How Electoral Observers Evaluated Haiti’s Nov. 20, 2016 Election

by Catherine
Charlemagne (Haiti Liberte)

It is an
unmistakable sign. Long before the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and the
Haitian government gave their assessment of the Nov. 20, 2016 presidential and
legislative elections, all electoral observation organizations (both Haitian
and foreign) had made it clear that they felt everything had gone well.

            These organizations felt that the
electoral results proclaimed by the CEP also reflected the atmosphere that day.
These institutions are generally very cautious about recognizing the good
conduct of an election in Haiti, especially the results.

            Virtually all civil society
organizations clearly dubbed the election a success and congratulated the CEP
for its achievement. For the Oct. 25, 2015 elections, many had deemed the
voting to be acceptable, if tainted by irregularities, but others withheld
their assessment,  an attitude that
foreshadowed the eel under the rock. We know what happened next. The elections
were deemed fraudulent.

            But for this new election, there was
unison among Haitian and foreign election observers, recognizing that Léopold
Berlanger’s CEP had made almost no fault, at least on the organizational level.
Of course, they have not given a blank check to the CEP and Haitian government

            Nevertheless, they noted that
everything was planned so that voters could choose their representatives
democratically and without constraint. Kettly Julien, Director of the Mobile
Institute of Democratic Education (IMED) saw “this day as a success,”
although she raises, like everyone else, some flaws in the whole process.
Meanwhile Jean-Robert Arguant, who is the Coordinator of the December 4
Collective, welcomed the “good voting process.”

            Moreover, for Antonal Mortimé,
Secretary General of the New England Human Rights Organization (NEHRO),
everything was done according to the rules or almost. “Electoral materials
were of good quality, including polling booths, distribution of sensitive
materials in the polling stations was well organized, electoral staff were
accessible to all,” he said. “These were among the positive points that
contributed to the success of the election day on Sun., Nov. 20, 2016.”

            The Citizen Observatory for the
Institutionalization of Democracy (OCID), which has been following the whole
process from the beginning, has recognized that even if everything is not
perfect, the authorities have done what was necessary for the elections’
success. With 1505 field observers in 1203 polling stations from morning to
night, OCID officials considered themselves well-placed to rate the CEP’s
success. Indeed, after a review of all the data on various criteria including
“compliance with procedures in polling stations, presence of agents at the
time of counting, conditions under which counting took place, data on turnout,
particularly in areas affected by Hurricane Matthew and unaffected areas,
substantial participation of women in relation to men, etc.,” the
organization considers the Nov. 20 election as “an important step in the
realization of democratic elections in Haiti.”

            Rosny Desroches, Coordinator of the
Civil Society Initiative (CSI) and an OCID member “welcomed the efforts of
this CEP which has prepared textbooks, codes of ethics for all those who are in
the BCED and the BCEN and which set a number of principles.”

            “Our observers were able to
follow the process to the end in 99.3% of the polling stations,” said
Abdonel Doudou, one of OCID’s leaders. “They noted that, at the end of the
process, the supervisors put the following documents in transparent envelopes
to be sent to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP): the tally sheet of
counting in 99.3% of the polling stations; the list of signatures in 97.8% of
the polling stations; the counting sheet in 97.5% of polling stations; the
tally sheet of irregularities in 88.4% of the polling stations, and the tally
sheet of incidents in 86.3% of the polling stations.”

            In short, for this Haitian
consortium of electoral observation organizations, there is nothing to suggest
that there were organized frauds as was the case in past elections. They say
they are satisfied with the work of the CEP but nevertheless recommend that the
institution “be more vigilant, more perspicacious in order to meet the
challenges that await it in the following phases.”

            There were also some foreign
observers, among others, those of the Organization of American States (OAS) led
by the Chilean Juan Raul Ferreira. At the Marriott Hotel in Port-au-Prince, the
diplomat delivered the conclusions of a report by the130 OAS observers who had
worked on 474 voting centers across the country on Nov. 20.

            According to the head of the
Electoral Observer Mission of American States (MOE-OAS), “the measures
implemented by the authorities helped to improve the election day and the good
conditions in which the vote took place.” In the presence of several
diplomats accredited in the Haitian capital, gathered for the occasion at
Port-au-Prince’s Marriott Hotel, Juan Raul Ferreira team found that “the
polling stations observed opened at 6:50 am. All had received the necessary
electoral material. There were new polling booths promoting the vote’s
confidentiality and the use of a new type of indelible ink to identify citizens
who voted. The process of voting proceeded more effectively.”

            The final words were reserved for
Gerardo de Icaza, Director of the OAS Department for Cooperation and Electoral
Observation, and Cristobal Dupouy, Deputy Head of the Mission, who had made the
trip. “Everything was done so that the voters voted in better
conditions,” they concluded.

            Naturally, in these congratulatory
flourishes, there was inevitably the voice of the guardian powers through the
channel of the “Core Group” which claims to speak for the entire
international community. Ms. Sandra Honoré, the civilian leader of the
occupation force known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti
(MINUSTAH) and Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
hastened to salute “the Haitian people and Haitian authorities for their
efforts to hold these elections.” In a communiqué, MINUSTAH’s chief said:
“The Core Group congratulates all actors, in particular the Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP), the Government, and the Haitian National Police, as
well as candidates, political parties, and Civil Society for their respective
contributions in this regard.”

            As for Washington, it applauded
Haitian authorities through State Department Deputy Spokesman and Secretary of
State John Kirby. “We congratulate Haitians for exercising their right to
vote peacefully and, in certain areas, in difficult circumstances,” he said.
“The United States congratulates the continued determination of the Provisional
Electoral Council, the Haitian National Police, and the Haitian government to
achieve free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.”

            The Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
was not left behind. They were also satisfied with the CEP’s performance.
According to the Report of the Electoral Observation Mission of the Caribbean
Community (CEOM), “the CEP’s personnel were trained, committed, and
dedicated to carry out effectively the elections for the presidential and
legislative elections.” CEOM had observed 300 polling stations in the
capital and in areas hit by Hurricane Matthew.

            Finally, we close this overview with
the position of Paris. “France welcomes the smooth running of the Nov. 20
election day and the Haitian authorities’ efforts which have enabled the entire
population, including those affected by Hurricane Matthew, to express their
choice in serenity and transparency. Pending publication of the results, France
calls on all political actors to respect electoral regulations,”said the
spokesman of the Quai d’Orsay (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
International Development). This position was confirmed last week by the visit
to Haiti of former Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the current French foreign
minister, who visited the hurricane-damaged city of Jérémie in the Grand’Anse

            Although these observation
organizations applauded the conduct of the Nov. 20 elections, it cannot be
ignored that the day after the election, the Lavalas Family party took to the
streets to proclaim that its candidate Maryse Narcisse won the elections, but
also to claim that there had been an “electoral coup.” This party was
joined on the streets of the capital by Dessalines’ Children (Pitit Desalin),
an FL split-off, for a large march on the 26th anniversary of the first
democratic election in Haiti which took place on Dec. 16, 1990.

            However, it will be necessary to
wait until the end of the struggle between the protesters, the contested
presidential candidate Jovenel Moise of the Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK),
and the Office of National Electoral Litigation (BCEN) to know whether the
electoral observers and the human rights organizations were right. Are victory
and truth are on the side of the protesting crowds, or with the right-wing and
imperialist forces which have never accompanied the Haitian people, from Jimmy
Carter in 1990 to Hillary Clinton in 2010?

(This is a translation of the 135th
installment of Catherine Charlemagne’s weekly French analysis in Haïti Liberté
entitled “Haiti, the chronicle of an electoral crisis.”)