”

Any deal must first a foremost provide for a credible and fair election, one that can restore Haitian’s trust in their political system. In the October elections, only a quarter of registered voters participated, a sign of the deep distrust in an electoral system seen as dominated by the international community, unaccountable politicians and their elite backers.

Haiti’s government, opposition leaders and private sector groups were in negotiations late Wednesday night, seeking an end to the impasse over Haiti’s coming presidential runoff. On the table is a deal that would delay this Sunday’s elections until March and provide assurances on how to move forward.  But speaking on local radio Thursday morning, current president Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from running again, said everything was ready for the election Sunday and criticized groups who he said wanted to seize power by delaying elections.   

Less than 72 hours before polls are scheduled to open, it remains unclear if elections will take place or if a deal to re-schedule them can still be reached. Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the vote, alleging government interference and massive fraud in the October first round.

On the line now is not just the next president of Haiti, but how and if president Martelly will leave office and whether he will peacefully transfer power to his successor. Also at stake is the credibility of the international community that has backed the process with diplomatic support and millions of dollars.

An international official closely involved in the electoral process, who requested anonymity, said that moving forward with elections on January 24th would “ignore all improvements and lessons we have learnt … and will undermine once again the legitimacy of the president elect.” “More to the point, it is going to look bad for the international community.”

Yesterday the Haitian senate passed a non-binding resolution calling for the electoral process to be halted immediately. Senator Evalière Beauplan, who authored the resolution, told the Miami Herald that there was a broad recognition that “elections won’t work on Sunday. The actors are not ready, and there is too much turbulence.”

The move followed days of protests against the election.  A regular occurrence since the beginning of the electoral process in August, they have increased in size and intensity in the run up to the vote. Police have dispersed protesters with tear gas and a video showing officers beating and harassing detainees has been widely shared on social media.  Opposition groups have called for more protests in the coming days and denounced the police brutality. But in its address this morning, the government said protests would not be allowed ahead of Sunday’s election.

Amid the political crisis, the Haitian government announced the beginning of this year’s Carnival celebration: February 7, the date Martelly’s term ends.

In an ironic twist, a majority of the current Senators, who voted against the election, were themselves elected in violence and fraud-marred legislative elections in August. The elections, in which nearly a quarter of all ballots were never counted due to violence and other irregularities, set off the current crisis.

Martelly, who failed to organize elections during his first four years in office, was left to rule without legislative oversight following the expiration of parliament’s terms in January 2015. A few years earlier, thousands of local officials were replaced by political appointees. A political agreement, brokered with behind-the-scenes help from the U.S., led to the scheduling of three elections in 2015, offering the chance to reestablish institutional legitimacy.

Official results of October’s presidential election put Jovenel Moïse , of the ruling party in first place, followed by Jude Célestin. But the results were immediately contested. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) distributed more than 900,000 accreditation passes to political party observers, allowing them to vote wherever they were present and in many cases, enabling them to vote multiple times.

With 128 political parties competing in the elections, many with no resources to deploy thousands of observers, the system for monitoring the vote turned into a black market for vote buying, according to local observers. With only 1.6 million votes cast, these observers accounted for “probably half the people who voted,” according to Rosny Desroches, who leads a U.S.-financed local observation group. “Those who would do that are those with money…they could see beforehand how to use them,” he added in an interview at the time.

While local observer groups documented what they said amounted to “massive fraud,” international observers, led by the Organization of American States (OAS) backed the results.

After pressure from opposition groups and street protests, president Martelly announced the formation of a commission to evaluate the results just days before the originally scheduled runoff on December 27. The report, delivered in early January, found that there were indeed “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.” 92 percent of a sample of tally sheets of votes contained at least one “serious irregularity,” while more than 50 percent contained three or more, they found.

The commission’s report recommended sweeping changes to the electoral apparatus, including replacing certain members of the CEP, replacing and retraining poll workers and looking further into the irregularities that plagued the vote. The authors’ concluded: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.”

The commission said that the CEP had lost the needed credibility to run elections. Célestin is calling for the commission’s recommendations to be implemented before participating in any election.

Still, the government of Haiti and the CEP have pushed forward. Just days after the commission’s report was delivered, before any recommendations could be adopted, Martelly issued an executive decree establishing January 24 for the presidential runoff. The CEP had written to the president just days before, saying that it would be impossible to hold elections in time for a constitutional hand-over of power on February 7, but foreign embassies, including the U.S., pushed for the 24th.

Two of the nine members of the CEP have since resigned while another suspended his activities due to corruption allegations. A fourth member has ceased participating in meetings because he opposed the holding of the January 24 elections.

The winds appear to be shifting in Haiti’s ever changing political atmosphere. The influential Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Haiti, which includes many businessmen considered close to the government, came out against having the elections on the 24th. The group echoed calls from civil society, human rights groups, religious leaders and diaspora organizations calling for changes to be made in line with the evaluation commission’s report.

There are also growing signs of discontent within the international community. The OAS, one of the primary backers of moving forward with the election as recently as last week, issued a statement expressing concern about pushing forward without further dialogue. The statement acknowledged serious problems in the earlier elections and that measures taken to fix the system “have not achieved the intended level of confidence” desired.

The U.S., however, has maintained its support for Sunday’s elections and according to multiple sources, has been in close contact with the Haitian government, urging that the elections be held as scheduled. The U.S. has spent more than $30 million on the process so far. At least three members of Congress have written to Secretary of State Kerry urging support for free and fair elections and expressing concern over the vote.

