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Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part IV

Source: The Organization of American States

The OAS appears to have been the organization most involved in the Haitian Electoral process and took the most active role in resolving the disputes subsequent to the May 21 election.

One note about the OAS website: forget trying to find information by using their search function. In order to finally find relevant documents through the OAS, I ended up using Google to search within the site, thus: haiti election site:www.oas.org 2000

On April 3, 2000, the OAS EOM (Electoral Observation Mission) issues this press release condemning the assassination of Jean Dominque, an outspoken Haitian radio journalist. The EOM calls the murder, “perpetrated during the electoral campaign, a strike against freedom of the press in Haiti, as well as against democracy.”

On May 24, 2000, three days after the election, the EOM issues this press release noting that the election process had proceed smoothly overall. The EOM details several irregularities, but reassures that the isolated nature of the incidents would affect only a tiny percentage of the overall vote. The Press Release concludes by saluting “the Haitian people for their determination to go to the polls and elect representatives.”

A July 13, 2000 press release reported that the OAS had suspended its mission on July 7, 2000, “two days before the second round of elections, citing serious irregularities in the calculation of senatorial results.” Orlando Marville, Chief of the EOM, “expressed the Mission�s concern about a number of serious irregularities which, in the case of legislative elections in particular, compromised the credibility of those elections. Marville cited the calculation of the percentages of votes obtained by the senatorial candidates as the most grave irregularity which occurred during the electoral process, since it violated both Haiti’s Constitution and electoral law and resulted in 10 senatorial races being erroneously decided in the first round.”

On the same day, Ambassador Marville issued his Chief of Mission Report to the OAS Permanent Council. According to the report, more than 29,000 candidates ran for 7,500 elected positions throughout the country in May of that year. The CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) “also completed the identification of the 11,238 Bureaux de Vote and recruited poll workers to manage the BVs on Election Day.”

The EOM’s report, after acknowledging difficulties, has glowing words for the eventual election:

“Election Day was postponed on at least three separate occasions and these delays had a deleterious effect on the electoral process.� Political parties husbanded their resources anticipating another delay and the electoral campaign never began in earnest.� Despite the delays and its effects, however, the CEP eventually accomplished the major tasks necessary to successfully conduct the May 21 elections. The day was a great success for the Haitian population, which turned out in large and orderly numbers to choose both their local and national governments, and to the Haitian National Police, whose capacity had beeen questioned by the political parties, by the Government and by the Press, but who had been able to keep order quietly and effectively.

“Election Day proceedings on May 21 represented the high point of the electoral process.� An estimated 60 percent of registered voters went to the polls.� Very few incidents of violence were reported.� The Haitian National Police responded efficiently and professionally to situations that could have deteriorated into violence.� Party poll watchers and national observers were present at almost every polling station observed by the OAS and performed their jobs for the most part in an objective manner.� While voters had to wait in long lines, especially at the beginning of the day, they were eventually able to cast their ballots free of pressure and intimidation.� Most voters were able to find their polling with relative ease.”

However, the EOM lists several incidents of violence and chaos “in some localities.” Several opposition candidates were arrested, though the report makes no mention of the charges.

The EOM’s election audit identifies “at least several senators and perhaps as many as three deputies who should have participated in a second round election, but were declared winners in the first round. Moreover, the Mission has identified candidates for the Chamber of Deputies who had been excluded from a second round election.” The report specifically cites one case in which the CEP seems to have favored the putative second-place candidate.

The report then sums up the credibility of the elections thusly:

“With respect to the municipal and local elections, the Mission’s overall conclusion is that a series of irregularities appear to have affected an unspecified number of local elections in the country.� However, since one political party won most of the elections by a substantial margin, it is probably unlikely that the majority of the final outcomes in local elections have been affected.

“In the case of legislative elections, the Mission considers that a number of irregularities did compromise the credibility of these elections, particularly with respect to the senatorial race. As noted in this report, the posting of results at the communal and departmental levels was sporadic and lacked transparency.� OAS observers who were able to obtain results on these levels noted discrepancies affecting the results in both the senate and the chamber of deputies.� Challenges presented by the political parties were not treated in a systematic, professional or transparent manner.”

