- News & Reports
- Take action
- Donate to CHAN Site
Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch
CEPR is a non-partisan think tank focused on providing data based analysis of the most important economic and social issues.
Updated: 28 min 41 sec ago
Ever since the first democratic elections in 1990, the influence of foreign actors over Haiti’s political process has only increased. Foreign donors have financed Haitian elections, UN troops have transported ballots and guarded polling stations, international observers have granted (or withheld) legitimacy to electoral outcomes, and foreign embassies have intervened when postelectoral crises erupt. Due to this preponderant role played in elections, the so-called international community ― the polite term for the dominant powers, organized now as the Core Group ― has often had the last word in Haitian politics.
This state of affairs has engendered even greater distrust in the political process. Sensing that it was not voters but foreign diplomats who decided who could be president, Haitians’ participation in elections has plummeted, from greater than 50 percent participation a decade ago to only about 25 percent last year. But with the developments over the past year and a half, that cycle looked to be breaking down.
The decision of the Haitian authorities, with the support of civil society, to rerun the election was a huge blow to the US and its allies in the international community. The Core Group (which brings together the ambassadors of the US, Canada, France, Brazil, Spain, the European Union, and the special representatives of the Organization of American States and the secretary general of the United Nations) had vigorously opposed calls for a verification commission and the formation of a transitional government after the October 25, 2015 elections. Many advocated for a continuation of last year’s vote, despite the protests of political actors and civil society, and the boycott of second-place finisher Jude Celestin. As Haiti expert Robert Maguire noted at the time, “the objective seems simply to be able to check an ‘elections done’ box.”
The US and the Core Group was also worried that new elections might give the Lavalas-aligned candidates (Maryse Narcisse and Moïse Jean-Charles) a better chance at the presidency. “They're not thrilled with Aristide’s forces coming back,” a US congressional source told Reuters regarding the Obama administration’s reaction to the antifraud protests. Another concern for the Obama administration was keeping Haiti ― where Hillary Clinton had developed a negative reputation ― out of the headlines during the US presidential campaign.
An organized and mobilized civil society rejected the dictates of the foreign actors and the interim government that took over when former president Martelly’s term expired responded to these demands. Confronted by this stunning development, European Union observers pulled out of the country after the decision to rerun the presidential election. The US withdrew $2 million in funding that remained in a UN-managed election basket fund and, with Canada, pledged not to provide additional money for this year’s election. Foreign aid was reduced over the last year, with many embassies refusing to attend meetings with the provisional president, or even go to the National Palace over the last nine months.
The devastating passage of hurricane Matthew has changed the dynamics of the upcoming election in Haiti. Following last year’s fraudulent elections, the new electoral council has been making changes in order to produce a more legitimate outcome this year, but the hurricane has raised new concerns.
A significant number of voting centers in the affected area have been destroyed or damaged. Many are also being used as temporary shelters. Efforts have been ongoing to repair or set up tents to replace voting centers, and the electoral council has stated that 80 percent of damaged voting centers have been repaired, and that all are able to be reached. However, the true test will come Sunday.
Additionally, many communities remain almost completely out of contact and unable to be reached. Electoral materials have been distributed throughout the country, but there is a high probability of delays on Sunday morning in some hard-to-reach areas. Damage to infrastructure, and ongoing flooding in parts of the country could also dissuade voters from going to the polls. Turnout ― which has already reached abysmal levels in recent elections ― will be a key indicator.
Many voters also lost their identity cards in the storm. Though it is unclear how many Haitians were impacted, and the government has pledged to provide new cards to those in need, the full scale of the problem is still unknown. The government agency responsible for providing the ID cards said last week that only 2,000 new cards have been requested, indicating that many may simply be dealing with basic necessities like having a roof over one’s head or securing food, rather than voting. This has created uncertainty around the ability of Haitians in the southern peninsula to exercise their democratic rights.