The issue threatens to creep into the U.S. presidential race, given the close connection of Hillary Clinton to the current electoral impasse. In the 2010 elections, when Clinton was Secretary of State, Martelly was originally left out of the presidential runoff. Protests engulfed the capital and other major cities and after pressure from the U.S. and other actors, the Haitian government allowed a mission of foreign experts to analyze and eventually overturn the results. OAS whistleblower Ricardo Seitenfus, denouncing the behind the scenes machinations, termed it a “silent coup.”

The man kicked out of the race was Célestin. “Martelly owes his presidency to Hillary Clinton’s personal intervention in elections five years ago,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press Haiti correspondent at the time and the author of a book about post-earthquake international assistance. “The State Department has been backing him enthusiastically ever since.”

The main sticking point in negotiations, according to those close to each side, is what happens to Martelly after February 7. A proposal from the private sector and Catholic Church, floated last night, would have provided for a consensus Prime Minister to be named and oversee the government before elections in March. Martelly, however, is seeking to extend his term until a new president is named.

The government also wants assurances from Célestin that he will participate in March. Those assurances would also guarantee there is no change to the candidates participating in the runoff, meaning a further investigation into the October vote and the potential for sanctions would be off the table.

Martelly warned this morning that international partners would not accept a transitional government. “The country will be under embargo,” he cautioned. But in an interview last November, former Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive warned that pushing forward would carry its own risks. “If there is no legitimacy, there will be no stability, and without stability there will be no investment,” he said.  

All major local observer groups have pulled out of Sunday’s election, including Desroches’ group, OCID. That group received both training and financing from the U.S. and Canada, who are backing the process. “If the elections take place the results will be rejected and not credible,” the international official said.

Either way, it remains to be seen if any move can restore Haitian’s trust in the political system. More than 70 percent of registered voters stayed home in October.

“Even if the standoff over the presidential race is resolved,” said Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Voting Rights Associate with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “Haiti’s next government will still suffer from a serious deficit of democratic legitimacy, given how many parliamentarians got their seats through violence, fraud or bribery.”

Haiti’s government, opposition leaders and private sector groups were in negotiations late Wednesday night, seeking an end to the impasse over Haiti’s coming presidential runoff. On the table is a deal that would delay this Sunday’s elections until March and provide assurances on how to move forward.  But speaking on local radio Thursday morning, current president Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from running again, said everything was ready for the election Sunday and criticized groups who he said wanted to seize power by delaying elections.   

Less than 72 hours before polls are scheduled to open, it remains unclear if elections will take place or if a deal to re-schedule them can still be reached. Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the vote, alleging government interference and massive fraud in the October first round.

On the line now is not just the next president of Haiti, but how and if president Martelly will leave office and whether he will peacefully transfer power to his successor. Also at stake is the credibility of the international community that has backed the process with diplomatic support and millions of dollars.

An international official closely involved in the electoral process, who requested anonymity, said that moving forward with elections on January 24th would “ignore all improvements and lessons we have learnt … and will undermine once again the legitimacy of the president elect.” “More to the point, it is going to look bad for the international community.”

Yesterday the Haitian senate passed a non-binding resolution calling for the electoral process to be halted immediately. Senator Evalière Beauplan, who authored the resolution, told the Miami Herald that there was a broad recognition that “elections won’t work on Sunday. The actors are not ready, and there is too much turbulence.”

The move followed days of protests against the election.  A regular occurrence since the beginning of the electoral process in August, they have increased in size and intensity in the run up to the vote. Police have dispersed protesters with tear gas and a video showing officers beating and harassing detainees has been widely shared on social media.  Opposition groups have called for more protests in the coming days and denounced the police brutality. But in its address this morning, the government said protests would not be allowed ahead of Sunday’s election.

Amid the political crisis, the Haitian government announced the beginning of this year’s Carnival celebration: February 7, the date Martelly’s term ends.

In an ironic twist, a majority of the current Senators, who voted against the election, were themselves elected in violence and fraud-marred legislative elections in August. The elections, in which nearly a quarter of all ballots were never counted due to violence and other irregularities, set off the current crisis.

Martelly, who failed to organize elections during his first four years in office, was left to rule without legislative oversight following the expiration of parliament’s terms in January 2015. A few years earlier, thousands of local officials were replaced by political appointees. A political agreement, brokered with behind-the-scenes help from the U.S., led to the scheduling of three elections in 2015, offering the chance to reestablish institutional legitimacy.

Official results of October’s presidential election put Jovenel Moïse , of the ruling party in first place, followed by Jude Célestin. But the results were immediately contested. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) distributed more than 900,000 accreditation passes to political party observers, allowing them to vote wherever they were present and in many cases, enabling them to vote multiple times.

With 128 political parties competing in the elections, many with no resources to deploy thousands of observers, the system for monitoring the vote turned into a black market for vote buying, according to local observers. With only 1.6 million votes cast, these observers accounted for “probably half the people who voted,” according to Rosny Desroches, who leads a U.S.-financed local observation group. “Those who would do that are those with money…they could see beforehand how to use them,” he added in an interview at the time.

While local observer groups documented what they said amounted to “massive fraud,” international observers, led by the Organization of American States (OAS) backed the results.

After pressure from opposition groups and street protests, president Martelly announced the formation of a commission to evaluate the results just days before the originally scheduled runoff on December 27. The report, delivered in early January, found that there were indeed “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.” 92 percent of a sample of tally sheets of votes contained at least one “serious irregularity,” while more than 50 percent contained three or more, they found.

The commission’s report recommended sweeping changes to the electoral apparatus, including replacing certain members of the CEP, replacing and retraining poll workers and looking further into the irregularities that plagued the vote. The authors’ concluded: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.”

The commission said that the CEP had lost the needed credibility to run elections. Célestin is calling for the commission’s recommendations to be implemented before participating in any election.

