Skip to content

Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part III

Source: United Nations

The UN maintained a mission in Haiti, UNIMH from September 1993 to June 1996, in part to set the stage for a fair election.

In 1990, 1994, and 2000, the UN provided technical assistance to Haiti during their elections. This support included working with Haiti’s police, strengthening the justice system, and promoting human rights.

On 17 July 2000, the Secretary-General issued a report entitled The situation of human rights and democracy in Haiti (PDF), from the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti. The report contains the following statements:

  • ”...the electoral process…unfolded in a climate of violence, intimidation and unpredictability…”
  • In delaying the elections, “there were charges that President Rene Pr�val, who had refused to issue a decree confirming a previous date on the grounds that he had not been consulted, was procrastinating.”
  • “On 8 April 2000, the headquarters of the opposition Espace de Concertation was torched by persons alleged to be Fanmi Lavalas supporters, who also stoned a radio station often critical of the Government.” [my emphasis]
  • One of 70 acts of violence between February and May took place when Jean Dominique, “a leading radio journalist whose reporting and commentary were exceptionally bold and hard-hitting, was shot dead. His murder was seen as a warning to all Haitian journalists, including those identified with the opposition, several of whom were the targets of specific threats or assaults during this period.”
  • CEP�s deteriorating relationship with the United States-funded IFES culminated with the expulsion of the local IFES director on 8 May 2000. The loss of IFES assistance was particularly apparent in the inadequate training of poll workers.

    [Note that the ICIO report explains that Micheline Begin, head of the Haiti program for IFES, had already left the country when she “was declared persona non grata by the Government after allegedly reporting to her colleagues in Washington that President Pr�val was unduly influenced by supporters of FL. ‘We can�t tolerate this sort of declaration from a foreigner,’ Prime Minister Alexis said, and called Begin�s remarks ‘an insult.’ Begin was replaced by Denise Duphenais, who acted as interim chief through the elections. According to Duphenais, IFES� relationship at an operational level with the CEP had become problematic. Starting May 6, the entire process began moving forward more smoothly. Duphenais believes this was due to increased political will to see the elections take place.” -sm]

  • The elections on May 21 “went unexpectedly well.”
  • The opposition parties immediately asserted that “fraud had been massive and systematic but produced little concrete evidence.”
  • Initial evaluations by the OAS Electoral Observation Mission concluded that there had been no systematic fraud, though there were “many minor irregularities and a few serious ones, including instances in which armed gunmen stole ballots, but those irregularities were isolated and did not affect the overall credibility of the elections.” These conclusions were confirmed by an organization of Haitian electoral observers.

    Paragraph 14 notes the heart of the dispute:

    “14. On close examination, it was discovered that the CEP Senate results had not been calculated according to the electoral law. All 17 of the Senate contests held on 21 May 2000 were won in the first round (16 of them by Fanmi Lavalas and one by an independent). If properly calculated, however, a run-off would have been required for eight of those seats, for which no candidate obtained an absolute majority of all votes cast, as required by the electoral law. In the view of EOM [the OAS Electoral Observation Mission], the credibility of the entire electoral process would be jeopardized if that ‘serious error’ were not corrected. CEP and Government officials argued, without substantiation, that the same (wrong) method of calculation had been used in previous elections. Haitian officials strongly rejected suggestions that the results be recalculated, justifying the decision in part because it obviated the need for costly run-offs. Fanmi Lavalas called on its supporters to defend its election victory, resulting in two days of aggressive demonstrations by several hundred protesters outside embassies and offices of the international community in Port-au-Prince.”

    To continue reading Part III, click the link…

    The report then goes on to describe the Fanmi Lavalas supporters’ protests in the streets of Port-au-Prince. The CEP (the provisional electoral council charged with certifying the elections) then broke down, with two members resigning and the CEP president fleeing the country in fear of his safety, claiming he had been under pressure “from the Government in particular, to confirm the provisional Senate results and thereby disregard the electoral law.”

