One of the top two finishers in Haiti’s disputed presidential vote says he and his supporters will soon hit the streets if no clear signal is given about the fate of next month’s runoffs.
“If on the 24th of March, no clear signal has been sent — and by a clear signal I mean the publishing of an electoral calendar — we will go out and start our campaign,” Jovenel Moïse told the Miami Herald during a visit to South Florida this week. “We will stay in the streets up until we get these clear signals.”
On Friday, Moïse flew back to Port-au-Prince after wrapping up a two-day visit where he met with journalists, students at Florida International University and the Haitian community. The visit came as doubts persist over whether the presidential elections, twice-postponed over allegations of fraud in favor of Moïse, President Michel Martelly’s handpicked successor, will happen on schedule.
The people’s patience has a limit.
Jovenel Moïse, Haiti presidential runoff candidate
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Days earlier, Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere told the Herald’s editorial board that until informed otherwise, the U.S. government has no other choice but to believe that Haiti’s delayed presidential and partial legislative runoffs will happen in six weeks. Moïse echoed similar sentiments.
“We have only one choice,” he said Thursday evening to the crowd gathered inside the Little Haiti Cultural Center, “which is to stand behind the April 24 election date so that on the 14 of May, the people will have a president.
“We are stronger, we are more, we are wiser and we won’t back down,” he added to applause.
It was Moïse’s second visit since he came seeking votes and supporters in November for the then-Dec. 27 runoff.
Since the visit, an electoral commission formed by Martelly to evaluate the Oct. 25 first round issued a scathing report on how the process was plagued by fraud and voting errors; the elections were twice postponed; the second place finisher Jude Célestin declared he would not participate and called for a boycott; six members of the Provisional Electoral Council, including its president, resigned; and the former head of the Senate was voted interim president by the National Assembly after Martelly was forced to leave office without an elected successor.
Despite the developments, Haiti remains at an impasse with the electoral council still vacant and interim President Jocelerme Privert unable to get his prime ministerial pick and caretaker cabinet through parliament. Theoretically, the campaigning for the elections should open a month before the vote.
“The elections need to happen because it is the people who grant power,” Moïse said. “The only way for you to get power is through elections; you can’t achieve power through a selection. Today, we have a provisional president who took power with a piece of paper and a pen.”
But if anyone can make the elections happen, Moïse said, it is Privert, the lead negotiator of the Feb. 6 accord governing the transitional period that isn’t supposed to exceed 120 days. On Friday, Privert’s pick for prime minister, Fritz Jean, a U.S. educated economist and former governor of the Central Bank, dropped off his original passport and other documentation at the lower Chamber of Deputies in hopes of moving the process along.
The continuing crisis also risks endangering the timeline for the eventual withdrawal of the U.N. peacekeeping troops. With the U.N. Security Council expected to discuss Haiti on Thursday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is recommending that a strategic assessment to determine the future of the U.N. presence be delayed until after the runoffs.
Haiti cannot afford political instability during the current period.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Ban warns in his latest report that progress remains fragile and Haiti “could be susceptible to setbacks.” He said the political crisis has an even greater impact on the quarter of the population living in extreme poverty; the 59,000 persons still living in 37 camp-like settlements six years after the earthquake; and the thousands who have returned or been deported to Haiti from the neighboring Dominican Republic.
“Haiti cannot afford political instability during the current period of negative economic trends, characterized by low economic growth and decreasing levels of investment,” said Ban, who has called on the political class through his Special Representative Sandra Honoré to find a consensus.
“The country continues to be vulnerable to humanitarian crises, including drought; insufficient water, health and sanitation infrastructure, and the presence of diarrhoeal disease,” he said.
In his talk with Haitians, Moïse highlighted some of the ongoing challenges while touting his desire to tackle them. He promised the diaspora that under him, the constitution would undergo a profound reform to include them.
Sounding more like an opposition contender rather than the government-backed candidate, he was critical of past governance of the country. He, however, steered clear of any criticism involving the Martelly administration, which some have blamed for the current problems because of its refusal to hold elections in four years. Moïse also continued to reject opposition fraud claims, telling the crowd that they were baseless and done because they feared him and “were afraid of losing power for five years.”
“The people’s patience has a limit,” he later said in the Herald interview, addressing criticism about his PHTK supporters burning tires this week in support of him after the party has long touted itself as the peaceful protesters. “We don’t always have control over supporters,” he said. “You cannot hold Jovenel Moïse responsible for this.”
Jacqueline Charles: @Jacquiecharles
12 things to know about Haiti
1. Less than 10 percent of judiciary are women.
2. There is only one female judge appointed to the Supreme Court and one female assistant prosecutor nationwide.
3. 59,720 Haitians are still living in camps, six years after the earthquake.
4. $380 million budgeted for U.N. Stabilization Mission’s operations until June 30.
5. Economic growth was only 1.7 percent for the fiscal year ending on September 30.
6. The domestic currency, the gourde, has dropped by 15 percent since September.
7. Domestically produced food prices have gone up by 20 percent.
8. The International Organization of Migration has registered more than 69,000 people returning from the Dominican Republic between July 2015 and January.
9. Cholera is on the rise with the Health Ministry reporting 36,045 suspected cholera cases and 322 deaths between January and December 2015.
10. There are 4,544 detainees in the National Penitentiary crammed at three persons per square meter.
11. The number of Haiti National Police officers have decreased from 11,900 officers to 11,728.
12. There were more protests over elections than socioeconomic grievances. The 318 election-related protests, represented 46 percent of the 689 reported protests.
Source: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s March report to U.N. Security Council