Two days after Haitian elections officials postponed the release of preliminary results from first round presidential election, the country is anxiously waiting to learn who among the 54 contenders in the race will advance into a runoff.
As of Thursday morning, all of the ballot sheets received at the Tabulation Center in the presidential race had been reviewed with 490 out of 13, 429 quarantined because of irregularities or fraud. But 296 ballot sheets never made it into the tabulation center.
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council spokesman Richardson Dumel has announced a 4 p.m. press conference to issue results.
Earlier this week, the council, known as the CEP, announced that it would delay the release of the preliminary presidential results until Thursday because of a litany of complaints over fraud that had been submitted to a special commission it had set up. But of the 162 fraud complaints, only one, issued by Pitit Dessalines on behalf of candidate Moise Jean-Charles addressed the presidential race. The rest dealt with fraud in the legislative and mayoral balloting, which also took place on the same day as the Oct. 25 presidential vote.
Once results are published, candidates will have 72 hours to contest. Final results are expected to be released later this month ahead of the scheduled Dec. 27 presidential runoff and election for thousands of other local posts around the country.
In addition to Jean-Charles, at least three other presidential candidates—Jude Célestin, Jovenel Moise and Dr. Maryse Narcisse —believe they garnered enough votes to advance into one of the two runoff spots. But the delay in the announcement, the allegations of massive fraud and a lack of transparency of how the votes were counted inside the Tabulation Center have fueled a climate of suspicions, rumors and tensions.
In a statement, local watchdog group, the Citizen Observatory for Institutionalizing Democracy (OCID), said that a number of weaknesses or blunders in the delicate tabulation phase “helped create a general atmosphere of suspicion and generate legitimate fears that the reality of the ballot boxes or the expression of the will people are being altered, in whole or in part.
“Such a climate on the eve of the publication of partial results is somewhat worrying,” OCID added.
OCID noted with concern that some ballot sheets were approved as part of the results despite lacking the proper number of signatures to confirm their validity. Members also echoed the call by eight presidential candidates earlier in the week for greater transparency in the count.
In a letter to CEP President Pierre-Louis Opont, the candidates asked that before results are published, a five-member independent commission be appointed to review ballots against the voter lists to address the irregularities and the allegations that ballot boxes were stuffed in the final hours and political party monitors and observers voted multiple times.
The issue of the multiple votes has been at the center of the massive fraud allegations issued by a coalition of local observers. They noted that 915,675 accreditation cards distributed to political party monitors and observers ahead of the vote, spurred a thriving black market for fraud. On election day, the cards sold for as little as $3 and were used by individuals to provide multiple votes to candidates.
Last week, the office of U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif, wrote to the staff of the U.S. State Department noting that they were “deeply concerned” about the possibility of fraud in the elections in Haiti. Staff called on U.S. officials to to “take all necessary and appropriate action to ensure that all of the votes are counted fairly and in a transparent manner.”
Guichard Dore, government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise representative on fraud allegations
Anticipating demonstrations and possible violence once results are released Thursday, Haitian police spent Wednesday removing discarded tires off the capital’s streets to limit protesters’ ability to create burning tire barricades.
We won’t lose because of manipulation; we won’t lose because of fraud,
Gerald Germain, spokesman for presidential candidate Jude Célestin
In a morning news program, representatives of both Célestin and Jean-Charles called for the people’s vote to be respected. Meanwhile, Guichard Dore, representing the party supporting government-backed candidate Moise, called the fraud allegations an “intellectual conspiracy.”
“We are prepared to lose, but we won’t lose because of manipulation; we won’t lose because of fraud,” Célestin’s spokesman, Gerald Germain said during the Vision 2000 morning news program.
Using a familiar soccer analogy about players waiting for a rule on the call, Germain said: “We will wait on the referee to tell us what happened.”
In an interview with the Miami Herald Jean-Charles denounced any attempts to declare Jovenel Moise, President Michel Martelly’s handpicked successor, the outright winner of the election. The former senator and mayor also denounced the fraud and the way in which ballots and tally sheets were transported to and from the 13, 725 polling stations across the country. For example, he said, ballots checked with his name in both Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien were destroyed, a claim Opont, the elections chief, has declined to publicly address.
“There was no safety, no security,” Jean-Charles said.
Insisting that he has the votes to make the runoff, Jean-Charles showed off his own tabulation center that he set up in Petionville. Inside, four young people were entering data off tally sheets from around the country.
“My vote was a sacred vote, a declared vote,” he said.
I really feel we have identified somebody who will do the utmost to help this country get out of the misery,
Dumarsais Simeus on presidential candidate Moise Jean-Charles
Former Haitian presidential candidate and Texas businessman Dumarsais Simeus, who campaigned with Jean-Charles, said he refuses to even consider the possibility of him not being in the runoff.
“I really feel we have identified somebody who will do the utmost to help this country get out of the misery,” Simeus said, noting that he can feel Jean-Charles’ “soul for those who are less fortunate.”
“He will be in the runoff no matter what,” he added.