Update on Haiti’s Presidential Election
by Susan Watkins, Haiti Ministry Leader
Will Haiti’s New President Be Sworn in February 7th as the Constitution Demands?
On February 7, 2016, Haiti’s current president, Michel Martelly is constitutionally required to turn the government over to his successor (as he has reached his term limit). Problem is, there isn’t a successor … at least, not yet.
The current presidential election cycle started in August 2015 at which time 54 candidates began campaigning for the country’s most influential position. Preliminary voting took place on on October 25, 2015, in what American’s would consider a primary. The purpose of that election was to narrow the race down to the top two finishers who would then face a run-off election on December 27th. Unfortunately, the results of the October election are still being disputed, so the December election still hasn’t taken place.
Despite exit polls to the contrary, the top finisher in the “primary” was government-backed candidate Jovenèl Moïse (32.81%), hand-picked by outgoing President Martelly as his political successor. Second-place finisher, Jude Célestin (25.27%), refused to accept the official results, claiming wide-spread fraud and corruption, and he and seven other candidates banded together to form the Group of 8 (G8) to oppose the results. [Note: Voter turnout was significantly lower than in past elections, due not only to fears of intimidation and violence, but also apathy toward a government that has prevented any elections from occurring in the past 4 years.]
Since that time, there have been multiple reviews of the election and its results by the international community as well as the Haitian government, with widely varying conclusions. Finally, on December 22nd, Martelly agreed to the creation of an independent investigative commission, whose conclusion would be definitive. On January 3rd, this commission released its report, concluding “that the October 25 vote was indeed marked by ‘grave irregularities’ that were ‘akin to fraud’.” The Commission concluded that these irregularities required a response from the nation’s authorities, but did not constitute a reason to halt the election process, noting that compromise needed to be reached, “knowing that there are no perfect solutions in the present circumstances.”
On Wednesday, January 6, President Martelly delivered a Message to the Nation in which he affirmed that he will transfer power on February 7 (he’s been ruling by decree since January 2015). The same day, he issued an executive order setting the date for the second round of presidential elections for January 24. Subsequently, on January 7, Jude Célestin announced that he refused to participate in the second round of the presidential election if the date of January 24th stands, since it does not give him 30 days in which to campaign (he quit all campaigning upon forming the G8). While his opponent, Jovenèl Moïse has been actively campaigning throughout, Jude Célestin has taken to the airways (radio) to condemn the current administration, which may in fact be his method of campaigning after all.
So the election is set for January 24th. When you ask Haitians if they think it will happen, they shrug their shoulders and say, “We’ll see.” As of yet, there is no sign of preparations being made. No polling stations being set up, etc. Pastor Samuel is extremely doubtful it will happen. So what will that mean for Haiti? A transitional government? Possibly. We too will have to wait and see.