Still, the government of Haiti and the CEP have pushed forward. Just days after the commission’s report was delivered, before any recommendations could be adopted, Martelly issued an executive decree establishing January 24 for the presidential runoff. The CEP had written to the president just days before, saying that it would be impossible to hold elections in time for a constitutional hand-over of power on February 7, but foreign embassies, including the U.S., pushed for the 24th.

Two of the nine members of the CEP have since resigned while another suspended his activities due to corruption allegations. A fourth member has ceased participating in meetings because he opposed the holding of the January 24 elections.

The winds appear to be shifting in Haiti’s ever changing political atmosphere. The influential Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Haiti, which includes many businessmen considered close to the government, came out against having the elections on the 24th. The group echoed calls from civil society, human rights groups, religious leaders and diaspora organizations calling for changes to be made in line with the evaluation commission’s report.

There are also growing signs of discontent within the international community. The OAS, one of the primary backers of moving forward with the election as recently as last week, issued a statement expressing concern about pushing forward without further dialogue. The statement acknowledged serious problems in the earlier elections and that measures taken to fix the system “have not achieved the intended level of confidence” desired.

The U.S., however, has maintained its support for Sunday’s elections and according to multiple sources, has been in close contact with the Haitian government, urging that the elections be held as scheduled. The U.S. has spent more than $30 million on the process so far. At least three members of Congress have written to Secretary of State Kerry urging support for free and fair elections and expressing concern over the vote.

The issue threatens to creep into the U.S. presidential race, given the close connection of Hillary Clinton to the current electoral impasse. In the 2010 elections, when Clinton was Secretary of State, Martelly was originally left out of the presidential runoff. Protests engulfed the capital and other major cities and after pressure from the U.S. and other actors, the Haitian government allowed a mission of foreign experts to analyze and eventually overturn the results. OAS whistleblower Ricardo Seitenfus, denouncing the behind the scenes machinations, termed it a “silent coup.”

The man kicked out of the race was Célestin. “Martelly owes his presidency to Hillary Clinton’s personal intervention in elections five years ago,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press Haiti correspondent at the time and the author of a book about post-earthquake international assistance. “The State Department has been backing him enthusiastically ever since.”

The main sticking point in negotiations, according to those close to each side, is what happens to Martelly after February 7. A proposal from the private sector and Catholic Church, floated last night, would have provided for a consensus Prime Minister to be named and oversee the government before elections in March. Martelly, however, is seeking to extend his term until a new president is named.

The government also wants assurances from Célestin that he will participate in March. Those assurances would also guarantee there is no change to the candidates participating in the runoff, meaning a further investigation into the October vote and the potential for sanctions would be off the table.

Martelly warned this morning that international partners would not accept a transitional government. “The country will be under embargo,” he cautioned. But in an interview last November, former Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive warned that pushing forward would carry its own risks. “If there is no legitimacy, there will be no stability, and without stability there will be no investment,” he said.  

All major local observer groups have pulled out of Sunday’s election, including Desroches’ group, OCID. That group received both training and financing from the U.S. and Canada, who are backing the process. “If the elections take place the results will be rejected and not credible,” the international official said.

Either way, it remains to be seen if any move can restore Haitian’s trust in the political system. More than 70 percent of registered voters stayed home in October.

“Even if the standoff over the presidential race is resolved,” said Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Voting Rights Associate with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “Haiti’s next government will still suffer from a serious deficit of democratic legitimacy, given how many parliamentarians got their seats through violence, fraud or bribery.”

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Sunday 3 January, the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission released its report on the 25 October presidential elections. Appointed on 22 December by President Martelly in response to demands for an independent investigation, the Evaluation Commission met over the holidays with electoral council members, government officials, election observers, candidates and other concerned groups, and conducted a verification of 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets. 

The report concluded that the October 25 vote was indeed marked by “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.”

The testimonies gathered were unanimous in recognizing that the 25 October 2015 elections were tainted by irregularities, and that several candidates benefitted, through their representatives at polling stations,from these irregularities comparable to fraud. (p. 10)

The sample of tally sheets examined by the Evaluation Commission painted a picture of a deeply flawed electoral process. 92% of the 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets examined by the commission had at least one “serious irregularity” and 54.1% had three or more serious irregularities. According to statistics compiled by the Commission, 56.7% of tally sheets showed evidence of erasure and modification (“rature avec modification“), while 28.3% of tally sheets had not been plasticised, a measure meant to prevent post-vote alterations.

The Commission also found that that many votes had been cast without the proper documentation. 57.1% of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8% of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid CIN number, 30.6% of tally sheets had votes that lacked a CIN number altogether. The scale of these irregularities are potentially massive. Commission member Rosny Desroches stated in a radio interview with Radio Vision 2000 that at one polling station in La Saline, 200 people voted without providing CIN numbers, while only 25 voted with a voting card.

The report confirmed the accusations of a number of observer groups that the system ofmandataires (political party representatives) was systematically exploited to cast fraudulent votes on election day:

The mobilization of an exaggerated number of mandataires (more than 900,000) who were able to vote outside of their polling stations … was the cause of many irregularities or fairly serious problems during the electoral activities of 25 October 2015. This led, above all in polling stations in urban areas, to themanipulation of votes and the purchasing of accreditation cards by political parties having the financial means. Many mandataires, benefiting from the complicity or negligence of polling station workers, voted at multiple polling stations. (p. 6)

The impact of these fraudulent votes cast by mandataires and other “off-list” voters was potentially quite large. In over a quarter (27.2%) of the tally sheets in the Commission’s sample, off-list votes accounted for more than 15% of total votes.

