PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (sentinel.ht) – Attorneys representing the three political parties disputing the preliminary presidential election results, which made Jovenel Moïse the presumptive president-elect of Haiti, abandoned the vote verification process initiated Tuesday afternoon. They are demanding the electoral council employ the assistance of two other government agencies to support their case, a motion the electoral council tribunal denied.
None the less, vote verification did continue through Thursday but without the presence of lawyers, Andre Michel, representing Jude Celestin of LAPEH, Evelt Fanfan and Newton St Juste, representing Jean-Charles Moïse of Pitit Dessalines, and Gervais Charles, representing Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas. They and other members of the counsel are essentially boycotting the proceedings. To the representation for Jovenel Moïse of PHTK, who hope to defend the results giving their client a first round victory, the plaintiffs are entering into a strategy of delay to deny the publishing of finalized election results, scheduled for December 29, 2016.
But representing the second, third and fourth placed candidates, according to the November 20, 2016 preliminary election results, the attorneys are demanding that the tribunal involve the National Office of Identification (ONI) and the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) in the audit of the election tally sheets, pwoseverbals (PVs). On Wednesday, they said the services of the former were needed to verify the identification card numbers of voters on the electoral rolls appended to corresponding PVs. They want the latter, which is similar to an FBI in Haiti, to verify voter fingerprints on the appended electoral rolls.
The auditing process has been proceeding very slowly with only three dozen PVs being reviewed after 2 days. That’s less than 3% of the sample of 12% of the whole. An audit of identification numbers and prints would further retard the process. But it seems to not be so much the pace, but more damaging for the motion was the plantiffs’ inability to have produced evidence to support the motion to include the assistance of the two agencies. The National Bureau of Electoral Disputes (BCEN) granted a recount based on issues raised with copies, 27 and 356 PVs of those held by candidates Celestin and J-C Moïse. Even though the copies have brought about cause for review of the count, they have not led to significant change of the vote or raised suspicion of massive fraud.
Common to the practice of law is the requirement of due diligence. Since the verbal tabulation process which took place immediately after polls closed on November 20 and up until the publication of preliminary results, November 28, filing (Dec. 1) and hearing of disputes (Dec. 7) and audit process (Dec. 20), perhaps a reasonable amount of time was available, that by due diligence, the complainants could have gathered some modicum of evidence for the motion asking for extra-institutional review.
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is unlikely to postpone the publication of finalized election results next Thursday based on the current state of the disputes process. Complainants will likely return to demonstrations, well before the 29th, for recourse but it is questioned among observers whether at their current intensity they can have an affect on the electoral process.