Haiti: Peaceful, free and credible elections to end the political crisis

Press release
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(Port-au-Prince) Haiti is mired in a worrying political crisis following irregularities found in the parliamentary and presidential elections held on 25 October 2015, which led to their rejection by the opposition, violent protests and, on two occasions, the postponement of the second round of the presidential elections.

Our organisations urge outgoing president Michel Martelly to stand down from office by the deadline prescribed by the Constitution, 7 February. We also call upon the political parties to, at the earliest opportunity, come to an agreement on the holding of peaceful, free and credible elections to avoid a triple crisis: political, institutional, and security.

Despite the fact that the conditions for holding a free and credible election had not yet been met, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) ratified the results of the elections of 25 October, from which Juvenel Moise, candidate of the ruling party, emerged as the winner, beating his opponent Jude Celestin. The organisations tasked with monitoring the elections made up of Haitian NGOs, including the RNDDH, concluded that there had been substantial irregularities.

In this context, the ruling party and the international community, by means of the Core Group, called for the second round of the general elections to be held on 24 January, as they had already been postponed once from 27 December 2015. Meanwhile the opposition candidate had announced his intention to boycott the elections, which he called an "electoral state coup". The political crisis worsened after the CEP made it known that the second round was to go ahead despite the fact that, at the beginning of January, an Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission reported that serious irregularities had taken place during the first round, and had found that the conditions for a second round could not yet be met.

Political tension reached a critical point when, a few days before the appointed date for the second round, violent fighting broke out on the streets of Port-au-Prince between opposition forces and the police; one person was hit by a bullet and much damage was done. A number of journalists, including Mrs Liliane Pierre Paul, were subject to threats and libellous campaigns on the part of high state officials because of the way she covered the crisis in the media. The fear of an outbreak of violence was such that, on 22 January, the CEP took the decision to postpone the second round of the presidential elections indefinitely.

The current situation gives rise to fears that a lengthy political crisis could create an institutional vacuum marked by the absence of a president. However, the country needs robust democratic institutions that enjoy the trust of Haitian citizens in order to tackle to the big economic, social, humanitarian, and human rights challenges it still faces, six years after the earthquake that devastated the country and left 300 000 dead.

A FIDH mission visited Haiti from 24 to 30 January 2016 to lend support to its member organisations, the RNDDH and the CEDH, during meetings held with the diplomatic representatives of France, the USA, Canada, Switzerland, the European Union, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, and numerous associations representing Haitian civil society.

In light of the current political crisis and the risk of the institutional paralysis, which might well lead to a new cycle of violence, our organisations appeal to the Haitian authorities and the political parties to act with moderation, avoid inflammatory speeches, and call upon their supporters to remain calm during demonstrations.

Similarly, our organisations appeal to the Haitian political parties to work towards ending the crisis and averting the dangers of an institutional vacuum. One way might lie in setting up a consensus transitionary regime, charged with organising, as soon as possible, a second round of presidential elections in peaceful, free, and credible conditions. In order to legitimise this process, our organisations recommend that the CEP be reactivated, that the recommendations set down by the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission be complied with, and that an independent body check the votes cast during the first round.

FIDH, the RNDDH and the CEDH urge the international community and, in particular, the Core Group to back the holding of credible multi-party elections which respect the choices of Haitian voters, and recall that the country’s need for stability is such that it cannot forgo an election process which Haitians in general find satisfactory.

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