The Joint Electoral Observation Mission (JEOM) of the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Haiti, led by Ambassador Colin Granderson, is a long-term mission that has been present on the ground in Haiti since August 3, 2010. The Mission is currently composed of 68 observers who are deployed in each of the 10 departments and it intends to increase its field presence in the coming days. The JEOM has observed the different phases of the organization of the electoral process: the registration, contestation and validation processes for presidential candidates; the assignment of numbers for new political parties participating in the presidential elections; the drawing of lots for the designation of polling station members based on nominations made by the political parties; the updating, preparation and publication of the electoral list; the technical, administrative and logistical preparations for election day; the unfolding of the two phases of the electoral campaign; and the training of trainers for polling station personnel. The Mission will accompany the process until the publication of the official results of the first and second rounds of the elections.
Since its arrival, the JEOM has met with governmental and electoral authorities, the presidential candidates, the senatorial and Lower House parliamentary candidates, representatives of political parties (including political parties which are not participating in the elections), civil society representatives, national observation organizations and representatives of the international community. These meetings have provided the Mission with insights into the political and electoral context. They have also enabled the JEOM early on to identify potential problems associated with the process such as the CEP’s credibility deficit, fears concerning irregularities and fraud which could impede the expression of the will of the people and general apprehension concerning the security environment of the elections.
The Mission has played a proactive role in the observation of the elections. Its approach has involved regular interface with the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP for its French acronym) which has been open to the Mission’s suggestions based on its observations and on the concerns expressed by political parties during its meetings with their representatives. The JEOM has also provided its good offices to facilitate meetings between the CEP and the National Identification Office (ONI) and civil society.
The Mission has consistently expressed three messages which it considers critical for the proper unfolding of the process during its meetings with political parties and presidential candidates: (i) the crucial role played by political parties in the preparation for the elections and the unfolding of election day through their designation of polling station members and of party agents who will defend their interests on Election Day; (ii) the importance of the latter’s proper training and of the combined vigilance on Election Day of party agents and national and international observers which constitutes a safeguard against any attempts at fraud; and (iii) the importance of a sound knowledge of the Electoral Law, particularly concerning Election Day, in order to be able to identify the nature of problems or disputes which may arise and thus be able to respond in the most effective manner possible.
With the elections ten days away, the Mission welcomes the efforts made by the CEP to address the numerous technical, administrative, political and humanitarian challenges it has faced. Indeed, the CEP’s mandate comprises the difficult task of organizing elections in a country whose humanitarian and social situation has deteriorated following the earthquake of January 12, 2010, as well as following the cholera epidemic and hurricane Tomas. The CEP has made efforts to adjust to the post-earthquake reality and challenges in order to guarantee every citizen’s right to vote, including the internally displaced persons. In this regard, the Mission underscores the considerable work undertaken by the Verification Operation Centers (COV) during the updating process of the electoral list.
Fully aware of its tarnished image, the CEP has applied itself to improve this perception. On a technical and administrative level, the CEP has made every effort despite institutional weaknesses to meet the deadlines of the most important phases of the electoral process such as the publication of the Communal Electoral List (LEC). Notwithstanding these efforts, the launch of the sensitization campaign and the publication of the list of polling station members were delayed. On a political level, the CEP has sought to improve its relationship with political parties and candidates through efforts at improved communication, openness and transparency. The three meetings between the CEP and political actors provided a space for dialogue that enabled the latter to express their grievances frankly and openly. The Mission considers that the progress in terms of communication between political parties and electoral authorities, albeit far from perfect, represents an important step forward toward the holding of elections on November 28.
The Mission has noted with satisfaction that the electoral dynamic has consolidated as the process has unfolded. The multiplicity of actors involved during Election Day all have a key role to play. The JEOM calls upon them to abide by the principle of neutrality and the provisions of the Electoral Law in the process of carrying out their work. In this regard, the ongoing training of supervisors will prove to be essential for the proper unfolding of the process and the JEOM underscores the importance of recruiting competent and experienced personnel to carry out the supervisory work. The Mission also underlines the responsible, impartial and dispassionate role that local justices of the peace must play by fulfilling their responsibilities in issuing affidavits on incidents in response to requests made by representatives of candidates and political parties. In like manner, the Haitian National Police (PNH), in close collaboration with MINUSTAH, is tasked with guaranteeing security on Election Day. Finally, the Mission wishes once again to remind political parties about the critical importance of the work of polling station workers and party agents in ensuring the transparency of the voting and vote-counting processes.
The preparations for the November 28 presidential and legislative elections are on track. Nevertheless, challenges remain. The impact of the cholera epidemic, which is generating growing anxiety, is difficult to measure, particularly regarding electoral participation. The longstanding apprehensions concerning the security environment have been exacerbated by the recent incidents in Cap Haïtien and Hinche. The CEP, long a target of pointed criticism, must deliver a faultless performance even though Election Day and the vote counting process are not entirely under its control. The training provided to polling station personnel will determine their mastery of voting procedures and, as a result, their efficiency. The CEP must also continue its efforts to reassure political actors about the transparency of the vote tabulation process since the latter must reflect the will of the voters. To this end, the ongoing information visits by political parties to the Vote Tabulation Center (CTV) and the distribution of an operations manual are important steps. The distribution of National Identification Cards (CIN) will undoubtedly continue until the last possible moment.
The Mission calls upon citizens to vote on November 28 in order to exercise their civil rights and their duty as a citizen which will enable them to choose a new Head of State and to renew the Parliament, whose critical tasks will include providing housing to displaced persons and rebuilding the country.