Beyond the technical problems that have been created by the hurricane, there are severe humanitarian issues. Hundreds of thousands across the southern peninsula have been left with no homes, no crops and no safe water. Relief efforts are ongoing, but have been inadequate to address the many needs. Is it simply too soon to ask the Haitian people most impacted by this storm to think about an election?
Between 10 and 15 percent of registered voters reside in the storm-ravaged southern peninsula, and many more in the northern departments that have more recently been affected by heavy rains and flooding. It is clear the election in these areas will be significantly impacted, and many will be disenfranchised. It’s also possible that with lower turnout in more rural provinces, it will be, more than ever, Port-au-Prince determining who the next president will be.
This is likely to reinforce centralization in the “republic of Port-au-Prince”, further isolating rural provinces and towns that have long felt disconnected from the political and economic elite in the country’s capital.
Read Part 1: Timeline of Key Events, here.
Read Part 2: Presidential Candidates and Their Parties, here.
Often lost in the discussion of Haiti’s presidential race is the fact that many legislative seats are up for grabs as well, including more than half of the Senate. Currently, the parliament is pretty evenly split between political factions but with such a high number of seats left to be decided the balance of power could shift dramatically this weekend. Control of the legislative body is especially important in Haiti’s political system, where it is parliament that approves the new prime minister and government program.
The presidential election was scheduled to coincide with the expiration of one-third of the Senate. Ten Senators had been elected to six-year terms in 2010, so ten first-round races for senate seats will be conducted on November 20. Six second-round Senate races and two dozen second-round races for Deputy will be held as well. The second-round races are the continuation of last year’s fraud- and violence-plagued elections.
For the ten first-round senate elections (one in each department), 149 candidates have registered, coming from 43 different political parties. Interestingly, it is Fanmi Lavalas and Pitit Dessalines who have registered the most candidates of the four major presidential parties with 10 and 9 respectively. With candidates competing in all ten departments, it could bolster rural votes at the presidential level. PHTK and LAPEH, on the other hand, have registered 7 and 6 candidates respectively.
For the second-round senate races still to be competed, parties allied with PHTK make up the majority of candidates. Due to high levels of fraud and violence in the August 9, 2015 legislative election, first-round reruns were conducted for these races in 3 departments (Center, Grand Anse and Nord) last October. Nine of the 12 Senatorial candidates participating in this Sunday’s second round are from PHTK, Bouclier and Consortium (all allies) while no other party has more than one candidate. With two senators being elected from each of these races, PHTK and its allies are guaranteed at least one additional seat in each department.
At the deputy level, there are 25 second-round races that will be completed on Sunday. Again, it is PHTK and allied parties that make up the largest number of candidates, accounting for 40 percent overall, putting them in a good position to pick up seats in the lower chamber. The number of races, broken down by department is as follows: West (6), North (6), Artibonite (4), Center (2), Grand’Anse (2), South-East (2), South (2) and North-West (1).
Read Part 1: Timeline of Key Events, here.
In a crowded field of 54 presidential candidates, the top two finishers in last year’s elections were Jovenel Moïse (PHTK) and Jude Celestin (LAPEH). Third and fourth were Moïse Jean-Charles (Platfom Pitit Dessalines) and Maryse Narcisse (Fanmi Lavalas). Although the earlier vote was plagued by fraud and irregularities and the results were eventually discarded, the top four finishers on October 25, 2015 are expected to lead the pack of 27 candidates participating on Sunday, November 20. Here is a closer look at the principal candidates heading into this weekend’s election:
Jovenel Moïse is PHTK’s candidate. Prior to the 2015 elections when former President Martelly selected Moïse as his successor, the lanky agricultural businessman from the North was a political unknown. Moïse’s company Agritrans runs a banana plantation primarily for export in Trou-du-Nord and was set up with government financing under Martelly’s administration. During the campaign, Moïse has branded himself as “The Banana Man” (Nèg Bannann Nan). He promises to revitalize Haiti’s neglected agriculture and to remobilize Haiti’s military, which was disbanded in 1995.
