Haiti

Haiti to hear challenges in presidential elections results

Supporters of presidential candidate Jude Celestin lay on the ground after police pulled them over to inspect their car, on the fringes of a protest against election results in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Police let the men go afterward. Preliminary election results showed Celestin will face government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise in a runoff vote in December.
Supporters of presidential candidate Jude Celestin lay on the ground after police pulled them over to inspect their car, on the fringes of a protest against election results in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Police let the men go afterward. Preliminary election results showed Celestin will face government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise in a runoff vote in December. AP

Two presidential candidates who object to their showings in the Oct. 25 elections have filed legal challenges.

Fourth-place finisher Dr. Maryse Narcisse of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, and Vilaire Cluny Duroseau, who finished 42nd out of 54 candidates, are alleging they were cheated out of votes. Narcisse’s hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday before the Departmental Bureau of Electoral Contestation (BCED), said lawyer Gervais Charles.

“We are contesting the credibility of the process,” said Charles, who led a similar legal challenge in 2010 on behalf of President Michel Martelly after he contested his third-place finish behind Jude Célestin, then the government-backed candidate, amid allegations of fraud and irregularities. “We are legalistic, and we know who we are going before to plead our case, the same people who are at the base of all the violations.”

“We’re not naive,” he added. “We know the legal route has its limits and the people need to feel their weight, and keep carrying on a political battle.”

On Monday, Lavalas supporters continued to protest the preliminary elections results during a day of isolated tire burnings and rock-throwing by protesters and police firing tear gas. A strike by transport union drivers over recent government fee hikes and costly privileges was only partially observed after the government backtracked Sunday. In the Central Plateau, traffic was blocked along a major highway. In the northern city of Limbe, the mayor said one person had been killed over the weekend, and property burned amid violence triggered by preliminary legislative results released Sunday.

Opposition candidates and local watchdogs have alleged that there was “massive fraud” in the Oct. 25 vote and that the Tabulation Center lacked transparency. They’ve demanded the appointment of an independent commission to verify the count while party supporters have taken to the streets in protest. At least 60 people have been arrested, said human-rights activist Pierre Esperance, who accused the government of “persecuting people because of their political opinions.”

On Sunday, Haiti Police Chief Godson Orelus reminded Haitians that the electoral law forbids protest during this period. He defended a new police unit accused of cracking down on citizens while promising to investigate the video-recorded beating of a protester by police. The video has gone viral.

If there is no verification, I don’t see the need for a second round,

Pierre Esperance, human rights activist

Among those who did not file a legal challenge is Célestin, who finished second to Martelly’s handpicked successor, Jovenel Moise, according to elections officials. Moise has dismissed the fraud accusations.

“We don’t have any confidence that the outcome would be any different,” Célestin’s campaign spokesman, Jean-Francois Chamblain, said.

Chamblain wouldn’t say whether Célestin’s refusal to pursue the legal route means he would eventually withdraw from the race, which some have suggested. He said Célestin, who has rejected the results, is maintaining his push for a deeper verification.

The U.S. and its allies really don’t care about either the credibility or the fairness of an election process as long as they get the results that they want,

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.,

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., said Haiti is facing a crisis of confidence. The 915,675 accreditation passes that were handed out to political-party monitors and observers, he said, make it hard to see where the elections, which had about 1.5 million ballots cast, “are credible.”

“We don’t know how many of the votes are fraudulent,” he said. “There are several relevant conclusions. Among them, the U.S. and its allies really don’t care about either the credibility or the fairness of an election process as long as they get the results that they want. That was demonstrated overwhelmingly in 2010 and now you see it again.” 

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