    Then, in paragraph 16:

    “16. After a weekend free of disturbances, Fanmi Lavalas supporters repeated their protest on 19 June 2000, this time paralysing the entire metropolitan area and provincial highways with barricades of felled trees, rocks and flaming tires. Police rarely intervened. At the end of the day, the six remaining CEP members issued final results for the Senate elections, using the same disputed system of calculation and confirming the first round victories of the 16 Fanmi Lavalas candidates and one independent. According to CEP�s final results for the first round of the Chamber of Deputies elections, in which the percentages appeared to have been calculated correctly, Fanmi Lavalas won about a third of the seats outright and was front-runner in run-offs for most of the other seats. Fanmi Lavalas won most municipal councils overwhelmingly; they were elected by simple plurality. Final results were released before CEP issued its findings on many of the challenges filed.”

    This, then, becomes the fulcrum point on which international policy will pivot. The CEP certifies the election results, but the international community disputes the methodology. Haiti continues with a second round of elections, but now the UN and the OAS are not involved as observers, meaning these and the subsequent presidential elections have no legitimacy in the eyes of the world.

    In November, the UN publishes another report, a/55/618 (PDF), one that contains some astute observations about the effects of the worsening crisis and the international response. The report mentions that the opposition had called for the annulment of the May 21 elections, stating that they were too flawed to be credible. Other civil society organizations, it noted, did not call for annulment, only that “the authorities address the serious electoral irregularities in order to avoid exacerbating the political crisis and jeopardizing much-needed international assistance.”

    Paragraph 7 of this report states:

    “7. After the mission led by OAS Secretary-General C�sar Gaviria in mid-August and several visits by envoys of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the United States of America had failed to stop the seating of the new Parliament on 28 August, Haiti�s main bilateral donors announced the end of ‘business as usual’. They would not finance the November elections or any electoral observer missions, they would not recognize the new Parliament, and they would henceforth provide little or no assistance to the Government of Haiti, channelling it all through nongovernmental organizations. The United States Administration also stated that it would consider opposing Haitian loan requests from international financial institutions. All this was to stay in effect until an independent and credible CEP was established; there was some accommodation on the 21 May elections, especially the contested Senate seats; and a dialogue was started with the opposition on ways to strengthen Haitian democracy. Meanwhile, the European Union, which had already suspended some projects in July, took steps to invoke a provision of the Lom� Convention which could lead to the suspension of its assistance.”

    Though it sent an expert to consider offering further assistance prior the the November elections, the UN left the country in mid-October. This may have been partly due to the fatal shooting of a MICAH (UN Support Mission) staff member on August 7th and an attempted carjacking of another UN vehicle in September.

    Paragraph 12 details the ever-worsening national turmoil:

    “12. The deepening political crisis and the continued suspension of much financial assistance by international financial institutions precipitated a fall in the Haitian gourde, from 18 to the United States dollar in May to around 25 at present. This has provoked a surge in the price of basic commodities in a country in which the majority lives in great poverty. An additional spur to inflation came from a 44 per cent hike in the price of fuel, which the Government was obliged to introduce on 2 September because of the increase in world oil prices. This has already prompted a one-day general strike backed by the opposition and a three-day closure of petrol stations, and is expected to lead to further protests. The constraints on Government spending � exacerbated by the need to finance the November elections from its own resources � have given rise to unrest in the public sector. In the meantime, the expectations of the so-called popular organizations that they would be rewarded with jobs for supporting Fanmi Lavalas (by means of the violent street demonstrations held during the electoral period) have emerged as an additional source of pressure on the Government and Fanmi Lavalas. ”

    In its conclusion, the report lays the blame directly on the Haitian authorities for the country’s crisis, acknowledging that their actions are preventing the country’s access to international financial assistance which might ease Haiti’s economic woes.

    On July 18th, the European Union issues this letter (PDF) to the UN in support of its actions in Haiti. The EU’s letter provides for the suspension of EU aid to Haiti.