Haiti's Political Conundrum

Guest post by Prospere Charles PhD, Executive Director of the 1804 Institute

Haiti’s politics are complicated. Haiti is a Republic and Haitians are supposed to elect their government through free and fair elections. Elected officials receive a mandate to work on behalf of the Haitian people. They promote Haiti’s interests both locally and abroad, facilitate the development of Haitian communities and foster social progress throughout the country.

From the process of selecting the government through the process of governing, however, Haiti has not been a shining example in the region. In fact, for a major part of its 212 years history, Haiti has been either under a direct military rule or a civilian dictatorship. The process of choosing a government for the people, by the people has not been an established tradition in the first black republic of the world. Only approximately three times in Haiti’s history there have been some sort of “commonly acceptable political elections.” In these instances, a majority of Haiti’s electorate went to the polls to elect their representatives, but the resulting government usually would not last long. 

Perhaps emboldened by their apparent popular support, those government would first make it a priority to clean up Haiti’s public institutions from the so-called old guards, i.e. those individuals whom they believe were in charge of managing the country’s public affairs in prior administrations. Those old guards are usually well entrenched and financially connected with the economic elite. Most of them, through their public functions, would establish preferential relationships with individuals from the elite, creating policies that would benefit the already privileged, bestowing on them favors and advantages not necessarily reserved for other groups in Haiti’s society. These practices would understandably create an uneven playing field favoring the haves against the have-nots, creating the conditions for social tensions to rise and persist. The political landscape is therefore engulfed with nepotism and bigotry, staffed with functionaries who work at the behest of private interests.

When Haitians demand change and replace a bad regime with members of the opposition, soon after the status quo re-establishes itself and more often than not, for the worst. The change event occurred only at the level of the people, replacing one public figure with another public persona; but the system of corruption still remains. The incapacity (or unwillingness) of political leaders to find the correct formula to lift the Haitian people up from poverty is mind-boggling. Those who come into the political arena with a message of hope and changes are soon defeated and discouraged to never entertain such an endeavor again. 

Every year the fight against hunger and corruption takes a step backwards with more corruption and more poverty. On one hand, the haves, the few, the politically connected, the powerful, believe they are entitled to be at the top of Haiti’s societal construct, and that the government should work in their favor. On the other hand, the have-nots, the many, the poor masses, believe they have been cast away from opportunities and economic advancement. The lack, or total absence, of policies that facilitate their social development relegate them to substandard livings conditions. They feel condemned to stay in their social ranks, hence, they leave the country en masse, realizing that their constant state of revolts and requests for change have not produced any fruit. This is just one aspect of the political dynamic that has been regulating Haiti’s political structures for almost two centuries and with a not-so-promising prospect in the horizon.

Another aspect of Haiti’s political environment is the strong meddling of foreign countries and international entities in Haiti’s affairs. There is a persistent perception among Haitians that some western countries, such as the United States, Canada and France, have not been true friends of Haiti as they publicly claim to be. Many Haitians believe that these countries would do anything to reinforce their dominance over Haitians and their natural resources and to keep Haiti from becoming what it was meant to be from the beginning: a shining example of freedom and black power for former colonies in the Americas to follow. These perceptions are not merely the fruit of a fertile imagination or conspiracy theories; they are based on historical facts and hard truths that have been documented by qualified researchers and authors for decades.

Thirty years of studying and experiencing a phenomenon can contribute to one’s understanding of it. When it comes to the causes of Haiti’s poverty, the modus operandi of this phenomenon can be found in its political system. My soon-to-be published book on “The Causes of Haiti’s Poverty” will go deeper into this issue, but for now, just days after Haiti’s third strike at a presidential election process that started over a year ago, let’s remind ourselves that among the causes of Haiti’s miseries, a failed political system stacked with leaderless leaders is high on the list.

Live Updates on Today's Elections

Today, as Haitians head to the polls, IJDH's Nicole Phillips (@BuddhistLawyer) and CEPR's Jake Johnston (@JakobJohnston), who are in Haiti with delegates from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains and the National Lawyers Guild, will be providing reports throughout the day. The delegation will observe polling places throughout country, with a focus on the South and Grand’Anse Departments, which were devastated by Hurricane Matthew on October 3-4. The difficult conditions caused by the storm have called into question whether voters in these regions will be able to exercise their right to vote as protected by Haitian and international law. This space will be updated throughout the day with on-the-ground reports, so please check back frequently, or follow Haiti Election Blog (@HaitiVoteBlog) on Twitter. We cannot verify every report, but will try to verify the most serious incidents.

UPDATE 11:58 PM: Port-au-Prince voters on why they came out to cast their ballots, via the Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles:

"I came to vote today for change, to have a beautiful Haiti, to put an end to this rising cost of living."
- Dieunet Joseph, 50, Petionville.

"We're here to give the international community a lesson. This time, the people will not sleep. We are fed up."
- Rita Pierre, 32, Petionville.

"If I don't vote, it's like I don't hope for anything serious for my country. We're living in a country where we don't have a serious government. It doesn't make sense. For more than two years, we've been trying to elect a president and we can't. We have to give this country another image."
- Calixte Edme, 52, Martissant.

And via the Associated Press' David McFadden:

"This is my responsibility as a citizen."
- Alain Joseph, a motorcycle taxi driver, father of four, and proud PHTK supporter.

"Women protect women. They make good changes. The men, they boss you and beat you too hard."
- Helene Olivier, 72, who voted Fanmi Lavalas candidate Maryse Narcisse.

"All I know is the next government needs to start picking up the trash around here again. Under the interim government, we've had no garbage collection here at all."
- Nicolas Michel, a math teacher and part-time welder.