Due to the short timeframe of its operations, many questions were left unanswered by the Commission. The Commission, for instance, could not dispel the “rumours” concerning UNOPS’ alleged role in manipulating or destroying tally sheets that it was tasked with transporting: “The commission would need more time to examine this question and to uncover the whole truth concerning this point.” (p. 6) The UN contracting agency was tasked with organizing election logistics on 25 October and Sylvain Coté, one of its employees, was accused by a PHTK deputy candidate of involvement in a massive operation of fraud.

Unfortunately, the Commission shied away from evaluating the full scope of the problems on 25 October in its report. The report never clearly establishes the degree to which the presidential election results were compromised by such “irregularities akin to fraud.” Nor does the report ever identify the candidates that benefitted the most from these irregularities, only timidly noting that political parties in general revealed themselves to be “potential sources of irregularities, fraud and corruption in electoral competition.” (p. 6) The Commission’s report was often ambiguous about whether the widespread and serious irregularities it found actually constituted “fraud.” The Commission said its findings from the analysis of tally sheets, for instance, “could be attributable to the incompetence or lack of training of polling station workers or to serious attempts of fraud.” (p. 9)

The Commission concluded that these irregularities required a response from the nation’s authorities, while carefully limiting the scope of its recommendations. “Corrective and dissuasive measures are therefore necessary for the continuation of the electoral process, knowing that there are no perfect solutions in the present circumstances.” (p. 10) The report recommended the resignation of CEP members who have lost credibility due to accusations of corruption, and the creation of political dialogue between all concerned actors to find a way out of the impasse. The report also called for polling station workers to receive better training in the second round, and eventually to be made permanent employees of the electoral council rather than temporary staff selected on a political basis.

The electoral body admits that more than 60% of voting bureau members were not able to accomplish correctly the work required. … Many irregularities that resulted in the quarantining of numerous tally sheets were due to their carelessness and their lack of general and specific training. (p. 5)

The Commission thinks that polling station workers must no longer be temporary personnel subject to the relentless influence of certain political actors. (p. 12)

The Commission also recommended reviewing accusations of corruption in the electoral complaints process related to the legislative races. Although it was not tasked with evaluating the legislative elections, the Commission received more than 50 cases of “complaints, contestations, accusations of fraud that were not properly dealt with”:

During the entire time the Commission was sitting, it received a significant number of complaints and denunciations from candidates during the last legislative elections about the injustices they claim to have suffered. There were even public disturbances related to some of these cases. The electoral institution cannot tolerate injustices committed through the BCED or the BCEN, whose judges have been so heavily criticized. There has even been talk of corruption. The Commission recommends a re-evaluation and an in-depth examination of these dossiers. (p. 11)

The report included in its recommendation an ambiguous call for “a more in-depth examination on the technical level of the responsibility of the electoral apparatus for irregularities often described as massive fraud.” (p.12) Its recommendations, however, avoided calling for a full recount of the vote or the rerunning of elections, an omission that prompted Commissioner Gédéon Jean of RNDDH to refuse to sign the final document.

Since early November, the Group of Eight (G-8) candidates, civil society organizations, religious groups and countless demonstrators have demanded an Investigative Commission to look into allegations of fraud on October 25. Instead of a full investigation of electoral fraud, the opposition got something more akin to a Guarantees Commission, an idea floated by OCID’s Rosny Desroches in early December that was roundly rejected by the G-8 but embraced by the U.S. and other Core Group embassies. The restrictive way in which the Evaluation Commission interpreted its mandate and the modest recommendations it limited itself to means that its report has not satisfied these sectors, many of which have issued denunciations of the report and its recommendations and called for mobilizations against electoral fraud to continue.

The Evaluation Commission noted in its report that the preponderant role of foreign powers had damaged Haitians’ confidence in the electoral process. “The perception of meddling by international actors in the major decisions of the nation causes confusion and discredits the country’s established authorities.” (p. 2) The Commission’s report, and Desroches’ obvious influence on its outlook, will only make it harder to dispel such perceptions. Desroches, who became the Commission’s spokesman, has long enjoyed close relations with the international community; his organization OCID received the lion’s share of a $4 million grant from the U.S. and Canada to monitor the elections.

Overall, the report is a contradictory document will likely deepen rather than resolve the electoral crisis. The Commission itself is clear about what going forward without correcting the results of previous elections means: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.” (p. 1) Yet beyond a general statement that violations of the electoral law should be punished, the Commission makes no recommendations for rectifying the presidential elections, even while admitting that 25 October was marred by serious irregularities.

Full text of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission (in French) is available here.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Sunday 3 January, the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission released its report on the 25 October presidential elections. Appointed on 22 December by President Martelly in response to demands for an independent investigation, the Evaluation Commission met over the holidays with electoral council members, government officials, election observers, candidates and other concerned groups, and conducted a verification of 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets. 

The report concluded that the October 25 vote was indeed marked by “grave irregularities” that were “akin to fraud.”

The testimonies gathered were unanimous in recognizing that the 25 October 2015 elections were tainted by irregularities, and that several candidates benefitted, through their representatives at polling stations,from these irregularities comparable to fraud. (p. 10)

The sample of tally sheets examined by the Evaluation Commission painted a picture of a deeply flawed electoral process. 92% of the 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets examined by the commission had at least one “serious irregularity” and 54.1% had three or more serious irregularities. According to statistics compiled by the Commission, 56.7% of tally sheets showed evidence of erasure and modification (“rature avec modification“), while 28.3% of tally sheets had not been plasticised, a measure meant to prevent post-vote alterations.

The Commission also found that that many votes had been cast without the proper documentation. 57.1% of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8% of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid CIN number, 30.6% of tally sheets had votes that lacked a CIN number altogether. The scale of these irregularities are potentially massive. Commission member Rosny Desroches stated in a radio interview with Radio Vision 2000 that at one polling station in La Saline, 200 people voted without providing CIN numbers, while only 25 voted with a voting card.

