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Council Missteps Risk Derailing Critical Haiti Elections, Again

Samuel Maxime

Editor-in-Chief

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (sentinel.ht) – A series of actions by the electoral council, during the period of electoral disputes, have departed from the Electoral Decree, case law and practice according to attorneys for the plaintiffs. On Wednesday, all three counsels representing the disputing presidential candidates pulled their files from the court, saying it is left to the streets to determine the election outcomes.

BCEN mistrials, forwards cases to CEP

The number of offenses claimed by the complainants are plenty but the main ones, which appear to have some practical if not legal grounding, can be summed up in two parts:

1. At the Departmental and National Bureau of Disputes (BCED and BCEN), officials had established the tribunals in the absence of the disputing parties.

Tribunals are mounted by randomly drawing names from lists provided by the Bar of Port-au-Prince and Deans of Magistrates, but on two occasions, at the departmental and national level, the parties arrived at the hearings with a tribunal already seated.

2. In both the departmental and national bureaus, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has mandated one tribunal to manage the three separate cases.

Carlos Hercule, an electoral councilor who presided over Wednesday’s hearing, said that the CEP considers all three presidential disputes to be the same and therefore can be adjudicated by one tribunal. This assertion is opposed by the plaintiffs who believe it is part of a machination by the council to not hear their disputes fairly.

According to the attorneys, a single tribunal hearing all cases violates the Electoral Decree in effect. At the Haiti Sentinel, we found the statute in question open to interpretation, yet, we can at least confirm that such a measure has not ever occurred throughout our six years of reporting on Haiti politics.

Candidates must pay monies on the order of $12,000 [USD] in order to challenge an election result. They must do so at the deparmental level and again at the national level. It deserves noting that the disputing candidates did not pool funds together for their challenge but each paid separately and filed separately.

It also deserves noting that the requirement to bring the case forward at the departmental level first has, in nearly every case, been futile, pointless and unproductive as departmental bureaus usually result in “incompetence” for not being able to adjudicate on matters of a national consequence.

Candidates have made their payments and filed their disputes within the 72-hour windows at both levels but the process has not proceeded. Trouble at the departmental notwithstanding, the BCED claimed incompetence thus the cases were refiled for the BCEN. The narrative in Haiti is that it is on the CEP’s end that missteps in the process has led to the “BCEN is destroyed”, declared attorney Reynold Georges in an interview Thursday.

After plaintiffs departed from the courtroom on Wednesday, the tribunal still proceeded with “hearing” the cases and judged itself incompetent. It forwarded the files to the CEP.

Mr. Georges represents the “defendant” or winning candidate, Jovenel Moïse, who is the presumptive President-elect of Haiti according to the preliminary results published November 28, 2016. Mr. Georges said that the CEP would, none the less, announce its finalized results on December 29, 2016, whether or not the cases are heard. This declaration has been taken as provocation by opponents and risks inflaming protests, already ongoing, in the streets.

By our analysis, it appears the plaintiffs are bringing up disputes that demand an audit of tabulation sheets, pwosevebals, if they are to be addressed. It would only be speculation to say that the CEP, now late in a thus far peaceful electoral process, is taking actions alleged to be outside of the Electoral Decree in order to prevent an audit.

Time is running short, demands for the audit remain, and it appears those avoiding the verification are gambling that the clock would bring a political end and acceptance of the disputed election results.

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About The Author

Samuel Maxime is a Haitian-born citizen living in the United States. He founded The Haiti Sentinel to bring Haitian issues to an English language audience.