The No. 2 finisher in Haiti’s presidential elections, who this year boycotted the runoff until sweeping changes were made to the electoral machinery, said that an audit of the balloting confirmed his declarations that the vote was tainted by “massive fraud.”
Now the country’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) needs to “sanction the person who committed the fraud, the people who helped defraud,” Jude Célestin said in an exclusive interview with Radio Kiskeya in Port-au-Prince.
Asked who that was, Célestin replied: “Everyone knows, the entire population knows the candidate who was the fraudster, for whom the fraud was done on behalf of.”
Célestin qualified for the second round against Jovenel Moïse, the choice of former President Michel Martelly. Moïse has denied the fraud allegations and accused opponents of using them to try to kick him out of the race. His PHTK party has refused to recognize the report.
A PHTK operative told the Miami Herald that Célestin has to be referring to another one of the top finishers.
This is the first time that Célestin, who was removed from the runoff in 2010 after the opposition accused then-President René Préval of rigging the elections in Célestin’s favor, has called for Haiti’s electoral law on fraud to be applied.
“I am sure that [the election machinery] didn’t defraud on my behalf; I didn’t have contact with the machine,” he said about last year’s vote.
Appointed by interim President Jocelerme Privert, the verification commission has called for the first-round presidential vote to be re-run.
The commission also recommended that a number of legislative candidates, including a women’s-rights activist from the Artibonite Valley who lost her seat in the Lower Chamber of Deputies in favor of the relative of a powerful senator, have their victories reinstated.
The CEP, which has the final say, has until June 6 to publish a revised electoral timetable. The report has triggered mixed reactions in Haiti and among foreign diplomats who praised the Oct. 25 elections while dismissing the fraud allegations.
Asked about the commission’s recommendations, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that while the United States recognizes that this is a Haitian-led process, “the longer it takes for Haiti to have a democratically elected president, the longer it’s going to take for the United States to consider new elements of partnership in helping Haiti confront the mounting economic, climate and health challenges that they continue to face.”
“As we’ve said before, the Haitian people deserve to have their voices heard and their needs met through a democratically elected president,” Kirby said. “We continue to believe that they urgently need to complete this process with a democratically elected government to address the challenges that Haiti continues to face.”
While the Organization of American States said Wednesday that it too awaits the publication of the elections date and it "supports a Haitian solution for the pursuit of the electoral process," the U.N. maintained it stance that the interrupted electoral process should be completed as soon as possible.
"The Secretary-General underlines that Haiti can ill afford a prolonged period of transitional governance," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "He is concerned that this situation has the potential to adversely affect international support to Haiti."
Ban, Dujarric said, notes that it's the responsibility of the interim president and government, and CEP "to identify a way forward that guarantees the peaceful completion of the 2015 elections. He exhorts all stakeholders to ensure a return to constitutional order as an urgent priority."
Haiti’s Economic Forum, meanwhile, saluted the courage of the panel and said it awaits the quick application of the recommendations while calling for the modernization of the country’s electoral process.
On Wednesday, government critics, including many in the Lower Chamber of Deputies, continued to denounce the commission’s findings, as well as a decision by the top prosecutor to place former prime ministers Evans Paul and Laurent Lamothe on a travel-ban list. They were among 11 Cabinet ministers in Martelly’s administration and nine former elections officials who were put on the list by the prosecutor.
Célestin didn’t comment on the travel ban but instead said he was waiting to learn whom he would be facing in the elections. The report, he said, was “a very good” technical job, “but we believe that it could have gone further.”
And while some are calling for a compromise to put an elected president in office, the head of Célestin’s Lapeh party, Jean-Hector Anacasis, told the Herald that it will not include a second round of five candidates, as some have been pushing for in recent days.
“No, no,” Anacasis said.