The report confirmed the accusations of a number of observer groups that the system ofmandataires (political party representatives) was systematically exploited to cast fraudulent votes on election day:

The mobilization of an exaggerated number of mandataires (more than 900,000) who were able to vote outside of their polling stations … was the cause of many irregularities or fairly serious problems during the electoral activities of 25 October 2015. This led, above all in polling stations in urban areas, to themanipulation of votes and the purchasing of accreditation cards by political parties having the financial means. Many mandataires, benefiting from the complicity or negligence of polling station workers, voted at multiple polling stations. (p. 6)

The impact of these fraudulent votes cast by mandataires and other “off-list” voters was potentially quite large. In over a quarter (27.2%) of the tally sheets in the Commission’s sample, off-list votes accounted for more than 15% of total votes.

Due to the short timeframe of its operations, many questions were left unanswered by the Commission. The Commission, for instance, could not dispel the “rumours” concerning UNOPS’ alleged role in manipulating or destroying tally sheets that it was tasked with transporting: “The commission would need more time to examine this question and to uncover the whole truth concerning this point.” (p. 6) The UN contracting agency was tasked with organizing election logistics on 25 October and Sylvain Coté, one of its employees, was accused by a PHTK deputy candidate of involvement in a massive operation of fraud.

Unfortunately, the Commission shied away from evaluating the full scope of the problems on 25 October in its report. The report never clearly establishes the degree to which the presidential election results were compromised by such “irregularities akin to fraud.” Nor does the report ever identify the candidates that benefitted the most from these irregularities, only timidly noting that political parties in general revealed themselves to be “potential sources of irregularities, fraud and corruption in electoral competition.” (p. 6) The Commission’s report was often ambiguous about whether the widespread and serious irregularities it found actually constituted “fraud.” The Commission said its findings from the analysis of tally sheets, for instance, “could be attributable to the incompetence or lack of training of polling station workers or to serious attempts of fraud.” (p. 9)

The Commission concluded that these irregularities required a response from the nation’s authorities, while carefully limiting the scope of its recommendations. “Corrective and dissuasive measures are therefore necessary for the continuation of the electoral process, knowing that there are no perfect solutions in the present circumstances.” (p. 10) The report recommended the resignation of CEP members who have lost credibility due to accusations of corruption, and the creation of political dialogue between all concerned actors to find a way out of the impasse. The report also called for polling station workers to receive better training in the second round, and eventually to be made permanent employees of the electoral council rather than temporary staff selected on a political basis.

The electoral body admits that more than 60% of voting bureau members were not able to accomplish correctly the work required. … Many irregularities that resulted in the quarantining of numerous tally sheets were due to their carelessness and their lack of general and specific training. (p. 5)

The Commission thinks that polling station workers must no longer be temporary personnel subject to the relentless influence of certain political actors. (p. 12)

The Commission also recommended reviewing accusations of corruption in the electoral complaints process related to the legislative races. Although it was not tasked with evaluating the legislative elections, the Commission received more than 50 cases of “complaints, contestations, accusations of fraud that were not properly dealt with”:

During the entire time the Commission was sitting, it received a significant number of complaints and denunciations from candidates during the last legislative elections about the injustices they claim to have suffered. There were even public disturbances related to some of these cases. The electoral institution cannot tolerate injustices committed through the BCED or the BCEN, whose judges have been so heavily criticized. There has even been talk of corruption. The Commission recommends a re-evaluation and an in-depth examination of these dossiers. (p. 11)

The report included in its recommendation an ambiguous call for “a more in-depth examination on the technical level of the responsibility of the electoral apparatus for irregularities often described as massive fraud.” (p.12) Its recommendations, however, avoided calling for a full recount of the vote or the rerunning of elections, an omission that prompted Commissioner Gédéon Jean of RNDDH to refuse to sign the final document.

Since early November, the Group of Eight (G-8) candidates, civil society organizations, religious groups and countless demonstrators have demanded an Investigative Commission to look into allegations of fraud on October 25. Instead of a full investigation of electoral fraud, the opposition got something more akin to a Guarantees Commission, an idea floated by OCID’s Rosny Desroches in early December that was roundly rejected by the G-8 but embraced by the U.S. and other Core Group embassies. The restrictive way in which the Evaluation Commission interpreted its mandate and the modest recommendations it limited itself to means that its report has not satisfied these sectors, many of which have issued denunciations of the report and its recommendations and called for mobilizations against electoral fraud to continue.

The Evaluation Commission noted in its report that the preponderant role of foreign powers had damaged Haitians’ confidence in the electoral process. “The perception of meddling by international actors in the major decisions of the nation causes confusion and discredits the country’s established authorities.” (p. 2) The Commission’s report, and Desroches’ obvious influence on its outlook, will only make it harder to dispel such perceptions. Desroches, who became the Commission’s spokesman, has long enjoyed close relations with the international community; his organization OCID received the lion’s share of a $4 million grant from the U.S. and Canada to monitor the elections.

Overall, the report is a contradictory document will likely deepen rather than resolve the electoral crisis. The Commission itself is clear about what going forward without correcting the results of previous elections means: “A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.” (p. 1) Yet beyond a general statement that violations of the electoral law should be punished, the Commission makes no recommendations for rectifying the presidential elections, even while admitting that 25 October was marred by serious irregularities.

Full text of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission (in French) is available here.

After increasing pressure from opposition politicians, human rights organizations, religious leaders and diaspora organizations, Haitian president Michel Martelly has issued a decree forming a commission to evaluate the recent first-round presidential elections, held in October. Backed by the international community, the move is a last-ditch effort to save the December 27 run-off election.