UPDATE 11:22 PM: Voices from the South, via RFI's Stefanie Schuler:

"Given the ruinous state of the country, it has been a long time that there are no leaders to govern it. Us, after the passage of the hurricane, we lost everything. We may have received a bit of aid, but now we need leaders. That's why I came to vote."
- Dieutêne Raymond, 74, Grand'Anse

"We need a chief to be respected. Someone that will be by our sides when there is a problem."
- Elianis Médile, 70, Grand'Anse

And via Reuters' Makini Brice:

"We are in a political crisis. We need an elected government to get out of this situation."
- 19-year-old Launes Delmazin, 19, Les Cayes (Sud)

"The country has been destroyed. We want the country to return to a normal state."
- Luc Albert Jean-Claude, a 74-year-old farmer casting his vote in Damassin (Sud).

UPDATE 9:36 PM: Electoral council and police officials positively assessed the elections, at an end-of-day press conference. The CEP said it not able to give an estimate of voter turnout, but CEP President Berlanger claimed that turnout in the hurricane-affected south was decent, and perhaps even higher than in the rest of the country. Overall, there were 43 arrests during election day, including 7 for illegal possession of arms and 6 for assault. The CEP promised to release the preliminary results within eight days. Berlanger said that although voting was finished, the electoral match was only at half-time. The second half would be hinge on achieving public acceptance of the results.

Image: Jean-Michel Caroît

UPDATE 7:17 PM: Interim President Jocelerme Privert and Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles held a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's residence. Privert and Jean-Charles declared that they were satisfied with the elections, but warned against "triumphalism." Privert appealed for calm in the post-election period.

UPDATE 5:33 PM: Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald spoke to the OAS's Gerardo de Icaza about the election day:
Gerardo de Icaza, director of the Organization of American States' department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation Secretariat echoed those sentiments. His 130 observers around the country had registered only "a few minor incidents," he said. The previous presidential vote on Oct. 25, 2015, was marred by allegations of widespread fraud that eventually triggered the rerun. A rerun that had been set for Oct. 9 was pushed back six weeks after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti.
"We have not observed any incidents out of the ordinary," he said. "We're more optimistic than on Oct. 25. We hope things continue this way."
The OAS had publicly praised the October 25 2015 elections when they were held, but took a more critical view after an independent verification commission found evidence of widespread fraud and irregularities. Was OAS aware internally that the October 25 elections were problematic when they endorsed them, as De Icaza's statement suggests?

UPDATE 4:46 PM: Polls closed at 4pm. Now, the vote count has begun, with each voting bureau opening the ballot boxes and tallying the votes under the supervision of mandataires and election observers.

UPDATE 4:03 PM: OAS chief observer Juan Raul Ferreira says Haiti's elections are unfolding normally, noting only a few isolated incidents without consequence. The OAS has deployed 130 observers to monitor the vote. 

UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sandra Honoré visited several voting centers and celebrated the conduct of the vote.

UPDATE 3:27 PM: In Boucan Carré (Centre), PHTK deputy candidate Jude Jean has complained to the press that more than a dozen of his supporters have been arrested. Police arrested 14 young people in three separate operations; 8 are still in custody while 6 others have been released provisionally. Jean accused his rival from OPL of organizing "a vast operation of violence" against him and his camp, with the complicity of the local police inspector. The PHTK candidate called on the CEP and the government to intervene. Other sources, however, told Rezonodwes that Jude Jean's sympathizers had been arrested because of their behaviour and their attempts to disrupt the electoral process.

UPDATE 2:50 PM: RNDDH's Jessica Hsu estimates that at Ecole National de Filles in Dame Marie (Grand'Anse), over 50 people could not find their names on electoral lists. The majority had noted that they were on the initial partial electoral lists. One found his name inside a voting bureau but not the electoral list posted outside.

In Les Cayes, Jake Johnson reports similar problems, with names on electoral lists posted outside not always matching those inside voting bureaus. Poll workers claimed this problem was rather limited.

UPDATE 2:24 PM: IJDH's Nicole Phillips visited Ecole Nationale Vigner in Archahaie (Ouest) and found, like everywhere else, many people couldn't find their name on electoral list. There were also 2-3 people with mandataire cards which didn't correspond with their CIN. They turned card over so no one would notice.

Earlier, Phillips was at Ecole National de Petit Cazeau in Port-au-Prince where a group of people approached her delegation to complain that their names weren't on the electoral lists, a common complaint of many voters. The school's voting bureaus were still mostly empty.

UPDATE 2:16 PM: At its mid-day press conference, CEP President Léopold Berlanger declared: "We see that it's a day that has unfolded in calm, and in serenity and that has unfolded well up until now." Berlanger noted that 18 troublemakers had been arrested by police throughout the country and noted that a few isolated incidents of violence had occurred on election day, in Port Margot (attempted arson) Plaisance and Trou du Nord. In Vallières (Nord-Est) and Roseau (Grand’Anse) 4 voting centers could not open their doors, according to the CEP. "There were voting centers that did not receive voting materials on time or at all." In two instances, the CEP resorted to helicopters to transport the materials.

Image: Jacqueline Charles 

UPDATE 12:54 PM: After a sluggish start, Haitian media are reporting that turnout is picking up, with long lines at many voting centers. Radio Kiskeya reported that turnout was strong in many popular neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, especially Cité Soleil. At several polling places in Cap-Haitïen, large numbers of voters have come out, despite the rains.

Image: Nelson Deshommes (@viablesolitaire) 

UPDATE 11:52 AM: Jake Johnston interviewed Haitian police officers in Camp-Perrin (Sud), confirming that 5 people had been arrested yesterday in possession of an estimated 300-500 CIN cards, identification cards which are necessary to vote. The town's mayor (affiliated with PHTK) said the cards were collected for food distribution. Fraudulent votes cast with false CIN cards or cards not belonging to the holder were a major problem during the October 25 election, the independent verification commission found.

Several officers were frustrated that they couldn't vote because there were not on the electoral list. This is a change from last year, when police officers were allow to vote without being on the electoral list.

UPDATE 11:35 AM: Two improvements noted so far by observers: better indelible ink and voting booths that provide more privacy. During the October 25 2015 election, many observers noted that the ink, which was put on the thumbnail of voters, did not work well as a safeguard against multiple voting since it was of poor quality and washed off easily. This time, voters have to dip their thumbs in ink.

