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Date: Monday, February 27, 2006
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Place: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, the Shotwell Room
At this event, Jacque Bernard, administrator of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, gave a low-key, nonconfrontational account of the recent Haitian vote and the security problems which he encountered, necessitating his trip to the United States.
He recalled that when he came aboard the Provisional Electoral Council as its administrator, it had been in existence for eighteen months without having achieved effective administration, and without being able to move forward with electoral preparations. This was in part because the nine members of the commission had split up the work into separate bailiwicks, with no one knowing what the other was doing.
The result was disjointed management, with most people not knowing what was going on.
He recalled that on coming aboard, he brought everyone together. Everything had to be done under one board and with him as director-general. Some have said that he, Bernard, was the candidate of the executive branch imposed on the CEP. This was not true. He was a candidate for the position before the CEP and it was the CEP who elected him to the position. He had the support of the majority of the commission, except for two or three members.
Overall, the successful outcome of the February 7, 2006 election showed that with good management, one could achieve a great deal in Haiti. With three and a half months of preparation, Haiti was able to have decent elections. There were some weak points in the vote. Subsequently, there was, after the turmoil in Port-au-Prince, workers at the tabulation center being intimidated by the crowds, and the chief of security was threatened. Nevertheless, most things went right. The OAS did a good job of voter-registration. When he joined the CEP, the OAS was still registering voters. The CEP was still attempting to qualify candidates.
Mr. Bernard turned to the parliamentary elections, which, according to announcements, would be delayed. He believed that the second round should be easier than the first because the machinery was in place. The late start that was so evident in the first round could be corrected. Also, the problems with the electoral list and photos could be addressed. A third issue also for resolution was that some of the voting centers were simply too big, the density of people crowding in them too great.
He noted that in his absence the electoral commission named a three-person committee to continue his work.
He had decided that under the circumstances, he needed to take a leave of absence as the pressures against him had been undeserved. He had been serving without pay, for the good of the country.
He noted that Haiti had a president-elect and now must have a parliament.
He concluded by noting that Haitians had a predilection to fight among themselves unnecessarily.
Ambassador Raymond Joseph said that he would speak for the Haitian government under instructions from the prime minister. The Haitian government supported Mr. Bernard and was taking the necessary means to thwart those who were disparaging him and to invite him back to resume his work. He hoped that Mr. Bernard could return as soon as Wednesday, March 1.
He appealed to Mr. Bernard not to let his detractors stop him. He recalled the departure of election commissioner Leon Manus in 2000 and said that Haiti could not afford to have another electoral director be forced to leave by mob violence.
John Merrill, chief of Latin American programs in the office of the Secretary of Defense, recalled that he had recently participated in the Haiti Democracy Project’s electoral-observation mission in Port-au-Prince as one of several government personnel seconded to election missions. The Department of Defense itself took no position on elections, but he understood that the U.S. government’s position on Mr. Bernard’s work was exactly the same as had been enunciated by Ambassador Joseph, namely that it wished Mr. Bernard would return as soon as possible as it was essential to hold the second round with minimal delay. He asked Mr. Bernard to specify what he needed in order to return.
Amb. Roberto Alvarez, the Dominican Republic’s representative to the OAS, expressed his government’s support for for the electoral process in Haiti and asked Mr. Bernard to lay out the conditions he would need in order to return and resume work on timely parliamentary elections.
Mr. Bernard replied that he could not work with two certain individuals on the commission, who were blocking the commission’s work from the inside. One represented a small political party that had received less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the vote; this person didn’t want a second election and was using delaying tactics. The other person was expressing pure personal ambition to be the president or controller of the CEP. Mr. Bernard recalled that he had taken away such control because as administrator he needed to run the operational structure. This person was on the commission as a representative of the Catholic Church.
His conditions, therefore, were that the two gentlemen be removed. In their position, they were destroying the process and had put his life in extreme danger. The mob which had invaded the Hotel Montana had portrayed him as a cheater.
He recalled that the count over which he was presiding had found that Preval was receiving 48.9 percent of the vote, as against 11.8 percent for the next contender. He recalled that the commission had invited Preval to monitor the count. The commission had the most modern means in place against fraud that had ever been used in Haiti. These means included the identity card and fingerprints; as well, the central tabulation center to which the ballots were brought, while still respecting the law requiring the posting of results at the departmental electoral bureaus (BEDs) and communal electoral bureaus (BECs).
Returning to ways to resume the process, Mr. Bernard noted three issues: 1. A delay of parliamentary elections; 2. Disposition of the two gentlemen; and (3) the challenge initiated by Leslie Manigat. In that regard, he noted that the government had recently removed recourse to the supreme court, and so the challenge could only be heard by the institution that had taken the adverse action itself, namely the electoral commission.
In response to a question from a Voice of America reporter, Mr. Bernard stated that civic education was the weakest part of vote preparation. He cited the weakness of training of the poll workers. For example, there was no need for them to sign all the ballots before opening, during which huge lines formed. They only needed to sign a few dozen and could continue to sign them during the day to stay ahead of the voters.
For the voting centers, they had created fifty annexes, and split five of them into two centers. It made ninety-eight changes in all. More changes were needed in the voting centers because the density of the people in them was a problem. The commission had visited 764 of 804 voting centers before the vote.
Asked his opinion of the method of counting of the blank ballots, he noted that there were some people who considered that a violation of the electoral decree. Since he was not a member of the electoral commission, he had not been among those who had made that decision. Since he still was an administrator of the commission, he could not comment on that decision of the commission.
He concluded by noting that Haiti had a new reality. It had a new president-elect, would have a new parliament. With good management, Haiti could achieve a great deal of progress.
The Haiti Democracy Project seminar on February 27, 2006 was chaired by Amb. Ernest H. Preeg, chairman of the project’s board of directors and former U.S. ambassador to Haiti.
Attending the seminar were:
- Ambassador of Haiti to the United States Raymond Joseph
- Ambassador of Haiti to the Organization of American States Duly Brutus
- Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the Organization of American States Roberto Alvarez
- Latin America program director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense John Merrill, and member of Haiti Democracy Project’s electoral-observation mission (Port-au-Prince)
- Belinda Bernard, U.S. Agency for International Development (in personal capacity)
- James Morrell, director of the Haiti Democracy Project and member of its recent electoral observation mission (Nord-Est)
- Gerald Gourdain of Beltsville, Md., Haiti Democracy Project and member of its electoral-observation mission (Nord-Est)
- Elmide Meleance of Hyattsville, Md., Haiti Democracy Project and member of its electoral-observation mission (Port-au-Prince)
- Paul Pumphrey, Brothers and Sisters International and member of the Haiti Democracy Project’s electoral observation mission (Nord)
The meeting was also attended by representatives of:
- International Foundation for Electoral Systems
- National Democratic Institute
- Partners for Peace
- Inter-American Dialogue
- United Nations Foundation
- Haiti Oye
- International Republican Institute
- Voice of America