Two candidates for Haiti’s 30-member Senate who challenged their preliminary standing in last month’s fraud and violence-plagued legislative elections have won their respective challenges.
Former Sen. Youri Latortue and Jean Renel Senatus, an ex-government prosecutor known by his crime-fighting nickname “Zokiki,” were deemed winners Sunday after the National Bureau of Electoral Litigation (BCEN) upheld a lower court’s decision that each had received enough valid votes to represent the Artibonite and West departments, respectively.
The decision was posted on the Provisional Electoral Council’s website. It has been received with confusion and disbelief as Haitians question how winners could be decided when balloting was suspended at some voting centers and how the ruling could apply to some but not all candidates in similar positions.
The long-awaited final results came more than a month after the elections for 20 seats in the Senate and 119 in the lower Chamber of Deputies. Elections officials spent hours in deliberations Sunday, unsure of how to handle the rulings, fearing publishing them would trigger more protests.
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As a result of the problems on election day, opposition leaders and candidates have taken to the streets to demand cancellation of the first round of voting and changes in the make up of the nine-member council. Three local observers’ organizations have called for an independent investigation ahead of the Oct. 25 legislative runoffs and presidential elections. In a 57-page report published after the vote, the observers said there was fraud, irregularities and violence in half of the 1500 voting centers across the country.
Elections officials said only 25 constituencies were impacted by the problems and they were not enough to invalidate the entire election. In addition to the two senators, seven deputies also were elected during the first round.
“If [anyone] passes, it wasn’t an election,” presidential candidate Sauveur Pierre Etienne told the Miami Herald as he visited Miami over the weekend to meet with the Haitian diaspora and raise awareness about his bid. “On what basis would it be based on when you still haven’t done the elections in a number of places? They can’t do that.”
But election judges hearing lawyers for Latortue and Senatus did just that, applying a calculation that they did not take into account for other candidates. The decision was first issued by the lower Departmental Bureau of Electoral Litigation (BCED) and then upheld by the National Bureau of Electoral Litigation (BCEN). The BCEN’s decision is final.
Jacqueline Charles: @Jacquiecharles