Consisting of five individuals who were named in the presidential decree, the body will have three days to carry out its work and make recommendations to the electoral council and government. The election, set to be held next weekend, is expected to be delayed until January 2016, though no formal announcement has been made.

Contacted by HRRW, Rosny Desroches, a leader of a local observation group funded by the U.S. and Canada and a member of the commission, said that the exact terms of reference were still being debated and the commission likely wouldn’t get started until Friday or Saturday. Specifically, there was still debate about the time frame, as three days seemed too short, he said. “The main idea is to improve the process so that what happened on the 25th [of October] will not be repeated,” Desroches added.

The October election, in which 70 percent of registered voters stayed home, was plagued by widespread fraud and other irregularities according to local and international observer groups. Following the election, a group of eight presidential candidates, known as the G8, questioned the legitimacy of the results and demanded an independent verification commission to analyze the votes.  

Martelly has been ruling by decree since January 2015, when the terms of most of the legislative branch expired. On Wednesday, the 10 remaining Senators wrote to Martelly and the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) requesting a suspension of the electoral process and the formation of a verification commission. Shortly after midnight, Prime Minister Evans Paul sent a letter to Martelly requesting a commission with a more limited scope, setting the stage for this morning’s announcement.

As momentum built over the previous week, even those close to the government acknowledged that something would have to be done. “You can’t stop a runaway train,” an advisor to President Martelly quipped, “It’s inevitable.”

But asked if this commission satisfied the request of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert, one of the 10 who remain, wrote curtly, “No way.” And already, there has been pushback to the commission from within the G8.

In a statement this morning, Renmen Ayiti, whose presidential candidate Jean Henry Céant is part of the G8, denounced the commission as “contrary to the request” of the G8. The party also called on one of its members, Euvonie Georges Auguste, who had been placed on the commission, to not participate.

Other commission members are Patrick Aris of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti; former Port-au-Prince Mayor Joseph Emmanuel Charlemagne; and Anthony Pascal, a journalist and TV personality.

Moïse Jean Charles, another member of the G8 who finished third according to official results, also expressed concerns over the new commission. It “doesn’t look to be shaping up like what we’ve been asking for,” he said. “What we demand is an independent commission that won’t be biased toward anyone,” he added, pointing out that it appeared some commission members were close associates of Martelly.

But key among the group is Jude Célestin, who placed second according to official results behind Jovenel Moïse of the ruling party. Despite increasing pressure from the international community, he has held firm on conditioning his participation in the second round on the formation of a verification commission.  

Célestin ran for the presidency in 2010 but was removed from the race after an internationally backed verification mission suggested he really came in third. That decision, which was accepted only after the revocation of visas and other pressure from the U.S., paved the way for Martelly’s ascension to the presidency.

Now, the international community finds itself on the other side of the equation, needing Célestin to participate in order for the election to have legitimacy. U.S. State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten, who was the U.S. Ambassador during the 2010 election, was dispatched to Haiti in early December to meet with the stakeholders and reach a deal that would allow Célestin to participate and the process to continue on schedule.

The international community has balked at the prospect of a verification commission, as demanded by the G8, thinking that it would be too time consuming and threaten the handover of power on February 7, when Martelly’s term expires. A verification commission could also end up excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they dread,” as a source told Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste last week. Jean-Charles, a former senator, has been an outspoken critic of Martelly and has been associated with Fanmi Lavalas, the party of twice-ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Instead, Merten presented a different proposal: a “commission of guarantee” to make improvements and ensure a better-run election for the second round. The commission announced today is broadly in line with this proposal. The commission has just 72 hours to operate, and the decree gives both candidates who have secured a spot in the second round an opportunity to participate in the process, indicating that the commission’s work will not impact the results.

Desroches confirmed that the “goal” of the commission is not so much to look backwards, but to improve the process going forward.

The commission will also receive technical assistance from the European Union and the Organization of American states, both of which have signed off on the elections despite the reports of massive fraud from local observers.

“Anything that brings transparency and moves the process forward is a good thing,” Merten commented to HRRW this morning, adding that he had yet to see the specifics of the commission. “Hopefully this gives Jude the confidence to engage in the process and feels that this will provide a level playing field” for the second round, he said. Merten met with Célestin during his trip to Haiti.

But the G8 already rejected proposals for the watered-down commission earlier this week. In a separate letter to the electoral council released Tuesday, Célestin wrote that an “evaluation commission is obligatory in order to save the electoral process.” Célestin has yet to respond to the latest developments, but if he approves of the commission he risks alienating himself from other members in the G8, whose support he is courting for a potential second round. Hinting that the commission may divide the G8, Desroches commented, “some people are more interested in continuing the process than others…not everyone has the same agenda.”

While the focus has been on the presidential race, also at stake are more than 130 legislative seats and thousands of local offices. On Wednesday, multiple legislative candidates took to Haitian radio revealing that they had been asked to pay bribes to electoral council and electoral court members in order to ensure a seat in the next legislature. The CEP was set to announce final legislative results, still pending from the October election, today.

In comments to local press, Sauvier Pierre Etienne, another G8 member, said the group would meet soon to adopt a formal position on the commission, but added, “Today more than ever, the resignation of the CEP is necessary.”

After increasing pressure from opposition politicians, human rights organizations, religious leaders and diaspora organizations, Haitian president Michel Martelly has issued a decree forming a commission to evaluate the recent first-round presidential elections, held in October. Backed by the international community, the move is a last-ditch effort to save the December 27 run-off election.

Consisting of five individuals who were named in the presidential decree, the body will have three days to carry out its work and make recommendations to the electoral council and government. The election, set to be held next weekend, is expected to be delayed until January 2016, though no formal announcement has been made.