Image: @jdanielsenat

The voting booths are also better than those used in 2015, as they allow for greater secrecy of the vote.

Image: Philippe de Bard

UPDATE 11:04 AM: The Port-au-Prince prosecutor reports that police have made 3 arrests in Bel-Air and 7 arrests in Pétionville, in the latter case because individuals were throwing rocks at voting centers.

UPDATE 10:47 AM: Le National's Walter Cameau reports that a Senate candidate, Randevou's Dormeville Gerard, was arrested in Gonaives (Artibonite) after trying to disrupt a voting center.

UPDATE 10:08 AM: In Port Salut (Sud Department), Jake Johnson reports that turnout is low, which a polling station supervisor said was because voters in the hurricane-hit area were discouraged. Some of those who wanted to vote couldn't find their names on the electoral list. When a group of voters texted the CEP to find where they are registered to vote, they were told to go to Ile-à-Vache. There were very few mandataires and several polling stations had to open without the minimum three mandataires required by law.

UPDATE 9:30 AM: The first few hours of voting have been calm across the country with the voter turnout still being quite low. There is been an increase in female party representatives (mandataires) assuring the smooth running of the elections. 

Jocelerme Privert, Haiti's Provisional President,  has cast his vote in Trou de Nippes. 

Image credit @toujoula

UPDATE 8:40 AM: Despite initial delays and some irregularities noted in Pétionville, the election day is calm. Although the overall participation is still low, an increase in women's voting particiption has been noted, in comparison with last year. 

Image credit @gaetantguevara

Haitian National Police urges voters not to spread unverified rumours and the Ministry of Communication opened special phone lines to report any incidents that might affect the smooth running of the election day.

UPDATE 7:50 AM: Michel Martelly, Haiti's former president, has arrived in Lycée National voting centre in Pétion ville to cast his vote, amid some tension among the voters.  The former president made no official statement yet. 

With almost an hour of delay, the voting has finally started in Canapé Vert. Otherwise, there is calm in the streets.

Image credit @gaetantguevara

UPDATE 7:00 AM: With some delay, voting finaly started at 6.30 am in Lycée Jean Jacques Dessalines, in Port au Prince. There are hardly any mandataires (party representatives) but the voting is calm.

Image credit @BuddhistLawyer

UPDATE 6:39 AM: Despite the official opening time set for 6 am, many voting centres are not ready yet, including one of the biggest centres in Port au Prince, Canapé Vert and Croix des Bouquets.  

Image credit @jdanielsenat

Haiti Election Primer, Part 5: The International Community

Read "Part 1: Timeline of Key Events," here
Read "Part 2: Presidential Candidates and Their Parties," here
Read "Part 3: The Parliament," here.
Read "Part 4: Hurricane Matthew," here.
Ever since the first democratic elections in 1990, the influence of foreign actors over Haiti’s political process has only increased. Foreign donors have financed Haitian elections, UN troops have transported ballots and guarded polling stations, international observers have granted (or withheld) legitimacy to electoral outcomes, and foreign embassies have intervened when post-electoral crises erupt. Due to this preponderant role played in elections, the so-called “international community” – the polite term for the dominant powers, organized now as the Core Group – has often had the last word in Haitian politics.

This state of affairs has engendered even greater distrust in the political process. Sensing that it was not voters but foreign diplomats who decided who could be president, Haitians’ participation in elections has plummeted, from greater than 50 percent participation a decade ago to only about 25 percent last year. But with the developments over the past year and a half, that cycle looked to be breaking down.

The decision of the Haitian authorities, with the support of civil society, to rerun the election was a huge blow to the US and its allies in the international community. The Core Group (which brings together the Ambassadors of the U.S., Canada, France, Brazil, Spain, the European Union, and the Special Representatives of the Organization of American States and the Secretary-General of the United Nations) had vigorously opposed calls for a verification commission and the formation of a transitional government after the October 25 2015 elections. Many advocated for a continuation of last year’s vote, despite the protests of political actors and civil society, and the boycott of second-place finisher Jude Celestin. As Haiti expert Robert Maguire noted at the time, “the objective seems simply to be able to check an ‘elections done’ box.”

The U.S. and the Core Group was also worried that new elections might give the Lavalas-aligned candidates (Maryse Narcisse and Moïse Jean-Charles) a better chance at the presidency. “They're not thrilled with Aristide's forces coming back,” a U.S. congressional source told Reuters regarding the Obama administration’s reaction to the anti-fraud protests. Another concern for the Obama administration was keeping Haiti – where Hillary Clinton had developed a negative reputation – out of the headlines during the U.S. presidential campaign.

An organized and mobilized civil society rejected the dictates of the foreign actors and the interim government that took over when former president Martelly’s term expired responded to these demands. Confronted by this stunning development, European Union observers pulled out of the country after the decision to rerun the presidential election. The US withdrew $2 million in funding that remained in a UN-managed election basket fund and, with Canada, pledged not to provide additional money for this year’s election. Foreign aid was reduced over the last year, with many embassies refusing to attend meetings with the provisional president, or even go to the National Palace over the last 9 months.

A notable exception was the OAS. While echoing some of the EU’s criticisms, the OAS observers did not actively oppose the decision to rerun the election and pledged to continue accompanying the process. Still, after the OAS’ widely criticized intervention in the 2010 election and their early and steadfast support for last year’s results, the OAS has been discredited in many Haitians’ eyes.

The Haitian government’s pledge to fund the elections itself was another significant step towards greater sovereignty and independence. While previously legitimacy was bestowed from abroad, now it is clear that it must be Haitians that provide the ultimate barometer of the election’s success.
But some of these advances have been slowed or thwarted by the passing of Hurricane Matthew. With a dire humanitarian situation, it was necessary for the provisional government to obtain funds and support from international actors. With the damage to electoral infrastructure and the newly created logistics problems, further support for the electoral process was also necessary.

This is has put the international community in a better position to influence and wield power over the Haitian government and the electoral process. Interestingly, after criticizing the postponements and investigations over the last year, it was international actors that pressured for a longer delay after the early-October hurricane, though there was an insistence on moving forward with elections no later than November.