While in office, Martelly campaigned aggressively for Moïse and was accused of using state resources to promote his party’s candidate. For this reason, Moïse was perceived by many as a weak Martelly surrogate. One irony of the long delay since last year’s vote is that PHTK’s Moïse may actually be in a better position now. Time has allowed him to step out from under Martelly’s shadow, posing as an opponent to the provisional government rather than the ruling party’s candidate. PHTK and its political allies in the parliament have accused the interim government and the CEP of being biased in favor of “Lavalas” and claimed that the elections may be rigged against them. They have also consistently questioned the legitimacy of the provisional president, even at one point calling on police officers to disobey orders.
After the Hurricane, PHTK leaders threatened the provisional government with street protests and legislative action if elections were not held within weeks of the storm and have been publicizing polling (notoriously suspect in Haiti) that shows Jovenel Moïse with the highest level of support among presidential candidates.
Haiti’s interminable election cycle has depleted the finances of many parties, but although PHTK is facing similar problems, they are likely the party with the deepest pockets. With greater access to resources, the party was able to continue to campaign - including in the hurricane-hit south where Moïse distributed aid to victims. Well-financed and with a cadre of international election advisors, PHTK has many factors working in their favor.
In their quest for the presidency, PHTK has allied with local politicians that, in some cases, have been tied to corruption, drug trafficking and other wrongdoing. Though the campaign has distanced itself from Martelly, there is lingering dissatisfaction with the previous government, bolstered by recent allegations of corruption, which could weigh on voter’s minds Sunday.
Jude Celestin, the second-place finisher in last year’s election and the leading figure in the boycott movement, is the candidate of Ligue alternative pour le progrès et l'émancipation haïtienne (LAPEH). In the 2010 election, Celestin competed under the banner of INITE, the party of then-president René Préval. Those elections were also plagued by widespread fraud, violence and irregularities, many stemming from the fact that elections were held in the same year as the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left more than a million displaced. An Organization of American States (OAS) commission recommended changing the results, removing Celestin from the race and replacing him with Michel Martelly, without providing evidence that Martelly had actually received more votes than Celestin. The US then issued diplomatic threats, including a possible cut off of desperately needed post-earthquake aid, in order force the Haitian government to accept the changes.
Many expected Celestin to eventually call off the boycott and participate in last year’s second-round election, but his position was unwavering and led to the cancellation of the election. His supporters consider him a savior for preventing the fraudulent elections from standing; adversaries see him as the primary cause of the political instability of the last year. After 2010 and his role in cancelling last year’s election, Celestin hasn’t made many friends in the international community, though many close to him have worked over the last year to reestablish a relationship.
Celestin has championed his boycott’s role in getting the rerun, and has pointed to his experience at CNE, the national construction company, to present himself as a builder who knows how to get things done. After the Hurricane, Celestin offered to rebuild a key bridge and construction equipment was seen plastered with his campaign image.
With the provisional president Privert coming from an allied political party, Celestin is perceived to have benefitted from the change in leadership. But it is important to note that the interim government consists of politicians from many different movements and it would be a mistake to think all, or even most, are willing or able to help his campaign.
Still Celestin, similar to PHTK, has received significant private sector backing and can likely count on support from those sectors that have historically been allied with President Préval, giving him a political machine that should be able to generate votes on election day. Still, it is interesting to note that of the three former presidents currently active in politics, Préval is the only one to not openly endorse a candidate. University professor Jacky Lumarque was Préval’s chosen candidate, but was excluded from participating by the previous electoral council under Martelly.
Moïse Jean-Charles, a former Senator from the North department, finished third in last year’s election and is once again expected to be a top vote getter. Jean-Charles was the leading opposition voice against the former Martelly government and led street protests against his rule. Jean-Charles joined Celestin in rejecting last year’s election results and initially supported the interim government and the decision to rerun the elections from scratch.
