Acknowledging the opposition by some Haitians and foreign diplomats to any recount of last year’s disputed elections, Haiti’s interim president on Thursday installed a five-member commission to help determine who should serve in parliament and who should head into a presidential runoff.
“The commission is indispensable to assure the credibility of the electoral process,” President Jocelerme Privert said during a ceremony at the National Palace.
The former head of the Haitian Senate, Privert was elected by a joint session of parliament on Feb. 14 to resume Haiti’s interrupted elections by April 24 and transfer power to a new president on May 14. But the failure to meet either of those deadlines has made him a target of criticism from foreign diplomats, the international community, the opposition, and former President Michel Martelly. Martelly, who did not hold one election during his four years in office, stepped down on Feb. 7 without an elected successor because of the disputed vote.
The missed deadlines raise questions about Privert’s fate on May 14 and Haiti’s stability as supporters of Martelly’s PHTK party launch almost daily protests in support of elections and opposition groups threaten to counter their demonstrations by also taking to the streets.
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“The verification commission is evidence that the Provisional President does not want to reduce conflict but rather he wants to bring the country into chaos,” PHTK said in a statement, calling the commission “unconstitutional.”
Privert, it added, is “proposing solutions that are outside of a legal framework because he wants to extend his term, the total cancellation of the elections and the dissolution of the Haitian parliament.”
Privert said he has no plans to interfere in the work of the commission, which will have 30 days to determine whether Martelly’s pick (Jovenel Moïse) and opposition candidate Jude Célestin should remain in the presidential runoff.
Thursday’s installation took place on the same day that U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten began a series of meetings with Haitian government officials and international community partners to assess Haiti’s progress toward completing the 2015 electoral process and the installation of a democratically elected government. The U.S. has said verification is not needed because international electoral observers failed to find evidence supporting the opposition’s and local observers’ claims of “massive” fraud. This month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Haiti’s leaders that the U.S. and others were losing patience with the delayed process.
During a meeting of foreign ambassadors on Wednesday, diplomats remained quiet about the pending commission. They instead spoke of Privert keeping within “the spirit” of the Feb. 5 political accord. The accord caps the interim government’s tenure at 120 days and calls for elections to be held as soon as possible.
“If the international community wants to help us, they need to do so by helping us combat corruption and intimidation,” said Pierre Esperance, a leading human-rights observer involved in the drafting of the rules of engagement for the commission. “We can’t keep talking about democracy and having elections that are done with violence and fraud.”