Haiti: election results challenged, media threatened

As of April 30 the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the US were all pressuring Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to change 18 questionable decisions in the March 20 runoff races for Parliament. On April 20 the CEP announced final results for the long-delayed second round of the 2010 presidential and legislative elections. As expected, the CEP confirmed the victory of conservative presidential candidate Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”). However, the final results for legislative seats changed from the preliminary count in 19 cases, and critics questioned the decisions for 18 of them: 17 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and one in the Senate. All but two of the changes awarded the seats to candidates from the centrist Unity party of outgoing president René Préval. The CEP didn’t offer any explanation for its decisions, which would give Unity a majority in the 99-member Chamber and a strong position relative to president-elect Martelly, since the party already had a majority in the Senate.

An April 29 statement by an OAS-CARICOM observer mission “recommend[ed] a return to the preliminary results in each of the 18 cases examined.” On the same day, US senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the influential chair of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, sent an open letter to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton questioning the CEP’s final results. Saying that “Haiti’s future depends on a Parliament that is recognized as legitimate,” Leahy urged the State Department “to take appropriate steps to convey our concern, including assessing the visa suitability and the lawful permanent status in the United States of Haitians officials who may be involved in election fraud.”

According to the Haitian radio station Radio Kiskeya, Leahy also intervened on Martelly’s side in December when questionable CEP results in the Nov. 28 elections gave Unity presidential candidate Jude Célestin second place, eliminating Martelly from the runoffs. (Leahy press release, April 29, via Sun Herald (Biloxi, Gulfport and South Mississippi); Radio Kiskeya, April 29; AlterPresse, Haiti, April 30)

In a statement published on April 29, the French-based organization Reporters Without Frontiers called on Martelly to “defuse” tensions and to “promise to guarantee pluralism, civil liberties and basic constitutional principles” when he assumes office on May 14. A number of Haitian journalists have accused Martelly of threatening the local media. (AlterPresse, April 29)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 1.

See our last post on Haiti.