Musician leads in Haiti elections

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday December 1, 2010 – Popular musician, Michel ‘Sweet Micky’ Martelly appears to have been the candidate of choice in Haiti’s presidential elections, winning 39 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results, and the singer has apparently changed his tune about having the elections be scrapped.

Preliminary results won’t be ready for another week and the final results are still weeks away, but the figures put Martelly eight percent ahead of his closest rival, former first lady Mirlande Manigat, which would result in a run-off between the two. Jude Celestin, the candidate of president René Préval’s party, is reported to have received 12 percent of the vote.

Interestingly, both Martelly and Manigat, had joined with several other presidential colleagues in denouncing the voting as fraudulent on Election Day and calling for voting to be halted, but they have since reversed their position.

Electoral officials and international observers have also insisted that the poll was valid, despite admitting there were several issues such as voter manipulation, late opening of polls and disorganization.

The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said the irregularities at scores of voting centres would be investigated and the Organisation of American States (OAS)/Caribbean Community (CARICOM) joint electoral observation mission said that based on its observations in the 11 electoral departments, the irregularities, serious as they were, necessarily invalidated the process.

“Despite the disruptions of the polling and vote count process in several locations and the withdrawal decision made by twelve presidential candidates, the legislative and presidential elections continued until the end of the voting and vote count,” it said in a statement issued yesterday.

Among the irregularities identified by the mission were:

* late opening of Polling Stations

* inability of many voters to find the correct Voting Centre and/or Polling Station;

* inability of voters to find their names on the electoral registers posted up outside the Polling Stations;

* saturation of the call centres overwhelmed by callers seeking where to vote;

* instances of incorrect application of voting procedures (the signing of the ballots by BV Presidents before the arrival of the voter);

* instances of voter manipulation – repeat voting of some voters facilitated by complicit poll workers and unidentified party agents;

* lack of control of already limited voting space by the poll workers, as well as the indiscipline of many mandataires (party agents), led to clogged polling stations where control of the process became tenuous and facilitated misconduct.

The mission also noted deliberate acts of violence and intimidation to derail the electoral process in Port-au-Prince and the provinces. Polling Stations in a number of locations were destroyed and voting was discontinued at some stations because of insecurity.

Candidates chastised for fraud allegations

But the mission said that even more subversive of the process was “the toxic atmosphere created by the allegations of massive fraud”, made by 12 of the 19 presidential candidates.

“The decision of the twelve presidential candidates to call for the cancellation of the elections a few hours after the start of the process was precipitate and regrettable. Moreover, these candidates should have been minded of Article 226 of the Electoral Law which establishes that “the interruption of the vote for whatever the cause and wherever cannot be considered a reason to cancel the elections”. These candidates could also have had recourse to the legal remedies available to them by the Electoral Law,” it said.

The mission said the candidates’ allegations of “massive fraud” would have been ascertained by the vote count as well as by substantiation of their claims. 

It therefore called on the parties to make available this evidence to the CEP within the legally stipulated claims process which is established to ensure the transparency and fairness of the process. Under electoral law, a candidate or his or her representative has the authority, within 72 hours of the posting of the results, to challenge the election of another candidate if the vote count or the tally sheet were improperly carried out and contrary to the law; and if electoral fraud had taken place.

Claims of fraud, the mission noted, started even before voting started. It said it observed that any inconvenience or small problem led to the immediate cry of fraud and that conduct continued during the day.

The election observers have made several recommendations to the CEP and the political parties.

For the Electoral Council, the mission suggests that it needs to be more open and communicate better with the parties and the public on its decisions and proposals in order to achieve greater transparency, although admitting that it took several steps in this direction. It said the CEP should also focus on training supervisors and poll workers. 

As for the political parties, they’ve been urged to understand the importance of: training of the party agents so they would become the effective protectors of the interests of the parties; their vigilance, combined with that of national and international observers, in preventing fraud on Election Day; and of insisting on the integrity and neutrality of the persons they would designate as party agents and poll workers. 

The joint mission, which has been in Haiti since August, will continue to observe the tabulation of results in the presidential and legislative elections.

And, while the country waits for the results, it has reiterated its call to all the political actors for peace and calm in the coming days and for them to display leadership by ensuring that their supporters do the same.

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