Since the hurricane, the US has announced they will in fact provide funding for UNOPS to handle electoral logistics and statements from the UN and others have been largely supportive of the interim government’s efforts to hold the elections, even praising improvements in the electoral process.

In addition to regaining their diminished influence, foreign donors have other interests ahead of Sunday’s vote. With relief efforts following Hurricane Matthew – and millions of dollars – on the line, there is a lot more at stake in these upcoming elections, for all interested parties.

Haiti Election Primer, Part 4: Hurricane Matthew

Cross-posted from CEPR's Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog.

Read "Part 1: Timeline of Key Events," here

Read "Part 2: Presidential Candidates and Their Parties," here
Read "Part 3: The Parliament," here.

The devastating passage of hurricane Matthew has changed the dynamics of the upcoming election in Haiti. Following last year’s fraudulent elections, the new electoral council has been making changes in order to produce a more legitimate outcome this year, but the hurricane has raised new concerns.

A significant number of voting centers in the affected area have been destroyed or damaged. Many are also being used as temporary shelters. Efforts have been ongoing to repair or set up tents to replace voting centers, and the electoral council has stated that 80 percent of damaged voting centers have been repaired, and that all are able to be reached. However, the true test will come Sunday.

Additionally, many communities remain almost completely out of contact and unable to be reached. Electoral materials have been distributed throughout the country, but there is a high probability of delays on Sunday morning in some hard-to-reach areas. Damage to infrastructure, and ongoing flooding in parts of the country could also dissuade voters from going to the polls. Turnout ― which has already reached abysmal levels in recent elections ― will be a key indicator.

Many voters also lost their identity cards in the storm. Though it is unclear how many Haitians were impacted, and the government has pledged to provide new cards to those in need, the full scale of the problem is still unknown. The government agency responsible for providing the ID cards said last week that only 2,000 new cards have been requested, indicating that many may simply be dealing with basic necessities like having a roof over one’s head or securing food, rather than voting. This has created uncertainty around the ability of Haitians in the southern peninsula to exercise their democratic rights.

Beyond the technical problems that have been created by the hurricane, there are severe humanitarian issues. Hundreds of thousands across the southern peninsula have been left with no homes, no crops and no safe water. Relief efforts are ongoing, but have been inadequate to address the many needs. Is it simply too soon to ask the Haitian people most impacted by this storm to think about an election?

Between 10 and 15 percent of registered voters reside in the storm-ravaged southern peninsula, and many more in the northern departments that have more recently been affected by heavy rains and flooding. It is clear the election in these areas will be significantly impacted, and many will be disenfranchised. It’s also possible that with lower turnout in more rural provinces, it will be, more than ever, Port-au-Prince determining who the next president will be.

This is likely to reinforce centralization in the “republic of Port-au-Prince”, further isolating rural provinces and towns that have long felt disconnected from the political and economic elite in the country’s capital.

Though the results of last year’s election were tainted by widespread irregularities, they do provide some indication of where candidates had the strongest support. The PHTK’s Jovenel Moise was weakest in the West and South-East departments and strongest in the northern departments as well as the Grand Anse and South. Those are the areas that have been the most impacted by the hurricane and subsequent flooding, potentially decreasing the PHTK’s vote share. On the flip side, both Pitit Dessalines and Fanmi Lavalas did comparatively well in the West department, especially in Port-au-Prince.

With the elections taking place during a time of scarcity and great need, there is also the potential for vote buying and voter coercion to take on an even larger role. In some areas, local politicians running for office may actually be in control of much needed relief supplies, making the population believe that voting for them is the best way to ensure access to goods. It has also created a larger market for more direct forms of vote buying.

The ability of the police to ensure a calm and safe voting environment, in the context of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, is also a big question heading into this weekend. Earlier this week, the United Nations signed a security plan with the Haitian National Police. There will be around 13,000 security personnel from both institutions deployed across the country.

There is, of course, a tremendous need to hold an election and move again toward an elected government, however there are also serious risks with moving ahead when the country is not prepared for an election. The 2010 election, which took place in in the midst of the aftermath of the earthquake and the cholera epidemic, provides a warning. That election was so flawed that it failed to produce a legitimate president, leading to five years of political instability and the current electoral impasse Haiti finds itself in. Elections are not a panacea, and poorly run elections can do lasting damage to a democracy.

Though all parties appear to be supporting the current process, one concern is that the issues likely to arise due to storm damage will give political actors a pretext to contest the results, regardless of how voting goes on Sunday. As reports are gathered from across the country, the risk of violence and other voting disruptions is likely to grow throughout the day.

Finally, though improvements have been made in terms of rural access and infrastructure since the passage of Hurricane Matthew, rains continue to fall across the country, causing new flooding and likely new problems ahead of the election. The forecast for this weekend: more rain.

Haiti Election Primer, Part 3: The Parliament

Cross-posted from CEPR's Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction blog. Read "Part 1: Timeline of Key Events," here and "Part 2: Presidential Candidates and Their Parties," here.

Often lost in the discussion of Haiti’s presidential race is the fact that many legislative seats are up for grabs as well, including more than half of the Senate. Currently, the parliament is pretty evenly split between political factions but with such a high number of seats left to be decided the balance of power could shift dramatically this weekend. Control of the legislative body is especially important in Haiti’s political system, where it is parliament that approves the new prime minister and government program.

The presidential election was scheduled to coincide with the expiration of one-third of the Senate. Ten Senators had been elected to six-year terms in 2010, so ten first-round races for senate seats will be conducted on November 20. Six second-round Senate races and two dozen second-round races for Deputy will be held as well. The second-round races are the continuation of last year’s fraud- and violence-plagued elections.

For the ten first-round senate elections (one in each department), 149 candidates have registered, coming from 43 different political parties. Interestingly, it is Fanmi Lavalas and Pitit Dessalines who have registered the most candidates of the four major presidential parties with 10 and 9 respectively. With candidates competing in all ten departments, it could bolster rural votes at the presidential level. PHTK and LAPEH, on the other hand, have registered 7 and 6 candidates respectively.

