A Statement by the Haiti Democracy Project
on the Recent Haitian Elections and the Democratic Course Ahead
Two voting lines in Ouanaminthe on election day. Photo by Kathie Scarrah
The Haiti Democracy Project applauds the Haitian people for their outstanding participation in the recent elections, deplores the premature awarding of the presidential election to a candidate who had not received the required 50 percent, and pledges renewed efforts to support and strengthen the democratic process in Haiti.
The determined participation of the Haitian people, rich and poor and in all regions, in free and open elections is the principal and overriding positive result of the elections. They stood proudly in line for hours to cast their ballots. There was a minimum of violence and political pressures at polling stations. The voter turnout of 1.3 million, or 63 percent of registered voters, was an extraordinary accomplishment given the enormous logistical and administrative problems in organizing elections in this very poor country of mountainous terrain. The highly successful elections, moreover, augur well for future elections, especially with continued technical and financial support from the international community.
Unfortunately, the election outcome was marred by the expedient of prorating blank ballots among presidential candidates, in explicit violation of provisions in the Haitian electoral law. This outcome was doubly troubling because René Préval, with 49 percent of the total vote, compared with only 11 percent for the runner-up, would almost certainly have won a sizable majority and uncontested mandate in the second round. The Haiti Democracy Project believes that Haiti would have been better served if the interim government and the international community had properly investigated allegations of fraud and followed the electoral law which called for a second round between the top two candidates if no presidential candidate achieved a majority. The change in vote-counting procedure was the result of mob pressure and threats against election officials by a relatively small number of people from different political groups, which nevertheless intimidated the U.N. special representative, the interim Haitian government, and ultimately the international community, including the United States, into declaring Préval the first-round winner.
Nevertheless, the Haiti Democracy Project is dedicated to continued support for the democratic process in Haiti, both for political and economic reforms within Haiti and for technical and financial assistance from the international community. A priority objective is to reach out to the Haitian-American community of over one million so as to encourage and facilitate their positive participation in building a more democratic and economically prosperous Haiti. For example, Haitian-Americans provided the majority of the fifteen-member observation mission we deployed in Haiti for the first round.
We are encouraged by our initial exchanges with close advisers to President-elect Préval, and we urge close and constructive collaboration among his government, the newly-elected legislature, and the Haitian private sector and civil society.
Our interest is to look forward rather than backward, and to do our best to assist the Haitian government and people. The motivating concept for all involved should be that of reconciliation, as most eloquently stated by Haiti?s most revered poet and political thinker, Jacques Roumain:
La réconciliation, la réconciliation
Pour que la vie recommence,
Pour que le jour se lPve sur la rosée.
Haiti Democracy Project observation of February 7 elections: