Haiti

Haiti’s prime minister meets diaspora, supports vote verification

Haiti Prime Minister Evans Paul
Haiti Prime Minister Evans Paul Miami Herald Staff

Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul says he is open to a request by a group of presidential candidates and local observers for an independent verification of the count in the controversial Oct. 25 first round of presidential elections.

But Paul, in an interview with the Miami Herald, said he also wonders whether the appointment of an independent five-member commission will be enough to place trust in the country’s ongoing electoral process.

The question is who will make up this commission because the trust crisis in Haiti doesn’t exclude anyone.

Haiti Prime Minister Evans Paul

“I don’t have a problem to do an independent commission,” Paul said prior to his address Saturday at the National Alliance for the Advancement of Haitian Professionals conference at Florida International University in North Miami. “The question is who will make up this commission because the trust crisis in Haiti doesn’t exclude anyone.

“The members of the [Provisional Electoral Council] come from institutions that the country trusts the most,” Paul added. “If you don’t trust these people, then the others who you would appoint, on what planet will you find them?”

Responding to a letter by a group of seven presidential candidates seeking the verification commission, the elections council known as the CEP has sent a letter agreeing to meet with the candidates.

Still with Haiti embroiled in a crisis of confidence triggered by allegations of massive fraud during the balloting, and doubts over the preliminary presidential results, Paul acknowledged that something must be done to keep things from further degenerating. The country today faces growing protests from thousands of supporters of opposition candidates who have taken to the streets, accusing President Michel Martelly of orchestrating an “electoral coup d’etat.”

While some call for the independent verification, others are calling for cancellation of the vote and for a transition. At risk is not just Haiti’s political stability, but also its scheduled Dec. 27 presidential runoff that has government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise facing Jude Célestin. While Moise has dismissed the fraud allegations, Célestin has rejected the results and is pushing for the verification amid calls by some for him to boycott the runoff.

“For me we are obliged to engage in a political discussion to find a solution to the problem in the elections,” Paul said.

Paul, declining to name names, said he has started to discretely speak to opposition candidates in hopes of finding a solution. The nine-member CEP is expected to issue the final elections results in the coming days.

During his speech at the National Alliance for the Advancement of Haitian Professionals, Paul focused on the role of the diaspora, acknowledging the resistance on the ground to integrating them in the country’s political life.

While he didn’t dwell on the ongoing electoral crisis, he did hint at it.

“We had 54 candidates for president, but everyone knew that if there was going to be a final, there would be two. And after the final there would be only one,” Paul said. “Our biggest problem in the difficult situation we’re living in Haiti is there are a lot of people who don’t want to respect the rules of the game. And this is the battle we have to carry on.”

Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who also addressed the conference Saturday, supported Paul’s call for a solution to the electoral crisis.

The current crisis was predictable.

Former Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe

One of the first persons to criticize the CEP after it rejected his presidential candidacy to run for president, Lamothe said the current crisis is predictable. But the destiny of the country, he said, is hanging in the balance and something has to give.

“There needs to be a talk between all of the stakeholders,” Lamothe said, noting that he supports “every request that it would take to make the process trustworthy and transparent, and every request that would make the legitimacy of the next president to be clear and clean cut.”

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