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Haiti Elections - 2015

On March 12, 2015 Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council set a date for the delayed legislative elections that had been a source of political contention. The vote for 20 members of the Senate and 118 members of the Chamber of Deputies would be August 9, the council announced. The presidential election would be held on October 25. If no candidate receives more than half of the votes, a runoff would be held on December 27.

It took a long time, unfortunately, to get to the point of having elections taking place because of a variety of disagreements among the key political actors in Haiti. Haitians voted in the first legislative elections in more than three years on 09 August 2015, in a test of stability for the country. More than 1,800 candidates from dozens of parties were running, and preliminary results were expected in six to 10 days. The voting was marred by clashes at some polling places, including in the capital, Port-au-Prince. At other sites, voters had to wait for hours after the polls were due to open, and in some cases were given extra time.

After these elections took place the US made its views quietly known to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), to the executive, encouraging the CEP to take some additional steps to improve the processes that were in place and working with the government to get them to urge the police to be a little more proactive in their securing of the voting sites and getting police out to the sites a little bit earlier so they could get to know the terrain, the people involved, etc.

The electoral council is largely seen to be influenced by the United States and was the target of protests over the weekend demanding the resignation of the director and the implementation of independent oversight. The United States paid US$31 million to support the electoral process, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had repeatedly been accused of meddling both in the 2010 elections and in post-hurricane political reconstruction.

Haitians voted 25 October 2015 for a new president from more than 50 candidates running for the country's top office, as well as casting ballots for lawmakers and local officials. There were 54 presidential candidates going forward, an unprecedented number, which added a level of complexity to the entire process. The elections on October 25 were a marked improvement over what took place in August. The preliminary results, at least of the presidential race were announced on 05 November 2015. The results were of Jovenel Mose coming in first place with around 32-33% of the vote, and Jude Clestin coming in second place with 25%. Mose Jean Charles came in third place with about 12%. The Lavalas candidate Dr. Maryse Narcisse, a physician who had the backing of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, came in fourth with 7%. Lavalas remains popular amonst Haiti's impoverished majority. Election observers said the vote was largely free of major problems and the violence that had plagued parliamentary elections in August.

A runoff presidential vote was scheduled in December 2015 between the top two candidates. Two people emerged as serious contenders in the race -- Jude Celestin, who was eliminated from the second round in the controversial 2010 vote following an OAS recount. A banana plantation owner and the former head of Haiti's government construction agency will face off against each other in Haiti's presidential runoff 27 December 2015. The 47-year-old of Bald Heads - named in honor of the outgoing president - would face 53-year-old Jude Celestin of the Alternative League for Progress and Emancipation of Haiti.

Jovenel Moise, the 47-year-old candidate of current President Michel Martellys Parti Haitien Tet Kale (PHTK), was born in the countryside of Haiti from a modest family of farmers, and studied Educational Sciences in the capital Port au Prince, succeeding as a businessman in the banana industry. He promised to revive agriculture in Haiti and improve education. He also aimed to put Haiti on the financial map by improving tourism and exports. Another proposal was to improve security and strengthen justice to restore the rule of law.

Second place in the presidential race was held by Jude Celestin from the opposition League for Progress and Haitian Emancipation (LAPEH). This is the second time that the 53-year-old engineer was running for president. He was the runner-up in the 2010 presidential elections and although he has been absent in politics for the past five years, he enjoyed great popularity among Haitians. Celestine was largely supported by former President Rene Preval and claimed that if elected, his government would give priority to job creation, rationalization of government expenditure and the fight against corruption. A poll released 19 November 2015 showed that up to 90 percent of Haitians had deep suspicions of the recent elections in the country, while opposition supporters continued to protest in the streets, calling the elections a fraud. The poll was conducted by an independent Brazil-based research group called Igarape. The company did two separate polls to measure public confidence in the elections. The first on the day of the Oct. 25 election and the second on Nov. 5, after the preliminary results were announced. After the first poll, 82 percent of Haitians polled said they agreed with the statement, As far as I can see, this election is fair, there is no fraud. However, in the second round of polling almost 90 percent of those approached said they believed the opposite.

The poll also found that when asked who of the 54 candidates they voted for, just over 6 percent of Haitians said they voted for the government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise, which would have placed him fourth in the running. Critics viewed his sudden ascent to prominence with suspicion, suggesting Martelly was trying to keep a hand in the government after he left office by using Moise as his proxy.

A group of eight candidates in the November 2015 disputed presidential vote demanded changes in Haiti's electoral council and national police department. Among those signing the 28 November 2015 declaration was Jude Celestin, the second-place finisher who was due to face the government-backed candidate, Jovenel Moise, in the 27 December 2015 runoff. The third-place finisher, former Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, belongs to the opposition alliance. The fourth-place finisher, Maryse Narcisse of the Fanmi Lavalas party founded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was not a member of the alliance.

Rights groups said the first-round vote was so plagued with irregularities and alleged vote-rigging that they had no confidence in the official results that put the previously obscure government-backed candidate finishing first. The group of diplomats calling themselves the Core Group, believed the contests had went well. Non-governmental foreign observers, a Brazilian observation firm, as well as, a few US civil society observers, all agreed with the Haitians that massive fraud had occurred.

Efforts by stakeholders included the establishment of an electoral evaluation commission on 16 December to address the concerns of opposition parties and ensure the successful and timely conclusion of the presidential elections. According to press reports, the run-off had been set for 27 December between Jovenel Moise from the governing party and former government executive Jude Celestin, but the election has been postponed until further notice.

On 21 December 2015 Haiti's electoral authority postponed the presidential runoff vote. In a surprise statement just days before the 27 December 2015 presidential runoff election, Haitis Provisional Electoral Council said the vote would be pushed back. A new date was yet to be announced, though electoral officials have previously suggested the vote could be pushed back as far as early February 2016.

On January 03, 2016 an independent panel concluded that Haiti's president and parliamentary elections in October 2015 were marred by irregularities. The panel's report supported charges of fraud made by opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin. Problems included ballots where the votes were crossed out, miscounting, and discrepancies in voter identification. Allegations of fraud led to street protests that forced officials to cancel the second round of voting.

It is unclear when the runoff will be held, but Haiti's constitution called for a new president to take office by February 7. On January 01, 2016 President Martelly announced that a postponed presidential runoff vote would be held on 17 January 2016, later delayed to 24 January 2016. President Michel Martelly, outside of the Electoral Decree and Constitution of Haiti, rushed to install the 50th Legislature from those elections. It was estimated by Senator Steven Benoit (Ouest/Alternativ) that 40% of the lawmakers sworn-in to the Parliament were not legitimately elected.




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