The OAS – CARICOM Joint Electoral Observation Mission (JEOM) for the Haitian presidential elections today presented to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) its final report on the first round of voting. The report’s main recommendations were accepted by Haitian authorities.
The Chief of Mission, Ambassador Colin Granderson, spoke at length before the Permanent Council and submitted a detailed written report in which he described the specifics of the work of the JEOM, which began its activities in August 2010, nearly four months before the first round of elections on November 28.
The full report presented by Ambassador Granderson is available here.
Among the report’s conclusions, Ambassador Granderson highlighted the acceptance by Haitian electoral authorities of most of the recommendations made by the JEOM and the missions for verification and legal assistance sent by the OAS at the request of the President of Haiti, René Préval after the first round of elections.
As a result, the final tallies proclaimed on February 3rd by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) saw a reversal of the positions of the candidates in second and third place with respect to the results announced provisionally. Furthermore, the CEP made a commitment to implement the technical recommendations of the JEOM to “improve the organization of the second round and to address irregularities.”
Ambassador Granderson explained that “the elections took place in the least propitious and enabling circumstances,” when the “social and material effects” of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010 “were still very visible and had been exacerbated by a deadly outbreak of cholera in October.” He added that “the day of elections was marred by disorganization, various types of irregularities and of fraud and instances of intimidation, ransacking of polling stations and violence.”
The head of the JEOM added that such complications were accompanied by accusations of massive fraud made by, among others, various presidential candidates on the day of the elections, and requests for the annulment of the elections from diverse sectors of the population. Granderson explained that the JEOM, in tune with other international organizations and delegations present in Haiti, from the start denounced a lack of organization and instances of fraud and violence, but rejected the invalidation of the elections.
Furthermore, he said that once the missions sent by the OAS concluded their work and the final results were announced on February 3rd, “the calmness with which Haiti greeted the final results of the elections illustrated the acceptance of the fact that in elections, a vital aspect of the democratic process, there will always be winners and losers.”
“The peaceful acceptance of the results was also a demonstration of democracy at work at the wider level of the Haitian society, and for which the Haitian people, their political leaders and the Haitian authorities must be commended,” he added.
Ambassador Granderson also highlighted other positive aspects observed by the JEOM “illustrating modernization and greater openness of the politics,” such as “the recourse to polling as a campaign tool; the use of electronic messaging an other forms of social networking; the increased involvement of the private sector as a stakeholder in the electoral process; and the large number of young persons, including women, involved in the process.”
The chief of the JEOM publically thanked the support received from the OAS, CARICOM, and their General Secretariats, support he said was necessary especially given that the Mission “had to function in a particularly difficult and complex environment.” He also said that the JEOM “enjoyed excellent working relations” with all of its Haitian counterparts and international representatives working in Haiti, adding that the verification mission “worked well and swiftly, although the immediate leaking of the initial final draft was highly deplorable.”
For his part, the OAS Secretary for Legal Affairs, Jean-Michel Arrighi, presented to the Permanent Council the report of the Mission for legal technical assistance sent by the hemispheric Organization at the request of President Préval after the presidential elections of November 28. The report detailed the activities conducted by the four members of the Mission, the development of the process during the contestation period, the procedures established in the 2008 Haitian electoral law, and the description of the appeals presented by the candidates.
The full report presented by the Secretary for Legal Affairs is available here.
In his presentation, he said that the members of the Mission, which was present in the country from January 23 to February 3rd, held meetings with electoral authorities and participated in the hearings of the West I Departmental Electoral Challenges Office (BCED), in which the complaints of the candidates Michel Joseph Martelly, Jude Célestin, and Charles Henry Backer were heard. The report relates the follow-up work by the mission to the first and second instances and the final decisions published February 3rd, and explains that “the National Electoral Challenges Office (BCEN) had three options concerning the substance of the requests lodged by the petitioners: to void the election; to take into account the recommendations of the OAS report; or to recognize one of the candidates as the winner in the first round.” On February 2nd the Chair of the CEP informed the Mission that the BCEN decided “to take into account the recommendations of the OAS Report; and it orders the CEP to amend the ranking already published, organizing a second round between candidates Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat and Joseph Michel Martelly.”
The Secretary for Legal Affairs clarified that “considering its limited mandate, the Mission is not in a position to judge the entirety of the Haitian electoral process or the credibility of the institutions taking part therein.” Nevertheless, he highlighted that the candidates had every opportunity to present their demands and that “the hearings had every guarantee for the parties, who were represented by the best Haitian attorneys. Furthermore, the sessions received great public attention and from that point of view there weren’t any complaints from the candidates.”
Finally, the observations and recommendations presented by the OAS missions make reference to the identification of certain “holes” in the 2008 Electoral Law in matters of terms and procedure. About this, Arrighi commented on the need to correct “the absence of clear rules in the 2008 electoral law regarding the procedure to be employed by the BCEN should be corrected. For example, the law should specify deadlines for the presentation of challenges and for rendering and announcing rulings. Attention was called to this lack of precision by the attorneys for all the parties at the beginning of the hearing.”
Following the presentations of the head of the JEOM and the OAS Secretary for Legal Affairs, the Permanent Representative of Haiti to the OAS, Duly Brutus, thanked the work of the JEOM and welcomed the determination of the member countries of the Organization to continue their financial and moral support for the Mission. “We wish to pay homage to the General Secretariat of the Organization for mobilizing a large part of its resources, time and energy around the Haitian electoral situation,” he said.
The following eleven Member States also took the floor in this order: Grenada (on behalf of CARICOM), Mexico, Chile, Dominica, Brazil, Guatemala, Canada, Peru, the United States, Uruguay, Saint Lucia, and Barbados. In general terms, they thanked and praised the work of the JEOM and expressed their solidarity and support with the people and government of Haiti ahead of the second round of presidential elections, to be held March 20.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.