For the second-round senate races still to be competed, parties allied with PHTK make up the majority of candidates. Due to high levels of fraud and violence in the August 9, 2015 legislative election, first-round reruns were conducted for these races in 3 departments (Center, Grand Anse and Nord) last October. Nine of the 12 Senatorial candidates participating in this Sunday’s second round are from PHTK, Bouclier and Consortium (all allies) while no other party has more than one candidate. With two senators being elected from each of these races, PHTK and its allies are guaranteed at least one additional seat in each department.

At the deputy level, there are 25 second-round races that will be completed on Sunday. Again, it is PHTK and allied parties that make up the largest number of candidates, accounting for 40 percent overall, putting them in a good position to pick up seats in the lower chamber. The number of races, broken down by department is as follows: West (6), North (6), Artibonite (4), Center (2), Grand’Anse (2), South-East (2), South (2) and North-West (1).

A positive showing for PHTK and its associates could cement their control of parliament. The leadership of the Chamber of Deputies is already allied with PHTK, as is a substantial minority bloc in the Senate. In September, 48 of the 93 deputies signed a letter endorsing PHTK’s Jovenel Moise for president and offered about $30,000 in campaign funding. Senator Youri Latortue (who a former US ambassador described as the “poster boy” for corruption in Haiti) has been campaigning in the Artibonite with Moise.

In the event of a Jovenel Moïse victory, the incoming president would enjoy a blank check from a PHTK-dominated parliament; otherwise, PHTK’s strong position could be a source of gridlock between the parliamentary and the executive branches of government. One caveat is that political allegiances in Haiti are notoriously fickle. While candidates may run under one political banner, once elected, it is entirely possible for them to stake out a very different position. Already in the campaign, parliamentary candidates have endorsed presidential candidates from outside their own party. A new law on the formation of political parties, passed during the Martelly administration, allowed new parties to form with as few as 20 signatures, leading to many new, small parties registering.

No matter the outcome of November 20, the legacy of last year’s elections will be cemented with the new parliament. Serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of current members of parliament, some of whom were elected only through controversial electoral court decisions or in the fraud and violence-plagued 2015 votes. The commission investigating electoral fraud recommended reviewing many of these decisions, but the CEP has made little headway since then. The commission allowed the parliamentary results of the October 25, 2015 vote to stand, even though it called for the presidential results to be discarded due to the level of fraud and irregularities. Parliament has been barely functional since new members took their seats last January.

The parliamentary elections could also lead to the swearing in of numerous candidates that have been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Before last year’s legislative race, rules were relaxed that allowed candidates to register without proving a clean criminal record. The most notable registrant was Guy Philippe, a former police and paramilitary commander who has been accused of gross human rights violations and who is a DEA most-wanted fugitive. He was an active participant in the 2004 coup against Aristide. Philippe is running for a senate seat in the Grand‘Anse department, where hurricane Matthew’s impact was greatest. Philippe has appeared on the campaign trail with PHTK’s Jovenel Moise and his political movement Consortium entered into a formal alliance with PHTK earlier this year.

Haiti Elections Primer, Part 2: Presidential Candidates and Their Parties

Cross-posted from CEPR's Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction blog. Read "Part 1: Timeline of Key Events," here.

In a crowded field of 54 presidential candidates, the top two finishers in last year’s elections were Jovenel Moïse (PHTK) and Jude Celestin (LAPEH). Third and fourth were Moïse Jean-Charles (Platfom Pitit Dessalines) and Maryse Narcisse (Fanmi Lavalas). Although the earlier vote was plagued by fraud and irregularities and the results were eventually discarded, the top four finishers on October 25, 2015 are expected to lead the pack of 27 candidates participating on Sunday, November 20. Here is a closer look at the principal candidates heading into this weekend’s election:

Jovenel Moïse is PHTK’s candidate. Prior to the 2015 elections when former President Martelly selected Moïse as his successor, the lanky agricultural businessman from the North was a political unknown. Moïse’s company Agritrans runs a banana plantation primarily for export in Trou-du-Nord and was set up with government financing under Martelly’s administration. During the campaign, Moïse has branded himself as “The Banana Man” (Nèg Bannann Nan). He promises to revitalize Haiti’s neglected agriculture and to remobilize Haiti’s military, which was disbanded in 1995.

While in office, Martelly campaigned aggressively for Moïse and was accused of using state resources to promote his party’s candidate. For this reason, Moïse was perceived by many as a weak Martelly surrogate. One irony of the long delay since last year’s vote is that PHTK’s Moïse may actually be in a better position now. Time has allowed him to step out from under Martelly’s shadow, posing as an opponent to the provisional government rather than the ruling party’s candidate. PHTK and its political allies in the parliament have accused the interim government and the CEP of being biased in favor of “Lavalas” and claimed that the elections may be rigged against them. They have also consistently questioned the legitimacy of the provisional president, even at one point calling on police officers to disobey orders.

After the Hurricane, PHTK leaders threatened the provisional government with street protests and legislative action if elections were not held within weeks of the storm and have been publicizing polling (notoriously suspect in Haiti) that shows Jovenel Moïse with the highest level of support among presidential candidates.

Haiti’s interminable election cycle has depleted the finances of many parties, but although PHTK is facing similar problems, they are likely the party with the deepest pockets. With greater access to resources, the party was able to continue to campaign - including in the hurricane-hit south where Moïse distributed aid to victims. Well-financed and with a cadre of international election advisors, PHTK has many factors working in their favor.

In their quest for the presidency, PHTK has allied with local politicians that, in some cases, have been tied to corruption, drug trafficking and other wrongdoing. Though the campaign has distanced itself from Martelly, there is lingering dissatisfaction with the previous government, bolstered by recent allegations of corruption, which could weigh on voter’s minds Sunday.

