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Not So Fast! Haiti Election Results Still in Limbo as Official Says She Did Not Sign On

Georgianne Nienaber: Despite reports to the contrary, Haiti's electoral council has not approved a runoff election between candidates Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat.

Monday, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) issued a press release saying only 4 out of 8 of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) members signed the document determining which candidates should advance to the second round of Haiti's disputed and deeply flawed election results. This came in spite of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's high profile and breakneck visit to Haiti on Sunday January 30, and premature announcements by most international media that the election dispute was over and that the government of Rene Preval would accept the ruling by the Organization of American States that Michel Martelly and not the hand-picked Inite Party candidate, Jude Celestin, would join Mirlande Manigat in the run-off. Clinton, in the middle of managing the crisis in Egypt, finished interviews on the Sunday morning news shows and immediately flew to Haiti where she met with the three candidates and brought intense U.S. pressure to bear on the Haitian government to comply.

IDP Camp Across Street From Palace by Georgianne Nienaber

IJDH said that despite reports to the contrary, Haiti's electoral council has not approved a runoff election between candidates Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat.

Although CEP spokesman Richardson Dumel announced such a runoff on February 3, CEP member Ginette Chérubin stated that only four of the CEP's eight members approved the first round of elections in writing. Haiti's largest daily newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, has confirmed that four of the eight Council members did not approve the run-off decision.

Article 8 of the CEP's bylaws requires that the Council's decisions be made by an "absolute majority of its members." Therefore, a valid decision regarding the run-off would require five votes.

In an earlier "note or rectification", Chérubin said erroneous information reached foreign and Haitian press outlets on February 3 and that she did not sign the verification and that national sovereignty is at stake in the process.

I wish to make clear that, last February 03, I did not sign the document regarding the definitive results of the first round of the presidential and legislative elections of November 29, 2010. This clarification is important given the positions I have publicly expressed regarding a desirable proposed approach with the aim of finding a solution to the post-electoral crisis en Haiti. While I would not [or am not in a position to] contest the new rankings of the candidates of the presidential elections that reflect -" according to a critical mass of voters, observers and political analysts -" the vote of the greatest number; nevertheless, I consider that the approach used to make a definitive determination regarding the challenges [brought forward] has not exhausted the process that would have, in a spirit of probity, allowed to simultaneously reconcile: the taking into account, in a relative and appropriate manner, of the technical consultations provided by the Experts of the OAS ; the observance of Haiti's legislation (litigation followed by the verification of the tabulation, etc.) and, namely, the respect of national sovereignty.

Presidential Palace (Georgianne Nienaber)

Presidential Palace (Georgianne Nienaber)

This means that it's not over yet for the beleaguered Haitian people. Because Chérubin has stood up against enormous pressure from the United States, it is unclear whether the election will go forward with three or two candidates, or whether a new election will be ordered.

U.S. government revoked the visas of several Haitian officials close to President Préval, and implied that aid to Haiti would be cut off if the OAS ruling were not accepted.

The CEPR report of its independent recount of vote tally sheets from Haiti's November 28 election suggests the election is so fatally flawed as to nullify any possible attempt by "professional observers to certify the election results," said Mark Weisbrot, CEPR co-director and co-author of the report.

"The amount of votes not counted or counted wrong in this election is huge - much larger than has been reported by either the Organization of American States (OAS) or the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)," Weisbrot said in a press release.

The greatest flaws in the electoral process occurred before election day: the banning of over a dozen political parties from the ballot (including the most popular party), and the 'gargantuan task' of attempting to register 1.5 million internally displaced persons--a task that clearly was a resounding failure," the CEPR report says.

Study Summary by CEPR

Study Summary by CEPR

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If it matters in the end, CEPR's tally indicates Manigat leads with 6 % of registered voters, followed by Martelly at 4.3%, and Celestin with 4.1 %. In contrast, the Haitian Electoral Council (CEP) numbers for Manigat, Celestin and Martelly, which seemed to indicate widespread popularity, do not take into account that more than 70 % of registered voters did not vote. This is hardly representative of the will of the Haitian people

The OAS technical mission, at the request of the Haitian government conducted a re-count of the tally sheets. The OAS results mirrored those of the CEPR, but did not reach as deeply into irregularities and outright fraud.

We are in Haiti now, and to further complicate the political situation here, it is widely believed that former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return is imminent. Last night, over 300 people, responding to rumor, were at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport to welcome him.

The United States was instrumental when Aristide was removed from office in 2004. He has been in exile in Africa since then. .

Aristide, like former Dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, said he wants to return to help Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people.

According to the Haitian Press Agency (AHP) Aristide's passport problems should be resolved since his lawyer, in a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, applied for a renewal of his Haitian passport.

UN Troops on Sunday Outing at Haiti's Ruined Presidential Palace by Georgianne Nienaber

UN Troops on Sunday Outing at Haiti's Ruined Presidential Palace by Georgianne Nienaber

We got in touch with Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) a Washington, D.C. based think tank that conducted a parallel analysis of the OAS scrutiny of the election. When the erroneous results were released on February 3, Weisbrot called the whole deal an "undermining" of democracy in Haiti. Reacting to news of Aristide's return as inevitable, Weisbrot criticized U.S. meddling in Haitian affairs.

Aristide is coming back, that is his right under Haitian and international law. The world and the hemisphere have changed since the United States government overthrew him seven years ago; it is not so easy for Washington to choose who will govern other countries as it has been in the past, as we are witnessing in Egypt.

IJDH notes that the current runoff controversy is the result of trying to create a "good" result from the deeply flawed November28 elections in Haiti. "IJDH supports the efforts of many Haitian civil society groups and political parties, joined by the Congressional Black Caucus and several U.S. human rights groups in calling for new, inclusive elections as the only practical solution to Haiti's election crisis," according to the press release.

georgianne nienaber

An important caveat that is as intangible as the collective will of the Haitian people is the feeling that if and when Aristide returns, whomever he anoints will win the election.

Visit the pancaked Presidential Palace and residents of the IDP camp across the street will greet you kindly and remind you that the ruined structure is the "devil's palace."

Georgianne Nienaber

Author Spotlight: Georgianne Nienaber