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Haiti | International

Préval is President but what about the vote-rigging charges?
by Haiti Support Group ( haitisupport [at] gn.apc.org )
Friday Feb 17th, 2006 12:38 AM
The Haiti Support Group is seeking answers to a number of unresolved questions concerning the presidential and legislative elections held in Haiti on 7 February 2006. Now that the difficulties with the Presidential contest appear to have been resolved, we are particularly concerned that the results for the legislative elections are dealt with correctly and transparently.
16 February 2006

Open letter to Juan Gabriel Valdès, United Nations special envoy to Haiti.

Dear Mr Valdès,

The British solidarity organisation, the Haiti Support Group, notes the decision taken by the Haitian authorities to override the electoral law and to no longer include blank votes in the valid votes total, and we understand that this decision was taken in order to avoid further instability. Mr René Préval has won the presidency, but we remain very concerned about the charges of fraud and vote-rigging that have not yet been addressed.

While the popular will favouring a Préval presidency may have been acknowledged, we are concerned that the mass of the population will still lack confidence in the electoral process if the questions surrounding the 7 February elections are not resolved. Indeed, if the allegations of vote-rigging and fraud are not cleared up, how can anyone be sure that the results of the Parliamentary elections that took place on the same day, but that have not so far been mentioned, will be an accurate reflection of the electorate's intentions? If the legitimacy of the new Parliament is in doubt, political instability will continue.

In this context, the Haiti Support Group is writing to request clarification from the MINUSTAH on three issues relating to suspicions of vote-rigging, fraud, and/or manipulation of the results in Haiti's first round presidential and legislative elections on 7 February 2006.

1) Missing, stolen and destroyed ballot papers.

Following the discovery of ballot papers at the Truitier municipal dump http://news.yahoo.com/photo/060215/ids_photos_wl/r1742304631.jpg , the MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst was reported by both Reuters and the Associated Press as suggesting that the discarded ballots could have come from nine polling stations outside Port-au-Prince ransacked during the election, with the loss of around 35,000 votes. We can only assume that Mr Wimhurst's comments have been misquoted, and that the number of missing votes is nowhere near as many as 35,000, but
what is desperately needed is an informed and accurate statement answering the following questions:

a) Where did the ballot papers found at Truitier come from, and had they been counted already?

b) If they had not been counted already, how many ballot papers were found at Truitier? Was it hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands? Obviously the approximate number of ballots found is a crucial issue with regard to whether - if uncounted - the Truitier ballot papers could have significantly influenced the election results.

c) Mr Wimhurst speculated that the Truitier ballot papers could have been taken from ransacked polling stations, but exactly how many polling stations were ransacked, and how many ballots went missing? In an interview with Radio Metropole, on 15 February, Mr Wimhurst said, "these materials could have come from one or more polling places that were vandalized on election day, when people stole the ballots and all the materials." How many votes were lost in these incidents, and is the number large enough to significantly alter the results? Where were these polling stations? (in the footnote, please see a partial tally of election day incidents that may have resulted in the theft or destruction of votes.)

d) How was it that such a number of polling stations came to be ransacked on election day, when the MINUSTAH had specifically reduced the number of polling centres to just over 800 in the entire country so that its 9,000 or so troops and police could provide an effective security presence? Where was that security presence when these polling stations were ransacked?

2) Blank ballot papers.

Of the 1.973 million votes cast and so far tabulated, 85,000 were blank votes - that is 4% of all votes cast. Is this a credible percentage? How does it compare with the percentage of blank votes cast in previous elections?

What is the explanation for the fact that in the (closely monitored?) West department, only 2.8% of valid votes were blank, whereas in the more remote (and less closely monitored?) Centre department, the percentage was 9.1%? Is there any connection between the differing percentages of blank votes, and the differing percentage of votes won by the Lespwa candidate: 61% in the West compared to 34% in the Centre?

Were blank votes deliberately added to the ballot boxes in order to influence the results?

3) Other invalid ballot papers.

Of the 1.973 million votes cast and so far tabulated, 148,000 were declared invalid for other reasons - that is 7.5% of all votes cast. Is this a credible percentage? How does it compare with the percentage of invalid votes cast in previous elections?

What is the explanation for the fact that in the (closely monitored?) West department, only 5.2% of valid votes were declared invalid, whereas in the more remote (and less closely monitored?) Nippes department, the percentage was 13.8%? Is there any connection between the differing percentages of invalid votes, and the percentage of votes won by the Lespwa candidate: 61% in the West compared to 39% in Nippes?

Were what should have been valid votes, declared invalid in order to influence the results?

In relation to points 2) and 3) we are quite ready to accept reasonable explanations for the discrepancies between the results in the West and those in other departments, but, as you will appreciate, without any explanations, without any comparison with earlier election results, suspicions are aroused. (We know of course that the presidential elections in 2000 and 1995 were marred by very low turnouts and for that reason might not make good comparisons, but the legislative elections in both years had high rates of participation and the results from those contests could provide useful comparisons.)

While we fully understand the desire of many players involved in Haiti to press ahead with the election calendar and move on to the second round run-offs for the Parliament and to the local government elections, the Haiti Support Group believes that before this can happen it is essential to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into these various issues. If these issues are not addressed, confidence in the electoral authorities will not be restored, and the credibility of the next steps in the electoral calendar will be fatally undermined.

Haiti has already suffered from years of political deadlock and suspended development assistance resulting from the disputed results of the May 2000 legislative elections. Everything must be done to avoid a repetition of that situation.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Arthur
Director, the Haiti Support Group
London,
UK
____

Reports of election day incidents involving the theft or destruction of
votes:

In the North-West department:- "Individuals set fire to the election office
in the commune of Bombarde. Several pregnant women were hit. Some of them
fainted. The police arrested several individuals." Source: InfoHaiti.net, 8
February 2006.

Also in the North-West department: "In Bombardopolis, supporters of the MIRN,
Alyans, Lespwa and Union candidates entered the polling station in the
evening and destroyed the voting materials. As a result, there are no results for
the town or for the 2nd and 3rd sections." Source: Commission Episcopale
Nationale Justice et Paix, 9 February 2006

In the Centre department: "Armed men, with their faces covered, disrupted
the voting process in the commune of Lascahobas: voters fled and did not
return." Source: InfoHaiti.net, 8 February 2006.

In the Artibonite department: "In Verrettes, 12 people, two of them
candidates for Deputy, were arrested on Tuesday when they attempted to disrupt the
voting process. The two candidates concerned were from the l'Artibonite en Action
(LAA) and Fusion parties." Source: Signal FM, 9 February 2006.

Also in the Artibonite: "In Grande Saline (section Poteneau), three Deputy
candidates (LAA, Mochrena and Fusion) destroyed ballot papers. In Martineau
(section La Chapelle), supporters of the LAA and Fusion parties did the same
thing." Source: Commission Episcopale Nationale Justice et Paix, 9 February 2006

In the Grand Anse department: "In Bourdon, in the commune of Chambellan, an
election centre containing 12 polling stations was set on fire, and all the
election materials and ballot papers were destroyed." Source: Signal FM, 9
February 2006.

CC
Ambassador José Miguel Insulza, Secretary­ General of the Organisation of American States;
Ambassador Denis Modeste, OAS Mission to Haiti;
Ambassador Colin Granderson, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General for Foreign and Community Relations;
Marcel van Opstal, Head of the EC delegation to Haiti;
Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council;
the Haitian Mission to the OAS;
the Brazilian Mission to the OAS;
the Chilean Mission to the OAS;



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The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for human rights, participatory democracy and equitable development - since 1992
http://www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org