Jude Celestin, the second-place finisher in last year’s election and the leading figure in the boycott movement, is the candidate of Ligue alternative pour le progrès et l'émancipation haïtienne (LAPEH). In the 2010 election, Celestin competed under the banner of INITE, the party of then-president René Préval. Those elections were also plagued by widespread fraud, violence and irregularities, many stemming from the fact that elections were held in the same year as the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left more than a million displaced. An Organization of American States (OAS) commission recommended changing the results, removing Celestin from the race and replacing him with Michel Martelly, without providing evidence that Martelly had actually received more votes than Celestin. The US then issued diplomatic threats, including a possible cut off of desperately needed post-earthquake aid, in order force the Haitian government to accept the changes.

Many expected Celestin to eventually call off the boycott and participate in last year’s second-round election, but his position was unwavering and led to the cancellation of the election. His supporters consider him a savior for preventing the fraudulent elections from standing; adversaries see him as the primary cause of the political instability of the last year. After 2010 and his role in cancelling last year’s election, Celestin hasn’t made many friends in the international community, though many close to him have worked over the last year to reestablish a relationship.

Celestin has championed his boycott’s role in getting the rerun, and has pointed to his experience at CNE, the national construction company, to present himself as a builder who knows how to get things done. After the Hurricane, Celestin offered to rebuild a key bridge and construction equipment was seen plastered with his campaign image.

With the provisional president Privert coming from an allied political party, Celestin is perceived to have benefitted from the change in leadership. But it is important to note that the interim government consists of politicians from many different movements and it would be a mistake to think all, or even most, are willing or able to help his campaign.

Still Celestin, similar to PHTK, has received significant private sector backing and can likely count on support from those sectors that have historically been allied with President Préval, giving him a political machine that should be able to generate votes on election day. Still, it is interesting to note that of the three former presidents currently active in politics, Préval is the only one to not openly endorse a candidate. University professor Jacky Lumarque was Préval’s chosen candidate, but was excluded from participating by the previous electoral council under Martelly.

Moïse Jean-Charles, a former Senator from the North department, finished third in last year’s election and is once again expected to be a top vote getter. Jean-Charles was the leading opposition voice against the former Martelly government and led street protests against his rule. Jean-Charles joined Celestin in rejecting last year’s election results and initially supported the interim government and the decision to rerun the elections from scratch.

More recently, however, Pitit Dessalines has struck a similar tone as the other leading candidates in calling for elections to be held as soon as possible after hurricane Matthew. The party has also expressed discontent with the electoral apparatus and interim government and called for greater transparency, especially in the vote counting process.

Campaigning against the traditional ruling elite and transnational control of Haiti, Jean-Charles is perhaps the candidate most feared by many in the international community and business sector. Partially as a result, his campaign has suffered from a lack of funds and Jean-Charles has been far less visible this year than he was last year. Without a foil in office such as president Martelly, Jean-Charles could have a harder time motivating his supporters this time around, especially with the lack of funding.

The party can draw from its bases in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, the country’s two largest cities, but it is unclear if it has been able to extend its reach throughout all departments.

Pitit Dessalines and Moïse Jean-Charles have likely been the movement most impacted by the reemergence of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide during this year’s campaign. Jean-Charles was a popular youth leader in Aristide’s Lavalas movement before splitting with the party in recent years.

Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party, the political movement started by Aristide, came in fourth last year but has put far more resources in to the race this year. Aristide, twice deposed in US-backed coups, was largely confined to his residence after returning from exile in 2011 due to political threats and a questionable house arrest order, but with Martelly out of the picture, he has since returned to the campaign trail, leading caravans across the country with Narcisse. Aristide appeared just once with Narcisse during the 2015 campaign.

The Lavalas party has been prevented from participating in politics in the past, and this is the first political campaign where Aristide has been in country and able to campaign since his 2004 ouster. Still, the party faces significant constraints. While Aristide is still able to generate support, he is also a highly polarizing figure with many among the upper and middle classes associating the former leader with violence, corruption and political turmoil. Among the left in Haiti, there is concern that the emergence of Aristide will pull votes away from Jean-Charles and allow for the passage of the two elite-backed candidates, Celestin and Jovenel Moïse to move on to a second round. Never the less, an alliance between Narcisse and Jean-Charles has never been seriously pursued.

The head of the electoral authority, Leopold Berlanger, was a leader of the opposition to Aristide that resulted in the 2004 coup, raising concerns about the impartiality of the electoral apparatus. The presence of industrialist Andy Apaid as an advisor to Berlanger working at the vote tabulation center – though since removed from his position – has added to the lack of trust.

Lavalas has come under criticism recently after Aristide was recorded at a campaign event last week calling for electoral protests if there is not a new president by February 7th. Some have interpreted the remarks as a threat of violence and Aristide was called in for questioning by the electoral council last week. Lavalas leaders have characterized the event as just a misinterpretation. Many other parties and candidates have made incendiary remarks over the last year and a half, without ever facing potential ramifications or questioning from the electoral authority.

Haiti Election Primer, Part 1: Timeline of Key Events

Cross-posted from CEPR's Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog

Less than a week from now, on November 20, Haiti heads to the polls to choose a new president as well as dozens of legislative seats. The electoral process started in 2015 but has been repeatedly delayed and postponed due to post-election protests, candidates’ boycotts, and more recently Hurricane Matthew. The results of last October’s first-round presidential election were thrown out on the recommendation of an independent investigative commission that identified significant levels of fraud and other irregularities. Below is a timeline that traces the major events of Haiti’s extended electoral saga:

December 2014 - January 2015: Protests force Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to step down as the terms of many parliamentarians expire. President Michel Martelly’s government had not held elections for its first four years in office, allowing the president to begin ruling by decree. A new Prime Minister and CEP are appointed, tasked with organizing the legislative and presidential votes. 

August 9, 2015: First-round legislative elections are so marred by violence and fraud that many races cannot be completed and must be re-run again in about a quarter of constituencies. 

October 25, 2015: The first-round presidential election is held, alongside legislative reruns as well as legislative second-round elections in some localities. The elections are rejected by a growing opposition movement that alleges widespread fraud on behalf of the ruling party and its candidate, Jovenel Moise of the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), who came in first according to the official results.

