Webmaster’s note: We failed to report this at the time, in April. Here is a report of the Canadian-led International Mission for the Monitoring of Haitian Elections,

From the mission’s supplementary report on the Haitian elections:

“The CEP adopted a specific procedure for compiling blank ballots for the presidential election. The Constitution provides that the president, senators and deputies are elected by an absolute majority of votes cast (ss. 90.1, 94.2, 134). Under the Electoral Decree, the president, senators and deputies are elected by an absolute majority of votes received in the first round, that is, 50 percent plus one of the valid votes cast (ss. 75, 81, 87). Under section 185 of the Electoral Decree, however, unmarked ballots are deemed valid and are compiled. In a two-round, absolute majority electoral system, compiling blank ballots creates the possibility of it being mathematically impossible for a candidate to obtain an absolute majority of votes in the second round, which runs counter to the Constitution. Within this legal framework, the CEP made the right decision by pro-rating the blank ballots based on the number of votes received by each presidential candidate. This approach, which nullifies the effect of the blank ballots on the percentage received by each candidate, ensured compliance with the Constitution, which is the fundamental law of the country. The IMMHE also notes that this approach is in keeping with general international practice, although there are a few exceptions, such as in Colombia, where blank votes must, nevertheless, be expressly marked by the voter.”

Commission’s full report

Comment by Haiti Democracy Project:

Article 185 of the electoral law says that ballots not showing any choice are valid and countable. The full text of the article follows:

Article 185.- Sont valides et comptabilisés, les bulletins de votes marqués d’une croix, d’un « X » ou de tout autre signe indiquant de façon non équivoque l’intention de l’électeur de voter dans l’espace (cercle, photo, emblème) réservé au candidat.

Sont aussi valides et comptabilisés les bulletins ne comportant aucun choix.

Sont déclarés nuls les bulletins sur lesquels le Bureau ne peut pas reconnaître l’intention ou la volonté politique de l’électeur.

Click here to read the entire electoral law.

There is absolutely no provision that allows ballots not showing any choice of candidate to then be allocated to a candidate, under any scheme of apportionment whatsoever. The decision of the electoral commission to prorate the ballots among presidential candidates, in order to bump Preval up from 49 to 50 percent, was plainly illegal and manipulative. It was heavily influenced  by the violence and pressure of pro-Preval demonstrators, the hoary go-with-the-winner tradition which weighed heavily with members of the electoral commission, and the pressure of the international community to come to closure.

The price Haiti pays for this illegal procedure appears again and again. It began with the resignation of a highly qualified senatorial winner, Myrlande Manigat, in protest against this illegality which victimized her husband, who would have had another chance (however remote) in the legally-required second round. It continued with threats and pressure against the capable electoral administrator, Jacques Bernard, forcing him temporarily to leave the country. Those members of the electoral commission like Patrick Fequiere who joined in the pressure against Bernard, having succeeded in throwing the election prematurely to Preval, continue to this day with various illegal schemes to tamper with regional elections to the benefit of candidates of Preval’s party, Lespwa.

The price is compounded as the pro-Aristide gangs who helped mobilize the demonstrators against the electoral commission in February now publicly claim credit for putting Preval in power and demand their due from him. By allowing gangs a role in politics in this way, we merely make them that much more difficult to extirpate, thus threatening to choke off Haiti’s opportunity for recovery.

As the Haiti Democracy Project noted at the time, Preval’s enormous margin of victory in the first round assured him an easy and totally legal win over runner-up Manigat, who finished with 11 percent. In the interests of Haiti going forward with as legitimate a government as possible, the Haiti Democracy Project accepts Preval’s victory as president as broadly reflecting the will of the voters as evidenced by his 49-plus percent of the vote, as against the next candidate’s 11 percent. The election, although needlessly flawed by the illegal allotment, nevertheless produced a valid result in producing a government broadly acceptable to major sectors.

Although the Canadian-led International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections did a superb job of coverage on election day, which conduced importantly to the overall positive result, nevertheless it erred by endorsing illegality. Other qualified observers’ organizations, such as the International Foundation for Election Systems, rejected the illegality. This shows the value of independent, nongovernmental electoral observation. The IMMHAE was heavily government-funded and -administered. Once the United States, Canada, Brazil, OAS, and other international actors all decided to go along with the manipulation, a certain inevitability attached to the decision, which the IMMHAE reflected rather than resisted.

In its commentary the IMMHAE noted that the CEP continued to count the blank ballots in the normal, legal way for all the other races. But rather than take this as an additional proof of why the presidential election, too, should have been counted legally, the IMMHAE in a quest for conformity called on the electoral commission to apply the prorate scheme to all the other elections in the country, too!