More recently, however, Pitit Dessalines has struck a similar tone as the other leading candidates in calling for elections to be held as soon as possible after hurricane Matthew. The party has also expressed discontent with the electoral apparatus and interim government and called for greater transparency, especially in the vote counting process.
Less than a week from now, on November 20, Haiti heads to the polls to choose a new president as well as dozens of legislative seats. The electoral process started in 2015 but has been repeatedly delayed and postponed due to post-election protests, candidates’ boycotts, and more recently Hurricane Matthew. The results of last October’s first-round presidential election were thrown out on the recommendation of an independent investigative commission that identified significant levels of fraud and other irregularities. Below is a timeline that traces the major events of Haiti’s extended electoral saga:
December 2014 - January 2015: Protests force Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to step down as the terms of many parliamentarians expire. President Michel Martelly’s government had not held elections for its first four years in office, allowing the president to begin ruling by decree. A new Prime Minister and CEP are appointed, tasked with organizing the legislative and presidential votes.
August 9, 2015: First-round legislative elections are so marred by violence and fraud that many races cannot be completed and must be re-run again in about a quarter of constituencies.
October 25, 2015: The first-round presidential election is held, alongside legislative reruns as well as legislative second-round elections in some localities. The elections are rejected by a growing opposition movement that alleges widespread fraud on behalf of the ruling party and its candidate, Jovenel Moise of the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), who came in first according to the official results.
December 17, 2015: Facing increasing criticism ahead of the planned December 27 runoff, president Martelly announces a commission to investigate the elections. Given just a few days to perform its work, the commission finds significant problems and makes a number of recommendations for moving the electoral process forward.
December 21, 2015: The scheduled runoff election is postponed. Before the commission’s recommendations can be adopted, a new runoff is scheduled for January 24.
January 11, 2016: Despite growing concerns about fraud-tainted electoral results, a partial legislature is seated, consisting of 92 newly-elected deputies and 24 senators. Races for 6 senators and 26 deputies remain incomplete.
January 22, 2016: The second-round presidential and legislative elections are indefinitely called off. Second-place finisher Jude Celestin (LAPEH) had pledged to boycott the second-round and was joined by seven other opposition presidential candidates. This stance was supported by the vast majority of civil society organizations, including human rights groups, church leaders and eventually even the private sector business associations.
February 5, 2016: With Martelly’s term expiring on February 7 and no elected successor to take his place, an agreement is reached to form a transitional government. Senator Jocelerme Privert is soon after selected as interim president and given a mandate of 120 days. The deal dissipated tensions that had been rising due to concerns that Martelly would try to hold on to power. Armed paramilitaries had appeared in Port-au-Prince and clashed with Martelly opponents.
April 30, 2016: President Privert establishes an independent investigation commission to examine fraud claims and restore confidence in the electoral process before continuing with the vote. This decision is opposed by PHTK and its political allies – who are well represented in the recently-seated parliament – as well as many actors in the international community, including the European Union (EU) and the United States.
June 6, 2016: The independent commission recommends rerunning the first round presidential vote and a new electoral council announces new first-round elections scheduled for October 9, 2016. The EU observation team pulls out of the country and the US pulls funding from the election after the decision.
June 14, 2016: The interim president’s mandate expires, but parliament is unable to reach a quorum to either replace the leader or extend his term due to obstruction by the pro-PHTK bloc. Privert’s opponents refuse to recognize him as a legitimate leader and question each decision made by the interim authorities, accusing them of simply wanting to perpetuate themselves in power.
Oct 4-5, 2016: Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, ravages the country – specifically the southern peninsula – just days before the new elections were set to take place. The election was once again postponed. One week before the scheduled October 9 vote, prospects for the vote were hopeful. Preparations were in place, electoral materials had arrived in country and were being prepared for distribution, new safeguards against fraud and abuse had been implemented and candidates had taken to the campaign trail.
Oct 14, 2016: Facing immense pressure from political actors to hold the election as soon as possible, the CEP issues a new electoral schedule calling for elections November 20. Electoral infrastructure, especially in the southern peninsula, is severely damaged with many voting centers being used as temporary shelters. The new date means that there will not be an elected president in office by February 7, as initially expected.
