An Electoral Farce: But who is laughing? (HB80)

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The international community requires that elections in Haiti be ‘credible’, that is that they bear just enough resemblance to the ‘real thing’ for them not to be laughed off the stage...

Jockeying for position

On 12 January 2015, the mandates of a second third of the Haitian Senate and of the whole of the lower house expired, leaving Haiti without a legislature. This was due to the failure of President Michel Martelly to hold any legislative or local elections since he took power in March 2011. Since then, Martelly has been governing by de- cree.

In the face of increasing unrest on the streets, and the barely dis- guised exasperation of his backers in Washington, Martelly resigned himself to the necessity of holding elections in 2015.

According to the Haitian Constitution, the body that organises and oversees all elections is the Conseil Electoral Provisoire (Pro- visional Electoral Council). The Constitution, in fact, provides for a Permanent Electoral Council but the formal conditions for its creation have not once been met in the 28 years since the constitution was promulgated. A new CEP was duly constituted on 21 January 2015.

Who controls the CEP controls the election process, and so eye- brows were raised when Pierre- Louis Opont, a prominent local businessman, was named president of the CEP. Opont had been di- rector-general of the CEP that had fraudulently engineered the ‘election’ of Michel Martelly back in 2011 (see HB78). He had even openly admitted his involvement in that electoral coup d’état.

The first task of the new CEP was to deal with the scandal surrounding other electoral bodies: if the CEP has overall control of the electoral process, at the level of the geographical Departments and the Communes, the process is or- ganised and monitored by ten BEDs (Departmental Electoral Offices) and 140 BECs (Communal Electoral Offices) respectively.