December 17, 2015: Facing increasing criticism ahead of the planned December 27 runoff, president Martelly announces a commission to investigate the elections. Given just a few days to perform its work, the commission finds significant problems and makes a number of recommendations for moving the electoral process forward.

December 21, 2015: The scheduled runoff election is postponed. Before the commission’s recommendations can be adopted, a new runoff is scheduled for January 24.

January 11, 2016: Despite growing concerns about fraud-tainted electoral results, a partial legislature is seated, consisting of 92 newly-elected deputies and 24 senators. Races for 6 senators and 26 deputies remain incomplete.

January 22, 2016: The second-round presidential and legislative elections are indefinitely called off. Second-place finisher Jude Celestin (LAPEH) had pledged to boycott the second-round and was joined by seven other opposition presidential candidates. This stance was supported by the vast majority of civil society organizations, including human rights groups, church leaders and eventually even the private sector business associations.

February 5, 2016: With Martelly’s term expiring on February 7 and no elected successor to take his place, an agreement is reached to form a transitional government. Senator Jocelerme Privert is soon after selected as interim president and given a mandate of 120 days. The deal dissipated tensions that had been rising due to concerns that Martelly would try to hold on to power. Armed paramilitaries had appeared in Port-au-Prince and clashed with Martelly opponents.

April 30, 2016: President Privert establishes an independent investigation commission to examine fraud claims and restore confidence in the electoral process before continuing with the vote. This decision is opposed by PHTK and its political allies – who are well represented in the recently-seated parliament – as well as many actors in the international community, including the European Union (EU) and the United States.

June 6, 2016: The independent commission recommends rerunning the first round presidential vote and a new electoral council announces new first-round elections scheduled for October 9, 2016. The EU observation team pulls out of the country and the US pulls funding from the election after the decision.

June 14, 2016: The interim president’s mandate expires, but parliament is unable to reach a quorum to either replace the leader or extend his term due to obstruction by the pro-PHTK bloc. Privert’s opponents refuse to recognize him as a legitimate leader and question each decision made by the interim authorities, accusing them of simply wanting to perpetuate themselves in power.

Oct 4-5, 2016: Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, ravages the country – specifically the southern peninsula – just days before the new elections were set to take place. The election was once again postponed. One week before the scheduled October 9 vote, prospects for the vote were hopeful. Preparations were in place, electoral materials had arrived in country and were being prepared for distribution, new safeguards against fraud and abuse had been implemented and candidates had taken to the campaign trail.

Oct 14, 2016: Facing immense pressure from political actors to hold the election as soon as possible, the CEP issues a new electoral schedule calling for elections November 20. Electoral infrastructure, especially in the southern peninsula, is severely damaged with many voting centers being used as temporary shelters. The new date means that there will not be an elected president in office by February 7, as initially expected.

However with a dire humanitarian situation still raging in the southern peninsula, electoral infrastructure severely damaged and ongoing flooding in various parts of the country, skepticism remains high as to if a legitimate and free election is possible this weekend, or if it will be another blow to Haiti’s fragile democracy.

Up next, Haiti Election Primer, Part 2: The Parties, Parliament and the International Community

Haiti Elections News Roundup - November 7

Campaigning for Haiti’s rescheduled elections set for November 20 officially reopened Thursday last week. But there are growing doubts about whether the elections will happen on the announced date. The southern region remains in the throes of a humanitarian crisis after the country was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew and Jocelerme Privert’s interim administration is struggling to complete repairs to roads and voting centers on time. The Privert government has come under fire politically post-Matthew, assailed for its handling of the relief effort, the presence of Dominican troops and the timing of the elections. Political parties, candidates and local officials, meanwhile, have all been accused of distributing aid in a partisan manner.

Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) President Léopold Berlanger wrote to President Privert on October 27 saying that elections were possible on November 20 only if, in the next ten days, the government repaired damages at 280 voting centers, made passable roads leading to another 161 voting centers and distributed new Cartes d’identification nationale (CIN) to voters who lost them during the hurricane. Berlanger also asked the Privert government to work with local authorities to vacate approximately 40 public establishments currently used as shelters for the displaced. CEP member Jean Simon Saint-Hubert admitted to having some doubts about elections occurring as scheduled, but stated that missing the November 20 date would place the country in “an extremely difficult situation.”

CEP Executive Director Uder Antoine later downplayed the scale of the damage to Haiti’s election infrastructure and expressed confidence that elections would occur on November 20, a date he called “non-negotiable.” “What we are talking about are minor renovations. We are not asking for the schools to be put back to how they were but for a minimum to be put in place to facilitate the electoral process,” Antoine told the Miami Herald on November 2. “A lot of progress has been made.” The CEP executive director said that 45 voting centers were completely destroyed and 43 were being used as shelters. Another 53 voting centers remain inaccessible, down from 175 immediately after the storm, according to Antoine. CEP officials had previously reported on October 21 that an estimated 300 of the 998 public buildings intended to serve as voting centers had been damaged or completely destroyed.

In response to the CEP’s difficult situation, the U.S. Embassy announced on October 31 that it would provide financial support to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to rehabilitate voting centers and roads in the affected regions of southwestern Haiti. A UNOPS analysis of the damage to Haiti’s electoral infrastructure found that at least 214 of 1,534 voting centers had been damaged, with the worst damage concentrated in the departments of south. The report found that 86% of voting centers in the Grand’Anse, 71% in the Sud and 55% in Nippes were unusable, as of October 14. The U.S. move partly reversed its July decision to cut funding to Haiti’s elections in protest over the rerunning of the October 25 presidential vote.
The CEP had announced on October 14 that presidential and second-round legislative elections would be held on November 20, and a second-round presidential election, if necessary, on January 29 2017. The November date appears to be a compromise: political parties wanted elections as early as October 30 while the Core Group powers wanted a date in late November or early December. The CEP also announced that the electoral campaign would be reopened from November 7 to November 18. On October 31, the CEP moved up the restart of campaigning to November 3. 

