A top U.S. official stunned some Washington lawmakers Wednesday with testimony that Haiti needs as much as $50 million to carry out successful elections this year.
The declaration during a Senate Foreign Relationssubcommittee on Western Hemisphere hearing comes just three weeks before Haiti is scheduled to hold the first of three critical elections.
“There is a fairly good chance (the election) will happen,” Thomas Adams, the State Department’s special coordinator for Haiti, said about the scheduled Aug. 9 elections to restore Haiti’s parliament. “But there are still a few issues left. One is a lack of funding.”
Adam’s whopping $50 million figure during his testimony caused Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to ask, “How many people live in Haiti?”
“Eleven million,” Adams said.
“And you need $50 million to pull off an election?” Boxer said.
Adams revelation during the hearing, chaired by Florida Republican and U.S. presidential candidate Marco Rubio, came a day before a United Nations’ donor conference in New York to help fill Haiti’s funding gap. U.N. officials and Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul, who will be attending, hope to raise $31 million to cover the second and possibly third rounds of voting.
Adams said his higher figure includes other costs, such as electoral observation and support for the Haitian National Police, which will have to shoulder most of the responsibility for security.
“It is a complex electoral process,” a high-ranking U.N. official said during a briefing about Thursday’s conference, describing Haiti’s election timetable as “a major undertaking.”
With almost every elected office up for grabs, about 40,000 candidates have registered for 6,102 posts, including president. Runoffs for the legislative races are scheduled for Oct. 25, which is also the first round of presidential elections. Voting for local elections, which should have been held in 2011, also will be held that day.
Should no one win the presidential race outright, runoffs are scheduled for Dec. 27.
U.N. officials acknowledge that some challenges remain including excluded candidates insisting on their reinstatement by the Provisional Electoral Council, but say Haiti is on track.
“All things considered, this council for the first time, has been a council that has managed to build up a certain degree of credibility with the actors in the process where at the middle of 2014, for instance, there were many political parties who indicated that they would not go to elections under this administration,” the U.N. official said. “Across the board, political parties have signed up to participate, the candidates have signed up to participate.”
At the hearing, Rubio, who also noted concerns about Haiti’s ongoing border dispute with the Dominican Republic and U.S. spending in Haiti, said he is now “cautiously optimistic that a new democratically elected government will be inaugurated.”
“When Haiti is stable and prosperous, America benefits,” he said. “When Haiti is unstable, unsecure and lacking in opportunity for its people, it creates vacuums where criminal gangs — or worse — can operate. And it can lead to migratory pressures in the U.S. — or disastrous and deadly tragedies on the high seas.”