Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS, and Chairman of The Permanent Council of the OAS
I have the honor to write to you to request convening an extraordinary session of the Permanent Council to present an updated “Status Report of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission to Haiti” no later than Wednesday, January 27. This request is made in accordance with Article 24, paragraph 3 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states, “Electoral Observation missions shall present a report on their activities in a timely manner to the Permanent Council through the General Secretariat.” In addition, I would like to inform you your Excellency that in direct conversations I recently maintained with Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, he expressed the urgent need for the extraordinary session to take place under the terms established in Article 17 of the aforementioned document.
As your Excellency is aware, the OAS has had an Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) deployed in Haiti since August 2015, when it observed the first round of the legislative elections which tool place on August 9. Subsequently, on October 25, 2015 three sets of elections occurred: the first round of the presidential, the run-off for most of the legislative elections and the first round for municipal/local offices. The OAS/EOM duly observed these elections and, as with the elections of August 9, issued a preliminary statement on the process and conclusion of these elections.
The credibility of both the processes and the electoral authority were questioned. Low levels of electoral participation, mounting levels of tension, polarization and violence, an excessive delay in announcing official results and pervasive presence of party representatives in voting stations, are some of the elements that eroded candidates and voters’ credibility in the process. Regarding the electoral authority’s credibility, the successive resignation of some of its members played an important part in undermining CEP’s role as an impartial and technical body with the capacity to conduct and oversee the electoral processes taking place in the country.
Ahead of the original date of the presidential and legislative runoffs (December 27) and in the midst of street protests and allegations of fraud, President Michel Martelly ordered the creation of an Electoral Evaluation Commission to analyze the country's electoral process and issue recommendations to ensure transparency and help restore the electoral process’ credibility. The plural commission consisted of five individuals plus an observer named by the Executive. In the few days it was granted to complete the mission entrusted to it, the Electoral Evaluation Commission concluded that the ￼electoral process had to be improved and suggested a series of immediate measures to be taken for the continuity of the electoral processes underway in the country. The Provisional Electoral Council implemented some of these recommendations but others were ignored.
The run-offs of the presidential elections and for the remainder of legislative elective posts planned for December 27, 2015 were postponed to January 24, 2016. However, on January 22, 2016, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) decided to suspend the presidential run-off scheduled for January 24 "in the face of a deteriorating security environment and threats to the electoral process.” This means your Excellency that current Haitian President Michel Martelly will not be able to conduct a constitutional transfer of power as scheduled for February 7, 2016. Lack of a new date for elections to be held, absence of credible conditions for those elections to take place, increasing levels of tension, street mobilizations and violence, successive resignations of CEP members and lack of agreement on a transition government pose a serious impact on the continuity of Haiti’s democratic order.
Unfortunately, this situation is not the exception in Haiti’s recent political history. This battered country has experienced electoral crises too often. Legitimate transfers of power as a result of electoral processes have been constantly under risk given the irregularities and dubious conditions under which these take place. Not only is the continuity of the democratic order put into question but citizen’s trust in democratic institutions, politicians and democracy itself are also hard-hit.
Despite the critical situation Haiti is facing, it is absolutely necessary we contribute to mold a democratic solution out of this conundrum. In that regard, a representative and plural transition government with a pre-established exit date should be constituted. The legitimacy and sustainability of this transition government will be guaranteed with the participation and commitment of all major political and social stakeholders. One of the immediate purposes of this transition government is to restore political and social stability to the country and to build minimum trust between political actors. From this standpoint, the transition government will then need to work on improving conditions to restore the electoral process and authority’s credibility.
Confronted with these electoral and political developments in the country, the OAS’ General Secretariat and its Electoral Observation Mission have adopted a neutral, professional and impartial position. I am pleased and extremely proud to have received international and domestic acknowledgements for the high-quality, professional and technical work we have carried out in Haiti. We will continue in this path promoting the adoption of new technical conditions geared towards improving electoral participation and the vote count. It is of utmost importance we collaborate with our local partners to shield and strengthen the electoral process in a three-pronged approach: institutional engineering, legal framework and technical measures. Our engagement with Haiti and its people will continue to be guided by a collaborative and constructive spirit, a commitment to safeguarding their political rights and the ultimate purpose of contributing to strengthening that country’s electoral democracy as the only legitimate.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC ￼