The international community had reacted positively the CEP’s new schedule. On October 15, the Core Group released a statement that welcomed “the resolve demonstrated by the Haitian political actors to conclude the electoral cycle” and encouraged “all actors to implement the new calendar, thereby enabling the return to full Constitutional order.” UN independent human right expert Gustavo Gallon said on October 25 that elections would be an “enormous challenge” but that he hoped they would be held on November 20 “with no surprises.” During his week-long visit to Haiti, Gallon remarked upon the prestige enjoyed by the new CEP and the existence of “a calmer political climate than last year.” He warned that Haitians in the hurricane-affected areas could have difficulties voting due to the loss of identification cards or limited access to polling places. Gallon also pointed to the failure of the Martelly government to hold elections from 2011 to 2015 as a factor complicating the political situation. 
The Réseau National pour la Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) criticized the politicization of humanitarian aid post-Matthew in a report released on October 21. Parties and candidates frequently gave out aid in a partisan and disorderly manner, according to the report. PHTK, LAPEH and Fanmi Lavalas were identified as the most visible political parties on the ground engaging in this practice, which RNDDH called on the CEP to formally prohibit. Interim President Privert’s office issued a statement on October 17 reporting that it had received “persistent and preoccupying information” that humanitarian aid was being distributed on “a political or partisan basis.” The statement reminded public officials, especially local elected officials and directors of the civil protection agency, of their duty to serve those affected in a fair manner and “strongly condemned” the misappropriation of aid. The Ministry of Interior had been ordered to open investigations into such cases, the President’s statement said.
International NGOs distributing humanitarian aid were also guilty of favouring their staff members’ family and friends of over the rest of the population, according to RNDDH. Senate candidate and former paramilitary leader Guy Philippe took charge of distributing an aid container in Pestel, which he received through “a connection” with the U.S.-based NGO Food for the Poor. Philippe also received aid from Jovenel Moise’s campaign, according to the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles. The mayor of Pestel denounced the use of aid for political ends, complaining that while candidates had access to humanitarian supplies municipalities were struggling to find resources to respond to the catastrophe.
On October 25, Le Nouvelliste reported that deputies, senators and other government officials had taken over of one of the government’s two aid depots, withdrawing supplies without any supervision or control from either the Civil Protection Agency or the Ministry of Interior. “This is very frustrating for us, because parallel to what we are doing to help the victims, we know part of the aid is being misappropriated by parliamentarians,” a high official from the Civil Protection Agency told Le Nouvelliste. In the Senate, the pro-Martelly minority bloc, led by Youri Latortue, unsucessfully attempted to impeach Interior Minister Anick Joseph François over his mishandling of the aid effort.
Frustrations with the aid effort have led some people in affected areas to set up roadblocks or even attack and loot convoys. Last week, police and UN troops opened fire on a crowd during an aid distribution in Dame-Marie, killing one adolescent girl and injuring 3 other people. In Les Cayes, a similar incident caused the death of another adolescent on November 1.
Despite the ongoing humanitarian crisis, several parties called for the election calendar to be modified to allow for a transfer of power by February 7. Fanmi Lavalas mobilized thousands of its supporters in Port-au-Prince on October 24 to demand that the second round of presidential elections be held earlier than January 29. Fanmi Lavalas Senator Nenel Cassy warned that delays in the election may be a strategy to prevent the party’s candidate Maryse Narcisse from winning the presidency. Representatives of Pitit Dessalines and Vérité likewise called for a change of election dates in order to have an elected president in place by February 7.

The involvement of Dominican troops in the post-Matthew aid effort caused an uproar in Haiti. The soldiers entered Haitian territory while protecting a 500-truck aid convoy sent by the Dominican government. On October 12, the Parliament’s Justice and Security commission called for the departure of the Dominican soldiers within 24 hours and criticized the Privert government for initially denying their presence. The Dominican ambassador responded with a statement denouncing rumours that the soldiers’ presence constituted a disguised military invasion. “It is very regrettable that, on both sides of the island, there still exists people who continue to sell the Trojan Horse fantasy to intimidate and produce fear in their respective populations.” On October 15, the Dominican Foreign Minister announced that the military had completed its mission and withdrawn its troops.
The judges of the Cour de Cassation, Haiti’s highest judicial authority, seized on the uproar over Dominican troops to call for the replacement of provisional President Jocelerme Privert. Addressing both the Haitian people and the international community in an October 18 statement, the high court denounced the Privert government as “illegitimate and illegal.” The judges' statement called the November 20 election date an “odious project” that would disenfranchise many Haitians in south and risked plunging the country into even deeper chaos. Complaining of their marginalization in the process of creating a transitional government, the judges called for the application of article 149 of the 1987 Constitution, which would place the court’s president Jules Cantave in the presidency.
The Cour de Cassation did not find much support for its position. Many parliamentarians denounced the judges’ statement, ridiculing their “nostalgia” for previous times (1990, 2004-2006) when heads of the Cour de Cassation had served as interim presidents. According to one parliamentarian, Jules Cantave is the cousin of the virulently anti-Privert Senator Carl Murat Cantave, a claim the Senator has denied. RNDDH’s executive director Pierre Espérance rejected the motion of the judges, as did Vérité coordinator Génard Joseph. Pitit Dessalines’ Biron Odigé called the judges’ move a coup attempt intended to prevent the holding of elections.
U.S. Ambassador Peter Mulrean was quick to clarify that the judges did not have the support of the U.S. government. “We find there is enough instability in the country and no one needs to add to this instability,” Mulrean told Le Nouvelliste the next day. In July 2016, the six judges had travelled to Washington DC to lobby American policy makers, calling for U.S. support for an attempt to make Jules Cantave provisional president. Some officials indicated at the time that they were sympathetic to the judges’ perspective. The junket was organized by the Boulos family-funded Haiti Democracy Project, which was close to the Martelly government.
On October 13, the UN Security Council renewed the peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH’s mandate for an additional six months. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had called for an extension, pointing to the unresolved electoral crisis.