However, the calculation of percentages of votes becomes the major sticking point for the EOM. “The Constitution and the electoral law of Haiti clearly stipulate that a senatorial candidate must receive an absolute majority of the valid votes cast. If not, the candidate must participate in a second round election.”

[Meaning, if there are 5 candidates for a seat and 100 votes are cast, a winning candidate must garner at least 51 votes. If no candidate wins 51 votes, there must by law be a run off. The CEP’s method, though, limited the number of candidates, say to 3 in our example, by kicking out the bottom few vote-getters, then calculated the percentages of the votes the remaining candidates received. Here’s what happens: Method 1 is the constitutional method. Method 2 is the CEP’s ad hoc method. Remember that 100 total votes were cast in our example.

candidate votes method 1 % method 2
1 30 30 60%
2 20 20% 40%
3 10 10% 20%
4 6 6%
5 4 4%

Using Method 1, candidates enter a runoff. Using Method 2, candidate 1 is the outright winner. -sm]

The CEP refused to change its methodology and the OAS Mission suspended further observation activity on July 7th.

To continue reading Part IV, click the link:

The Second Report on the Mission of the Organization of American States to Haiti was issued on October 27, 2000. OAS Assistant Secretary General Einaudi brought together Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party with members of the opposition, or Convergence D�mocratique, in an attempt at reconcilliation. The meeting was described as constructive and disciplined.

Einaudi presented a paper of seven talking points for the two parties to respond to and found some agreement and some disagreement. The parties agreed on the importance of security, on the need to appoint a new Electoral Council with broad political representation, and on measures the paper suggested for strengthening democracy, including “freedom of information and the press and the rights of and security of political parties and civil society.”

The parties disagreed, though, on issues having to do with the May 21 elections, with the Fanmi Lavalas wanting to stay on target to swear a president into office by February 7, 2001 and the Convergence demanding annulment of the elections of May 21.

Ultimately, no further progress was made at the talks and the presidential elections were held on November 26, 2000.

The Third Report of the Mission of the Organization of American States to Haiti was issued on February 28, 2001. The report’s author seemed satisfied with the results of the November 26th election, though still strongly condemning Haiti’s failure to resolve the disputed May elections.

The one significant development noted here is Aristide’s action in asking the five contested senators of the Lavalas party and one independent to step down. Also, the entire membership of the CEP resigned, though they were replaced by Aristide unilaterally, without consulting the opposition.

The Fourth Report of the Mission of the Organization of American States to Haiti, if it exists, does not seem to appear on the OAS website.

The Fifth Report of the Mission of the Organization of American States to Haiti is dated January 8th, 2002. A mixture of progress and entrenchment has been made in the intervening year since the Third Report. Lavalas are determined to stand by the results of the 2000 elections even as the opposition and OAS continue to push for a new round. Lavalas seem open to new elections in theory, but they won’t accept any conditions that call the validity of the 2000 elections into question.

Scattered violence and an ever-worsening economic situation make free and open debate between the two parties problematic.

The Sixth Report of the Mission of the Organization of American States to Haiti was issued on August 28, 2002. The report is a one-page summary followed by three drafts of an accord marked to show the differences between where Lavalas and Convergence agree and where they disagree.

On December 17th, 2001, an armed attack was carried out on the National Palace in Port-au-Prince and on the headquarters and private residences of the opposition. The OAS launched an independent inquiry into the events of that and subsequent days, the report of which is filed here. While not going as far as to say that the Aristide government planned and executed the attack, the report does find serious faults with the government’s ability to maintain the Rule of Law. The report seems to support claims that pro-government thugs (known as chimeres) intimidate anyone who isn’t pro-Lavalas.

On September 14, 2003, the OAS issues Resolution 822 – Support for Strenthening Democracy in Haiti. The resolution outlines once more the steps Haiti must take to establish a legitimate democratic government.