However with a dire humanitarian situation still raging in the southern peninsula, electoral infrastructure severely damaged and ongoing flooding in various parts of the country, skepticism remains high as to if a legitimate and free election is possible this weekend, or if it will be another blow to Haiti’s fragile democracy.
Up next, Haiti Election Primer, Part 2: The Parties, Parliament and the International Community
On October 10, less than a week after Hurricane Matthew ripped across Haiti, the United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $120 million. Ten days later, donors have failed to fill the need, contributing just over 20 percent of the funds deemed necessary. But whom is the money being raised for? What planning or coordination went in to the $120 million ask? Are donors right to be hesitant?
An analysis of UN Financial Tracking Service data shows that the vast majority of the funds raised are destined for UN agencies or large, international NGOs. Reading press releases, government statements and comments to the press, it would seem that many lessons have been learned after the devastating earthquake of 2010: the importance of coordinating with the government, of working with local institutions and organizations, of purchasing goods locally and of building long-term sustainability in to an emergency response.
But, as one Haitian government official posed it to me, “we all learned the lessons, but have we found a solution?” Based on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) appeal, the answer is not yet.
Perhaps this should be of little surprise, the flash appeal is designed specifically to “fund United Nations aid activities” for the next three months, not to raise money for local organizations, the Haitian government or for long-term, sustainable projects. But the analysis is nonetheless revealing.
Funding Destined for UN and Foreign NGOs
The appeal is largely based on individual projects from individual organizations, and does not appear to have been launched with input from the Haitian government. As can be seen below, the vast majority of funding is destined for UN agencies.
Looking at the above chart, one sees that 85 percent of the funding requested is for the UN’s own agencies and that, of the $28 million provided so far, 79 percent has gone to these same entities.
Of the remaining $17 million for other organizations, it is overwhelmingly allocated to large foreign NGOs such as CARE and Save the Children. Haitian organizations or institutions appear to have an extremely limited role in the appeal, if one at all.
Importance of Coordination and Long-Term Sustainability
There has also been an acknowledgement that more must be done to both coordinate with the Haitian government and the various actors on the ground and to focus earlier on in building long-term capacity. But the OCHA appeal does not have an emphasis on either.
As can be seen, about 50 percent of the total requirement is for the food security, nutrition and emergency agriculture sector. There is no doubt that agriculture production and food security are some of the largest concerns going forward, but most of these funds, $46 million, is for short-term food assistance through the World Food Program (WFP). On the other hand, just $9 million will go towards “restoration” of “rural productive capacity.” The WFP program has already received $7.4 million, while the restoration project has only received $800,000.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti ― Under the leadership of an interim government since February, Haiti will now wait a little longer to elect a president after Hurricane Matthew struck the island, with 130 mile-per-hour winds and up to two feet of rain last week. Elections scheduled for October 9 have been put on hold, with Haiti’s provision electoral council (CEP) expected to announce a new date on Friday.
As the scale of the damage becomes clearer in Haiti’s rural Tiburon peninsula, where entire communities were left destroyed and under water, negotiations are ongoing in the relatively unscathed capital of Port-au-Prince, where political and economic power has long resided. Pressure is building on Haiti’s besieged interim president Jocelerme Privert to hold the elections in the coming weeks, but an internal assessment of electoral infrastructure obtained by Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch reveals massive damage to voting centers throughout the hardest-hit departments.
Some 30 percent of voting centers remained inaccessible in the most impacted areas according to the report compiled by the Organization of American States (OAS), while of those that were visited, 70 percent were rendered inoperable. The storm-ravaged departments are home to roughly one million of Haiti’s approximately 5.9 million registered voters. Across the country, meanwhile, the government estimates 1.4 million people to be in need of humanitarian assistance.
