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Haiti | International

Report on the Haitian Presidential Election of Feb. 8, 2006
by Jared Sibbitt, Human Rights Worker, USA
Wednesday Feb 8th, 2006 2:02 PM
In partnership with Human Rights Accompaniment Haiti and Association of University Graduates Motivated for a Haiti With Rights (HURAH, AUMOHD Dwa Moun)

Background:

The day of elections [Feb 7 th , 2006], I, along with AUMOHD president Evel
Fanfan, visited numerous polling places in the Port-au-Prince area
examining them for their treatment of human rights, explicitly for a
safe and representative constitutional election. What follows are my
findings, both those concerns raised and the positive features noted.

Negative observations:

• The polls in many neighborhoods opened late, as much as three hours
and twenty minutes late in one notable example. This was compounded by
the fact that Haitians are known for rising early for elections and did
so this day, sometimes showing up even hours before the appointed
opening time of 6am.

• We were informed that some polling locations had changed and that
people now had to go to a different poll, where they were informed they
were not on the list. This prompted a great deal of frustration.

• Residents of the Cite Soleil neighborhood, in addition to the problems
in #2, were told up to 4 times that they were, then were not able to
vote at their assigned station, and it is estimated that several
thousand may have been turned away in this fashion.

• In addition to the problems of #2 and 3, residents of Cite Solei
further had to deal with the inadequate polling space, an area meant to
accommodate 1000 persons had to deal with 3,400 +. The result was a
predictable chaos of voices and bodies, made worse by the lack of an
organizing presence.

• The yellow shirted civil election workers highly touted on the radio
did, in my estimation, absolutely nothing to assist the process, simply
standing to the sides huddled together.

• After being informed of the situation at the polls, the C.E.P.
president gave the authorization to open the stations to those with
proper identification, thereby streamlining the process greatly and
allowing many to vote who may have been turned away. Unfortunately the
particular authority at the site in Cite Soleil directly refused this
order and proceeded to stonewall the changes until forced to comply.

• There was an entirely inadequate number of international observers on
hand to properly assess and document the election, and those that there
were never seemed to be on hand at important moments, such as during the
vote counting after polls closed. I spent hours visiting the different
polling sites watching the count and saw not a single international
observer at this critical time. The poll workers at that moment had been
on shift for 17 hours and were exhausted, hungry, and ripe for mistake
or fraud, which thankfully appears to have been avoided.

• Perhaps the most striking and worrisome fact was the difference
between different neighborhoods in their level of organization and
subsequent percentage of voters processed. In Petionville for example,
polls were plentiful and the Haitian Police were conducting crowd
control, keeping people organized, in the proper line and helping them
find their place. By contrast Cite Soleil and other very strong Lespwa
(Reven Preval ) voting blocks seemed to be systematically
disenfranchised at every turn. From being told they could not vote here,
there, anywhere, poll sites being changed without warning, forcing so
many people from so far away to attempt to vote in overcrowded
conditions without a single police man to help organize and direct the
crowds, only UN troops who do not speak the language and could not if
they wanted to help organize the process. Given the massive amounts of
money, time, and the so called expertise of the international community,
this notion of a free, fair, and open election was a farce.

Positive aspects of the election:

• Despite incredible frustration, every site visited was exceptionally
peaceful. The patience of the Haitian people in this case was
extraordinary, as was their will to vote.

• Given sufficient pressure, the president of the CEP made the crucial
decision to allow voters to vote in the chaotic poll sites of Cite Solei
and certain areas of Delmas. This was extremely important, the only
drawback being that it happened so late in the day that many were
already turned away, and was subject to the personnel whim of local
authorities.

• The dedication of the poll workers who worked long hours to keep the
polls open after dark to allow everyone a chance to vote, and then stay
up late counting the ballots by candle light and headlight, was
commendable.

• The cooperation of the UN troops in Cite Solei in setting up flood
lights to allow voting to carry on.

• The accuracy and accountability of the ballot counting process was
remarkable, despite the lack of foreign observers.

• Despite the incredible number of problems and issues with this
election, the early results would seem to indicate that the will of the
people was done and that despite large scale disenfranchisement, the
‘missing” votes do not suggest they would change the outcome of the
election. Only a final tally of the results will confirm that the
election was not so deeply flawed that measures must be taken to rectify
the problems.