19 Haitian and International Groups Call on Obama Administration to Cease Pressure on Haiti to “Arbitrarily Change” Election Results

For Immediate Release

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)
Contact: 

Nicole Phillips (Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti), 510-715-2855
Melinda Miles (Let Haiti Live), +509-3855-8861

19 Haitian and International Groups Call on Obama Administration to Cease Pressure on Haiti to “Arbitrarily Change” Election Results

WASHINGTON - 19
Haitian and international policy and legal groups and human rights
organizations called on the Obama administration to "cease supporting
the OAS Verification Mission recommendations", something they consider
"an attempt to arbitrarily change the results of the elections and force
the people of Haiti to accept an election ...that do[es] not express
[their] will." Signers include the Center for Constitutional Rights,
TransAfrica Forum, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti,
Haiti Konpay, Unity Ayiti, and 14 others.

The statement urges "the U.S. administration" to "work with Haitian
authorities to carry out the fair and inclusive elections that Haiti
needs in order to move forward.

"Though it may take a few more months to meet the necessary conditions
for such elections to be held, the benefits for Haitian democracy and
recovery far outweigh the potential costs," it concludes.

The statement follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to
Haiti over the weekend, in which she reiterated U.S. pressure for Jude
Celestin, the candidate favored by President Preval, to be removed from
the second round of elections, now scheduled for March 20.

The call for new, "fair and inclusive elections" echoes that of 12 of the 19 first round candidates, who recently called again for the first round elections to be scrapped and new elections to be held.

U.S. Congressman John Conyers also called for new elections in a separate statement:
"I disagree with [Secretary of State Clinton's] unequivocal support of
the Organization of American States' (OAS) recommendations addressing
voter fraud in the previous election. In order to ensure that all
Haitian voices are heard in this election, the electoral process should
be restarted."

The full text of the NGOs' statement follows:

***

Haitian and international organizations call on US administration to
support genuinely "free, fair and credible" elections in Haiti

Over the last few months, the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that
it wishes to see elections in Haiti that "reflect the will of the
Haitian people." As recently as January 21st, State Department Spokesman
P.J. Crowley reaffirmed
that the "focus" of the U.S. government is "ensuring a free, fair and
credible election process in Haiti." Despite these pledges, we note with
great dismay that the administration continues instead to endorse the
deeply flawed presidential and legislative elections that took place on
November 28, 2010. Worse still, the U.S. State Department, through
recent statements and actions, has been putting extraordinary pressure
on Haitian authorities to implement the arbitrary recommendations of an
Organization of American States (OAS) "Expert Verification Mission" and
modify the results of the first round of the elections.

Long before the disastrous November 28th vote took place, numerous
Haitian civil society groups and foreign observers, including 45 U.S. members of Congress,
voiced their concern regarding the undemocratic character of the
elections. On the one hand, Haitian authorities ignored widespread calls
to reform the country's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP, by its
French initials), widely seen as beholden to President René Préval, and
reverse its decision to exclude over a dozen political parties,
including Haiti's most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas. On the other hand,
inadequate measures were taken to ensure that eligible voters among the
million and a half Haitians displaced by the earthquake would be able to
access the polls. The U.S. government, as the top funder of Haiti's
elections, contributing $14 million, had enormous leverage over the
entire electoral process but chose not to insist on any standards to
ensure "free, fair and credible" elections.

Despite the failure to resolve these immense problems, and the
additional challenge of an out-of-control cholera epidemic, the Obama
administration and other foreign entities insisted the elections take
place on November 28th. The results, as predicted by civil society
groups, were catastrophic. Voter turnout - at under 27% - was the lowest
that Haiti, or any other country in the hemisphere had seen for a
presidential election in at least 60 years. Irregularities were so
prevalent that it was impossible to have any faith in the recorded
outcome of the vote, according to election observers, media reports, and independent examination of the official results
As a result, a dangerous and debilitating political crisis was
unleashed on a nation already overwhelmed by an ongoing humanitarian
crisis.

As calls for new elections multiplied within Haiti, and from many of the presidential candidates themselves,
the U.S. administration threw its support behind an OAS "Experts"
Mission, tasked with analyzing the vote results and providing
recommendations to the CEP.  The Mission acknowledged
that "by any measures, these were problematic elections" and identified
"significant irregularities" that "influenced the outcome of the first
round of the elections."  Yet instead of recommending new elections, the
OAS Mission simply recommended that the CEP modify the electoral
results in such a way that ruling party candidate Jude Celestin would
drop from the second to third place ranking and thereby be prevented
from advancing to the second round of the elections.  As the
Washington-based think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research
noted in an issue brief,
"the Mission's analysis does not provide any basis - statistical or
otherwise - for changing the result of the first round of the
presidential election."  Simply put, the extent of irregularities, lost
votes and quarantined votes (amounting altogether to about 20 percent of
total votes), makes it impossible to accurately determine which two
candidates won enough votes to advance to the second round.

The U.S. administration, which previously had neglected to take any
effective measures to help ensure free, fair and inclusive elections,
now appears to be deploying intense pressure to force the Haitian
authorities to accept the OAS Verification Mission's arbitrary
recommendations.  Senior administration officials, as well as officials
from France and Canada, have made numerous threatening statements in
recent days.  On January 20th, the U.S. top representative to the United
Nations, Susan Rice, urged
"the Provisional Electoral Council to implement the OAS
recommendations" and suggested that "sustained support from the
international community, including the United States" could be suspended
if the Haitian authorities decided otherwise.  At around the same time,
the US announced
that it had revoked the visas of a "couple dozen" government officials
and in Haiti news circulated that these revocations had targeted leaders
of the ruling party INITE.  Two days later, INITE officials announced
that - following international "intimidation" - they would "agree to
see [Jude Celestin] withdraw his candidacy."  Celestin, however, has so
far refused to withdraw his candidacy.

On Sunday, January 30th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added
another layer of pressure to the administration's demand when she made a
surprise visit to Haiti and announced to journalists that "we've made
it very clear we support the OAS recommendations and we would like to
see those acted on."

As many Haitians have pointed out, the administration's coercive
methods are not only disrespectful of what remains of the small nation's
sovereignty, they are also likely to exacerbate a growing political
crisis.  The deeply flawed nature of these elections cannot be "solved"
through the application of arbitrary recommendations that favor one
political candidate over another.  Haiti will only have the legitimate
and accountable elected authorities it requires to carry out the
daunting tasks of recovery and reconstruction once genuinely "free,
fair, and credible" elections that "reflect the will of the Haitian
people" take place.

We therefore call on the U.S. administration to cease supporting the
OAS Verification Mission recommendations. This constitutes an attempt to
arbitrarily change the results of the elections and force the people of
Haiti to accept an election and electoral process that do not express
the people's will. Furthermore, we request that the U.S. administration
work with Haitian authorities to carry out the fair and inclusive
elections that Haiti needs in order to move forward.  Though it may take
a few more months to meet the necessary conditions for such elections
to be held, the benefits for Haitian democracy and recovery far outweigh
the potential costs.

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
TransAfrica Forum

United Methodist Church

General Board of Church and Society

Konpay

Center for Constitutional Rights

Gender Action

National Lawyers Guild International Committee

National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas
Just Foreign Policy
Let Haiti Live

Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye

Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti

Other Worlds
Global Exchange

Grassroots International

UnityAyiti
Honor and Respect Foundation

Latin American and Caribbean Community Center

You.Me.We.

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