The CEP met with political parties Monday and has also met with representatives from the international community, Haitian civil society and the government this week. Mathias Pierre, a representative of Platfòm Pitit Dessalines, whose presidential candidate is former Senator Moïse Jean Charles, said that political parties had agreed on October 30 for the new date. But no official decision has been made, as the CEP continues to search for consensus.
“The situation cannot afford Washington to sit on sidelines. They elected him and they need [sic] pressure him. He can't go unchecked,” Laura Graham, then the Chief Operating Officer of the Clinton Foundation, wrote to Bill Clinton in early 2012. Graham was referring to the increasingly erratic, and potentially dangerous, behavior of Haitian president Michel Martelly. When she said “They elected him,” she was referring to the US government, which intervened through the OAS to change the election results of the first round of Haiti, putting Martelly in to the second round. The e-mail, one of many Graham sent to Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff on February 26, 2012, eventually was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aide, Cheryl Mills. The note is perhaps the clearest evidence to date that key officials, even within the Clinton camp, viewed the US intervention in the 2010 Haitian election as decisive.
The 2010 Haitian election was a mess. Held less than a year after a devastating earthquake, millions of people were displaced or otherwise disenfranchised and then-president René Préval was accused of fraud on behalf of his preferred candidate Jude Célestin. A majority of candidates held an afternoon press conference on election day denouncing the process and calling for new elections. But Washington and its allies, who had funded the election, pushed forward, telling the press that everything was okay. Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional law professor and former first lady, and Célestin came in first and second, respectively, according to preliminary results, putting them into a scheduled run-off. Martelly was in third, a few thousand votes behind.
Protests engulfed the capital and other major cities, threatening the political stability that donors have long desired, but have failed to nurture. With billions in foreign aid on the table and Bill Clinton overseeing an international effort at “building back better,” there was a lot on the line: both money and credibility.
With Martelly’s supporters leading large, and at times violent, protests, the US turned up the heat by publicly questioning the results just hours after they were announced. Within 24 hours, top State Department officials were already discussing with Haitian private sector groups plans to force Célestin out of the race. “[P]rivate sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw … This is big,” then US Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten wrote the next day. Merten wrote that he had personally contacted Martelly’s “camp” and told them that he needs to “get on radio telling people to not pillage. Peaceful demo OK: pillage is not.” Unfortunately, much of Merten’s message and those in response have been redacted.
The Haitian government eventually requested that a mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) come to Haiti to analyze the results. The mission, despite not conducting a recount or any statistical test, recommended replacing Célestin in the runoff with Martelly. With the lowest turnout for a presidential election in the hemisphere’s recent history, and at least 12 percent of the votes simply missing, any decision on who should be in a second round would be based on faulty assumptions. (CEPR analyzed all the voter tally sheets at the time, conducting a statistical analysis of the vote, and later showed how the OAS recommendation could not be supported by any statistical evidence.)
Nevertheless, pressure began to mount on the Haitian government to accept the OAS recommendations. Officials had their US visas revoked and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice even went so far as to threaten to cut aid, even though the country was still recovering from the devastating earthquake earlier in the year.
In late January 2011, two months after the elections, but before any decision had been made, Laura Graham wrote to top Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, warning that her boss, Bill Clinton [wjc] would be very upset if certain visas were pulled:
There are rumors abt ur second visa list and jmb [Prime Minister and co-chair of the Clinton-led reconstruction commission, Jean Max Bellerive] being on it. He's a conflicted guy and is being pressured on both sides and we believe trying to help. Wjc will be v unhappy if that's the case. Nor do I think u need remove his visa. Not sure what it gets u. Remove elizabeth's [Préval’s wife] and prevals people. I'm also staying at his house fyi so exposure in general and this weekend in particular for wjc on this.
In response, Mills questioned the “message it sends” for Graham to stay at Bellerive’s house, but Graham replied, indicating a certain coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department in influencing Haitian politics: “For the record, I discussed staying at his house w both u and wjc long ago and was told good strategic value and ive [sic] stayed there every time.”