CARICOM observer mission identifies deficiencies in Haiti elections

haiti voting

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday October 28, 2015 – Despite the significantly reduced cases of violence in Sunday’s presidential and legislative polls in Haiti, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) electoral observation mission said inadequate space at polling stations, anomalies pertaining to voting norms and inadequate legislation are among the issues that need to be resolved for future voting.

And it said that unless the problems are corrected, there could be “undesirable sequels in the future”.

In a preliminary statement released by chief of the mission, Dr. Robert Surujbally yesterday, the team gave a glimpse into the matters which will be discussed in it full report.

The eight-member mission, which visited 127 polling stations, pointed to: too many anomalies pertaining to voting norms, but noted that it could not be ascertained whether those were accidental or due to deficiencies in the training of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) staff; and varying methodologies in the poll practices, on occasion, being used by CEP officers during the course of the day; for example, different fingers were stained as a form of identification.

One of the other major issues was inadequacy of physical space in polling stations.

According to the CARICOM team, this led to the secrecy of the ballot being compromised (persons inside and outside of the Polling Stations could see for whom the voter was casting his/her ballot), and also resulted in party agents being too close to CEP staff, “thus, on occasion, intimidating the officers”.

The areas in which CEP staff had to operate were described by the mission as being “sauna-like conditions” which occasionally led to frayed nerves, although the team never saw any altercations be between CEP officials and voters evolving into physical confrontations.

“Nevertheless it was the considered opinion of the team that five polling stations in one room would obviously not be conducive to an optimal working environment,” the mission said, noting that having several polling stations in one building  led to  some degree of turbulence at the entrance of the polling station complex.

“The absence of trained, qualified and experienced ushers (information clerks/ ‘orienteurs’) exacerbated this problem.”

As for the tabulation of votes, the CARICOM mission said there would be more transparency if the methodology of processing the tally sheets – not the content of the tally sheets – was shared with political parties and other important stakeholders.

“It would help matters if, prior to the elections, relevant laws were to be enacted, so as to assist any Electoral Court/Tribunal in carrying out its deliberations,” it added.

The electoral mission also suggested that the Provisional Electoral Council should be a permanent body, rather than one whose members change with every electoral cycle, to ensure that it enjoys greater autonomy and authority in handling electoral matters, particularly as it pertains to political parties.

During Sunday’s first round of presidential elections and second round of legislative elections, 53 presidential candidates vied for the support of the 5.8 million registered voters. The run-off for the second round of legislative elections, for seats for the Lower House and the Senate in Haiti’s 119 constituencies, followed the August 9 first round which about 2,000 candidates from over 100 political parties contested.

Spokesman for Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council Dumel Richardson said preliminary results could be issued in about 10 days but final results are not expected until at least late November.

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