PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 04/24/2006 -- On April 21, 2006, Haitians took another step in their path toward democracy. The holding of credible and well-organized elections, which were conducted in a context of overall security, accurately reflected the will of the Haitian people.
The International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections (IMMHE) salutes and congratulates those Haitians who voted in a democratic manner at the second round of the legislative elections. Both election officials and election workers were able to build on the experience acquired during the first round and make many necessary improvements to the electoral process. These elections, administered primarily by Haitians themselves, deserve the full recognition of their fellow citizens and of the international community.
In this regard, we wish to congratulate the Executive Director of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Mr. Jacques Bernard, and his team, who worked tirelessly from the first round to ensure a smooth election process, as well as CEP Chair Max Mathurin and the Council's other members. We would further like to draw attention to the significant contributions of all stakeholders and partners of the CEP, including the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), in particular for its support to logistics and the technical coordination required for the compilation of votes, as well as the Organization of American States for assisting with the production of electoral lists and for its expertise at the Vote Tabulation Centre (CTV).
Above all, we wish to highlight the professional attitude of thousands of election workers across all of Haiti's departments. Many of our observers found that their performance had improved since the first round. Their contribution was a key factor in the good conduct of the electoral process.
This statement is based on our findings to date regarding the second round of legislative elections. Since the electoral cycle is not yet complete, we are continuing our observation activities, notably those related to the processing of minutes and the compilation of results, which, according to our preliminary observations, appear to be running smoothly and are well advanced at the CTV in Port-au-Prince.
The work accomplished by our experts and observers has shown that major improvements were made for the second-round legislative elections, and for the resumption of first-ballot voting in one department, for the election of three senators, and in 14 electoral districts for the election of deputies. These improvements include:
- making it easier to complete the minutes by, among other things, incorporating polling station ID and candidates' names on the form - having only the polling station vice-president sign the ballots as the vote progressed - adding new annexes to the largest polling centres - recruiting more than 3,000 election officers and ensuring effective roles for supervisors and managers - posting the partial electoral lists at the entrances of polling stations as well as the alphabetical listing of electors' names - enhancing training for election workers - clarifying procedures and improving vote counting materials - enhancing logistics and results transmission operations at the CTV, especially with respect to the transmission of sensitive election materials - implementing new security measures (Haitian National Police and MINUSTAH)
Together these improvements contributed to polls opening on schedule and facilitated the delivery of the elections, which in turn generally enabled electors to exercise their right to vote in a safe and peaceful environment. While the vote largely proceeded in a calm and orderly fashion, we did note a number of problems that should not be overlooked. Among these, the following need to be addressed in time for the next elections:
- Even though they had their national ID cards, some electors who had voted at the first round were unable to do so at the second round because their names were not on the preliminary electoral lists. This was partially due to the enforcement of section 196 of the Electoral Decree prohibiting any amendments to the said lists between the two rounds. - Half of the polling stations we visited did not have enough seals to safeguard against ballot box tampering. - There were no nationwide information or civic education campaigns promoting the importance of the legislative elections and encouraging electors to vote. The "Dialogue avec le CEP" show and MINUSTAH's program reached only a limited audience. - Political parties did not adequately promote their candidates or encourage their party activists to vote, which may explain lower voter turnout at the second round. - Quite a few political party representatives and certain candidates did not respect the guidelines issued by election officials. For example, the presence of more than three representatives in polling stations.
We deeply regret any casualties and outbreaks of violence. In this regard, we deplore the unacceptable incidents that transpired in certain departments, such as the assault and intimidation of electors and election workers by armed individuals, the fraud committed by a handful of people, and the destruction of a (negligible) amount of election supplies. That being said, there were only 10 or so isolated incidents to report for some 9,000 polling stations. We wish to focus on the overall absence of intimidation and violence at the polling centres.
The experience gained from the current electoral process shows just how important it is to have an efficient, permanent and professional electoral commission that can rely on sufficient resources, and maintain archives and files enabling it to credibly address the requirements of Haiti's elections as needed. Haiti's electoral legislation should also provide for the division of powers and responsibilities among election authorities. This would confer the permanent electoral council with the key mandate of establishing rules and policies. The electoral administration would report to the council, recommend and enforce policy, and implement related programs.
Founded in June 2005, the IMMHE is led by a Steering Committee chaired by Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley. It is composed of representatives of the independent electoral commissions of eight countries: Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and the United States. The Mission began its fieldwork last August, and since that time 20 IMMHE long-term observers have been deployed in each of Haiti's departments. In addition, since April 18, 2006, 130 short-term observers coming from Canada, the CARICOM countries and Japan have been covering the elections and the vote count in 489 polling centres (61%) and 1,381 polling stations (15%) across the country.
Our Mission has a mandate to monitor, based on specific criteria, all aspects of election administration and the electoral process, including the legal framework, party and voter registration, voter education and information, fair media access, vote counting, results compilation, and the complaints process before and after the event. The full monitoring protocol and analysis criteria are available to the public on the Mission's Web site (www.mieeh-immhe.ca).
The IMMHE's approach is one of accompaniment. We have established close ties with the CEP and its executive director, in addition to sharing our observations and analyses on a regular basis. As part of this role we also proposed specific recommendations to electoral administration for the second round. These recommendations are outlined in a supplementary report that was published on April 6, 2006; it is accessible through our Web site.
A more comprehensive progress report on the second round will be made available in the coming weeks. It will make specific recommendations for the continued improvement of the electoral process already well underway.
On April 21, 2006, the Haitian people have marked another important milestone on the road to democracy. We congratulate them for this. Haitians must continue to move forward by building on the electoral experience gained thus far.