The international community praised Haiti’s October 25 round of elections because they were less violent that the August 9th round. Unfortunately, their praise completely overlooked the fraud, voter suppression and other issues that continued from the first round, through the second and the vote tabulation. This report from the National Lawyers Guild and International Association of Democratic Lawyers describes these problems, their significance and what can be done to solve them.
Part of the report is below. Click HERE for the full report.
Report of the National Lawyers Guild and International Association of Democratic Lawyers Delegation on the October 25, 2015, Presidential and Legislative Elections in Haiti
Haitian voters were called to the polls on October 25, 2015 to elect the country’s next President, two-thirds of the Senate, all 119 members of the House of Deputies and all local mayors. The October 25 elections were less violent than the first round of legislative elections of August 9, 2015, but they fell far short of minimum standards for fair elections. Haitians’ voting rights were violated through a combination of intimidation, irregularities and fraud that began before October 25 and continued through the publication of results. The vast majority of registered voters—over 70 percent—did not vote; many expressed fear or lost confidence in the electoral process. Ordinary voters faced intimidation, illegal influencing and privacy violations. A large percentage of ballots were cast using political party accreditations, which allow voting outside the rules applicable to regular voters, representing a major opportunity for fraud. A lack of transparency in the tabulation process has raised significant questions about whether votes have been properly counted and verified for fraud.
Without major corrective measures, these elections will represent a significant setback in Haiti’s long struggle to consolidate democracy.
Impact of the Turbulent August 9 Elections
The October 25 elections were built on the precarious foundation of Haiti’s August 9 legislative elections, which were marred by massive disorder, delays, and serious irregularities, including:
- Incidents of violence, fraud and voter intimidation at 40 to 67.8 percent of voting centers, with 196 of 1508 centers (13 percent) forced to suspend voting due to such incidents;
- The disenfranchisement of an estimated 315,000 voters, as a result of nearly a quarter of tally sheets (23 percent) from polling stations being destroyed, lost or excluded due to fraud and other detected irregularities; and
- Low voter turnout, which was only 18 percent nationwide and dropped to 10 percent in the Ouest Department, home to over 40 percent of Haiti’s registered voters.
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) made some improvements in terms of organization and security from August 9 to October 25, but those changes were not enough to prevent the massive irregularities and fraud of the previous election from spilling over into October 25. The CEP largely failed to hold accountable candidates and parties that engaged in violence, voter intimidation and fraud on August 9, sending a message to perpetrators and voters alike that “crime pays.” The climate of impunity fostered by the CEP eroded confidence in the CEP itself and in the electoral process more generally. Even more troubling, the integrity of the electoral results of the first-round legislative races was undermined by the fraud, calling into question the legitimacy of the second-round race.
Election Delegation Observations of October 25th
A delegation of election monitors from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) spent two weeks in Haiti prior to the vote and observed the October 25 electoral process at 15 voting centers in the greater Port-au-Prince region.
The observation team made the following observations:
- Low voter turnout. In what was a crucial election for Haiti’s political future, only 26.6 percent of registered voters cast a ballot on October 25. Many voters, anticipating a repeat of August 9, stayed away either due to a fear of violence at the polls or the expectation that voting was futile because the votes would not be counted. Turnout in previous presidential elections has been much higher, reaching 59.2 percent in 2006, 60.3 percent in 2000, and 50.2 percent in 1990. On October 25, turnout was comparable to that of 2010, when elections marred by widespread fraud were held after an earthquake and amid the beginning of a cholera crisis.
- A large number of the votes cast on October 25 were potentially fraudulent. Haitian observers documented the widespread use of observer and political party accreditations to cast multiple fraudulent votes. The CEP printed and distributed 915,675 accreditations for political party representatives (‘mandataires’) and several thousand more observer accreditations, which allow the possessor to vote in any polling station without being on the voter list. Such “off-list” votes potentially account for as much as 60 percent of the 1,538,393 votes cast in the presidential election. In the days before the election, a black market for these accreditations developed, with passes being sold for as little as $3. The delegation witnessed polling stations packed with mandataires, so much so that the October 25 election has been dubbed a “mandataire election.”
- Widespread irregularities due to lack of or inconsistent application of voting procedures. The observation team also witnessed a number of voting irregularities on October 25, including voter influencing and intimidation, inadequate assistance for confused voters, difficulties for voters in finding out where to vote, and insufficient privacy safeguards.
Protests have spread throughout Haiti since the publication of preliminary results placing the ruling party-backed presidential candidate Jovenel Moïse in first place and Jude Celestin in second place. The United States and its allies in the international community (“the Core Group”) have accepted the announced results and called on Haitians to do the same, emphasizing the need for political stability in order for the country to move forward.
Real stability in Haiti can only be achieved through free and fair elections. Unrest is likely to continue unless Haitian voters’ concerns about fraud are addressed and their faith in the electoral process is restored. If the problems observed on October 25 are not dealt with transparently and honestly, Haiti’s next government will lack the democratic legitimacy necessary to govern.
- Improved voter access, including through provision of: more neutral election observers to assist voters (orienteurs); standardized indelible ink procedures; more training for poll workers; improved voter registration processes; additional polling stations to allow convenient access to vote; improved voter privacy safeguards; and voter awareness campaigns.
- An independent and in-depth investigation into the fraud witnessed by election observers to determine its scale and impact on the October 25 election results, with particular attention paid to the issue of fraudulent multiple voting by mandataires and national observers. All elections should be re-run unless the investigation establishes that voters were able to vote freely, and that the results accurately reflect the voters’ choices.
- A thorough investigation of political parties, candidates and other individuals implicated in election-related violence and fraud to put an end to impunity and to determine the credibility of both the August 9 and October 25 electoral results. Where necessary, judicial proceedings must be initiated against perpetrators of election abuses.
- Coherence, consistency and transparency in all rulings and directives by the Provisional Electoral Council, as well as Departmental and National Offices of Electoral Litigation, the BCEN and BCED.
- Support from the international community for the Haitian people’s demands for fair and democratic elections, while refraining from interfering in ways that threaten Haiti’s sovereignty.
Click HERE for the full report.