Contacted by HRRW, Rosny Desroches, a leader of a local observation group funded by the U.S. and Canada and a member of the commission, said that the exact terms of reference were still being debated and the commission likely wouldn’t get started until Friday or Saturday. Specifically, there was still debate about the time frame, as three days seemed too short, he said. “The main idea is to improve the process so that what happened on the 25th [of October] will not be repeated,” Desroches added.

The October election, in which 70 percent of registered voters stayed home, was plagued by widespread fraud and other irregularities according to local and international observer groups. Following the election, a group of eight presidential candidates, known as the G8, questioned the legitimacy of the results and demanded an independent verification commission to analyze the votes.  

Martelly has been ruling by decree since January 2015, when the terms of most of the legislative branch expired. On Wednesday, the 10 remaining Senators wrote to Martelly and the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) requesting a suspension of the electoral process and the formation of a verification commission. Shortly after midnight, Prime Minister Evans Paul sent a letter to Martelly requesting a commission with a more limited scope, setting the stage for this morning’s announcement.

As momentum built over the previous week, even those close to the government acknowledged that something would have to be done. “You can’t stop a runaway train,” an advisor to President Martelly quipped, “It’s inevitable.”

But asked if this commission satisfied the request of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert, one of the 10 who remain, wrote curtly, “No way.” And already, there has been pushback to the commission from within the G8.

In a statement this morning, Renmen Ayiti, whose presidential candidate Jean Henry Céant is part of the G8, denounced the commission as “contrary to the request” of the G8. The party also called on one of its members, Euvonie Georges Auguste, who had been placed on the commission, to not participate.

Other commission members are Patrick Aris of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti; former Port-au-Prince Mayor Joseph Emmanuel Charlemagne; and Anthony Pascal, a journalist and TV personality.

Moïse Jean Charles, another member of the G8 who finished third according to official results, also expressed concerns over the new commission. It “doesn’t look to be shaping up like what we’ve been asking for,” he said. “What we demand is an independent commission that won’t be biased toward anyone,” he added, pointing out that it appeared some commission members were close associates of Martelly.

But key among the group is Jude Célestin, who placed second according to official results behind Jovenel Moïse of the ruling party. Despite increasing pressure from the international community, he has held firm on conditioning his participation in the second round on the formation of a verification commission.  

Célestin ran for the presidency in 2010 but was removed from the race after an internationally backed verification mission suggested he really came in third. That decision, which was accepted only after the revocation of visas and other pressure from the U.S., paved the way for Martelly’s ascension to the presidency.

Now, the international community finds itself on the other side of the equation, needing Célestin to participate in order for the election to have legitimacy. U.S. State Department Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten, who was the U.S. Ambassador during the 2010 election, was dispatched to Haiti in early December to meet with the stakeholders and reach a deal that would allow Célestin to participate and the process to continue on schedule.

The international community has balked at the prospect of a verification commission, as demanded by the G8, thinking that it would be too time consuming and threaten the handover of power on February 7, when Martelly’s term expires. A verification commission could also end up excluding the ruling-party candidate, opening the door to the runoff for Moïse Jean-Charles, “whom they dread,” as a source told Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste last week. Jean-Charles, a former senator, has been an outspoken critic of Martelly and has been associated with Fanmi Lavalas, the party of twice-ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Instead, Merten presented a different proposal: a “commission of guarantee” to make improvements and ensure a better-run election for the second round. The commission announced today is broadly in line with this proposal. The commission has just 72 hours to operate, and the decree gives both candidates who have secured a spot in the second round an opportunity to participate in the process, indicating that the commission’s work will not impact the results.

Desroches confirmed that the “goal” of the commission is not so much to look backwards, but to improve the process going forward.

The commission will also receive technical assistance from the European Union and the Organization of American states, both of which have signed off on the elections despite the reports of massive fraud from local observers.

“Anything that brings transparency and moves the process forward is a good thing,” Merten commented to HRRW this morning, adding that he had yet to see the specifics of the commission. “Hopefully this gives Jude the confidence to engage in the process and feels that this will provide a level playing field” for the second round, he said. Merten met with Célestin during his trip to Haiti.

But the G8 already rejected proposals for the watered-down commission earlier this week. In a separate letter to the electoral council released Tuesday, Célestin wrote that an “evaluation commission is obligatory in order to save the electoral process.” Célestin has yet to respond to the latest developments, but if he approves of the commission he risks alienating himself from other members in the G8, whose support he is courting for a potential second round. Hinting that the commission may divide the G8, Desroches commented, “some people are more interested in continuing the process than others…not everyone has the same agenda.”

While the focus has been on the presidential race, also at stake are more than 130 legislative seats and thousands of local offices. On Wednesday, multiple legislative candidates took to Haitian radio revealing that they had been asked to pay bribes to electoral council and electoral court members in order to ensure a seat in the next legislature. The CEP was set to announce final legislative results, still pending from the October election, today.

In comments to local press, Sauvier Pierre Etienne, another G8 member, said the group would meet soon to adopt a formal position on the commission, but added, “Today more than ever, the resignation of the CEP is necessary.”

This past weekend, the editorial boards of both the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about the current electoral crisis in Haiti, though the solutions recommended differ greatly. Unlike the Times, which backed calls from Haitian civil society and political parties for further verification of the vote, the Post editorial pushes a line decidedly in tune with the U.S. State Department.

Both the Times and the Post acknowledge that “the balloting, which featured 54 candidates, was marked by fraud, vote-buying and repeat voting,” as the Post wrote. The Post editorial continues:

With the runoff to elect a president set for Dec. 27, significant parts of Haitian civil society, including human rights organizations and the clergy, have called for a postponement to recount and verify the first-round results. So has the second-place finisher, Jude Celestin, who says he will not take part in the runoff without an independent review of the first-round results.

