Sixty Haitian-American leaders and diaspora organizations are calling on the Obama administration to end its staunch opposition to a recount in Haiti’s disputed presidential elections, charging that it is undermining democracy in the Caribbean nation.
The letter, addressed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, comes a day after provisional President Jocelerme Privert announced that he will soon form an independent verification commission to look into allegations of ballot tampering and multiple vote-buying in the Oct. 25 presidential first round. Privert said the commission is “indispensable” to political stability and putting confidence back in the interrupted electoral process.
The diaspora community is calling for the administration to support such a commission in hopes of salvaging the country’s electoral process. Haiti has been in a paralyzing political and electoral crisis since its presidential elections. Official results pit former president Michel Martelly’s hand-picked successor, Jovenel Moïse, against opposition candidate Jude Célestin. Moise garnered 32.76 percent of the votes, while Célestin had 25.29 percent.
Célestin immediately challenged the results and was joined by other presidential candidates, religious and human-rights leaders who demanded a verification on who belongs in the runoff. The allegations, meanwhile, fueled violent street protests, a boycott by Célestin and multiple postponements of the second round.
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Many people have lost faith in the electoral system, and a commission will bring a sense of transparency.
North Miami Vice-Mayor Alix Desulme
The postponement in January forced Martelly to depart office on Feb. 7 without an elected successor, and led to a 120-day transitional period led by a caretaker president and government. On Tuesday, the head of the country’s newly revamped Provisional Electoral Council announced that the elections, rescheduled for April 24, cannot be held that day.
“We cannot talk about the electoral calendar in the state that we’re in,” Leopold Berlanger said during a news conference.
Haitian opposition, human-rights and local electoral-observer groups contend that a full and independent inquiry into the fraud allegations is the only way Haiti can get out of its deep crisis and transfer power to an elected president.
“Many people have lost faith in the electoral system, and a commission will bring a sense of transparency,” said North Miami Vice Mayor Alix Desulme, who is among the endorsers of the letter that was sent out on Thursday.
But verification is opposed by Moïse’s PHTK party and U.S. officials. Both have dismissed the fraud allegations and are calling on Privert to quickly resume the electoral process.
This week, as U.S. Ambassador Peter Mulrean told the country’s leading newspaper that “verification isn’t necessary,” Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten was making the rounds in Europe. Merten met with leaders in Brussels and Paris in hopes of beefing up U.S. support for the stalled electoral process.
We can’t take anything to our board for any kind of approval until there is a new government in Haiti in place.
Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank
The U.S. push comes on the heels of a recent State Department meeting where representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Canadian government and other donors quietly met to discuss continued donor support in the context of the delayed elections.
“We can’t take anything to our board for any kind of approval until there is a new government in Haiti in place,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, the head of the IADB, which called for the meeting.
The World Bank, meanwhile, has said new projects will be subject to “the approval of the board of the World Bank on a case-by-case basis.”
In addition to stalled elections, Haiti is facing a declining domestic currency; rising insecurity; outbreaks of zika and cholera; and a drought that is triggering the worst food crisis in 15 years. On Wednesday, the interim government met in an all-day retreat to revise its budget in the face of dwindling foreign aid.
We believe that the department’s positions to date have undermined Haiti’s democracy while harming the United States’ credibility in Haiti.
Haitian-American leaders to U.S. Secretary John Kerry
This is the second letter in three months in which Haitian-American diaspora leaders and organizations have called on Kerry to change course on Haiti and support a recount. The letter campaign was organized by the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. In the letter, supporters ask that the United States adopt a policy that prioritizes “respect for Haitians’ democratic rights, not political expediency.”
“We believe that the Department’s positions to date have undermined Haiti’s democracy while harming the United States’ credibility in Haiti,” the letter states.
Foreign observers employed by the Organization of American States and European Union have said they have not found any evidence to support the claims of “massive” fraud. In December, an electoral-evaluations commission formed by Martelly found that the vote was plagued by egregious irregularities and a high presumption of fraud. It recommended sweeping changes to the electoral process before the second round and said a deeper investigation was needed to determine whether there was “massive fraud” and who benefited.
“Going forward with the final round of elections without first examining the impact of fraud on the results would cast a ‘cloud of political illegitimacy’ over Haiti’s next government,” the letter says.