Oct. 9th Elections: Haiti's Political Future in the Balance
On January 12, 2015 -- the five-year anniversary of Haiti's devastating earthquake -- the Haitian government entered a new phase of a political crisis that remains unresolved. On that day, the terms of ten senators expired, leaving too few senators in parliament to maintain a quorum. For the prior four years of then-president Michel Martelly's time in office, his administration had failed to hold parliamentary or mayoral elections, which allowed elected officials' terms across the country to expire one by one with no democratically elected successors.
Last year, President Martelly finally scheduled three election dates due to pressure by national and international parties -- the United States chief among them. In August and October 2015, the first two rounds of legislative and the first round of mayoral and presidential elections took place. MCC participated with the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) in the elections monitoring process. Scores of local organizations that observed the elections reported systematic fraud and violence.
In January 2016, the final round of elections was called off just two days prior to its scheduled date after mounting protests called for an independent verification commission to investigate claims of fraud in the previous vote.
Former President Martelly stepped down from office when his term expired in February 2016 with no successor elected. Provisional President Jocelerme Privert was then appointed to organize elections over a three-month term. He launched a verification commission that confirmed massive irregularities in the 2015 elections, including what they called 628,000 untraceable votes.
As a result of these findings, Haiti's electoral council decided to partially cancel the results of the October 2015 elections and re-run them on October 9, 2016.
The international community persistently opposed the claims of massive fraud in the 2015 elections and voiced its disapproval of the government's decision to re-hold elections. The U.S. government, the primary financial backer of last year's elections, decided to withhold financial support for this year's vote but is one of seven countries funding an OAS mission to observe the elections. The EU has also withdrawn its elections observation mission from Haiti in protest.
Though critics say it will be near impossible for Haiti to fund its own elections, which are budgeted at $55 million, Privert has insisted there is enough in Haiti's public treasury. With just three weeks remaining before election day, all actors are moving into position and prepping for what Haitians hope will be a smoother, sounder election than was transpired in 2015.