But while the Post concedes that the concerns are “partly justified,” the editorial authors conclude that actually having a verification of the vote could lead to the process starting from scratch or delaying the December 27 vote. This would be a “recipe for ongoing upheaval and more violence,” the Post writes. Rather, the Post suggests a “better way out of the impasse is to proceed with the runoff with guarantees of enhanced scrutiny by international election observers from the Organization of American States [OAS] and elsewhere, including the United States.”

Of course, both the OAS and the United States have hailed the vote as successful, and have yet to denounce the fraud and other irregularities that took place, according to Haitian and U.S. observers. Last week, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti Kenneth Merten traveled to Haiti to seek a solution to the crisis. The route forward that the U.S. is pushing is remarkably similar to what the Post suggests. Rather than a verification commission, the U.S. and other actors in the international community are instead recommending a “warranty” commission that will work to ensure the next election is better than the first.

On the other hand, the New York Times, after diagnosing many of the problems with the previous election, backs calls from Haitian civil society and political leaders, calling for the U.S. to “instead be pressing for an independent, Haitian-led inquiry to examine the October vote.” The U.S. “should know that it’s impossible to build a legitimate government on a rotten foundation,” the editorial states. It concludes:

But anyone who cares about democracy in a country whose fate is so closely tied to the wandering and sometimes malign attentions of the United States and the rest of the world should pay attention. Haitians deserve better than this.

So, with similar acknowledgements of the magnitude of the problems, why such divergent suggestions from these two leading newspapers?

A look through the most recent batch of e-mails released from the private server of Hillary Clinton may provide some answers. In July 2012, Deborah Sontag of the New York Times wrote a front-page article on U.S. relief efforts in Haiti, focusing on the flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol industrial park. The article was critical of the efforts by the U.S. and by the U.S. State Department in particular, led at the time by Clinton.

A top aide to Clinton, Cheryl Mills, wrote to a number of State Department employees just days after publication, forwarding a message from a contractor about the article and the need for an organized pushback effort. Mill’s comments are entirely redacted, but she then forwarded it to Clinton, whose response (PDF) illuminates the sometimes nefarious connection between the government and our news media.

“What’s been fallout and how’s our pushback working? Can we use WPost to respond …?” Clinton wrote. It wasn’t just hypothetical; Clinton continues: “… the way we did on summer work program?”

Perhaps it is of little surprise then that the Washington Post is pushing such a decidedly State Department line regarding the elections in Haiti.

This past weekend, the editorial boards of both the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about the current electoral crisis in Haiti, though the solutions recommended differ greatly. Unlike the Times, which backed calls from Haitian civil society and political parties for further verification of the vote, the Post editorial pushes a line decidedly in tune with the U.S. State Department.

Both the Times and the Post acknowledge that “the balloting, which featured 54 candidates, was marked by fraud, vote-buying and repeat voting,” as the Post wrote. The Post editorial continues:

With the runoff to elect a president set for Dec. 27, significant parts of Haitian civil society, including human rights organizations and the clergy, have called for a postponement to recount and verify the first-round results. So has the second-place finisher, Jude Celestin, who says he will not take part in the runoff without an independent review of the first-round results.

But while the Post concedes that the concerns are “partly justified,” the editorial authors conclude that actually having a verification of the vote could lead to the process starting from scratch or delaying the December 27 vote. This would be a “recipe for ongoing upheaval and more violence,” the Post writes. Rather, the Post suggests a “better way out of the impasse is to proceed with the runoff with guarantees of enhanced scrutiny by international election observers from the Organization of American States [OAS] and elsewhere, including the United States.”

Of course, both the OAS and the United States have hailed the vote as successful, and have yet to denounce the fraud and other irregularities that took place, according to Haitian and U.S. observers. Last week, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti Kenneth Merten traveled to Haiti to seek a solution to the crisis. The route forward that the U.S. is pushing is remarkably similar to what the Post suggests. Rather than a verification commission, the U.S. and other actors in the international community are instead recommending a “warranty” commission that will work to ensure the next election is better than the first.

On the other hand, the New York Times, after diagnosing many of the problems with the previous election, backs calls from Haitian civil society and political leaders, calling for the U.S. to “instead be pressing for an independent, Haitian-led inquiry to examine the October vote.” The U.S. “should know that it’s impossible to build a legitimate government on a rotten foundation,” the editorial states. It concludes:

But anyone who cares about democracy in a country whose fate is so closely tied to the wandering and sometimes malign attentions of the United States and the rest of the world should pay attention. Haitians deserve better than this.

So, with similar acknowledgements of the magnitude of the problems, why such divergent suggestions from these two leading newspapers?

A look through the most recent batch of e-mails released from the private server of Hillary Clinton may provide some answers. In July 2012, Deborah Sontag of the New York Times wrote a front-page article on U.S. relief efforts in Haiti, focusing on the flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol industrial park. The article was critical of the efforts by the U.S. and by the U.S. State Department in particular, led at the time by Clinton.

A top aide to Clinton, Cheryl Mills, wrote to a number of State Department employees just days after publication, forwarding a message from a contractor about the article and the need for an organized pushback effort. Mill’s comments are entirely redacted, but she then forwarded it to Clinton, whose response (PDF) illuminates the sometimes nefarious connection between the government and our news media.

“What’s been fallout and how’s our pushback working? Can we use WPost to respond …?” Clinton wrote. It wasn’t just hypothetical; Clinton continues: “… the way we did on summer work program?”

Perhaps it is of little surprise then that the Washington Post is pushing such a decidedly State Department line regarding the elections in Haiti.

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