WASHINGTON - Haiti's elections, which were fraught with widespread irregularities and the arbitrary exclusion of political parties, should be rejected by the international community, Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research said today.
"From the banning of the country's most popular party from the ballot to election day irregularities including numerous reports of ballot stuffing and the disenfranchisement of numerous eligible voters, these elections were an obvious farce from start to finish," Weisbrot said.
Twelve presidential candidates and thousands of demonstrators called for the elections to be canceled on Sunday.
"The international community should reject these elections and affirm support for democratic institutions in Haiti," Weisbrot added. "Otherwise, Haiti could be left with a government that is widely seen as illegitimate."
Weisbrot recommended that Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) be replaced so that new elections that would include all eligible political parties, and gain the respect of the population, could be held.
CEPR policy analyst Alex Main was in Haiti to observe what took place on election day, and witnessed numerous irregularities, including what appeared to be a stuffed ballot box at one location. Main noted that turnout appeared low at polling locations he visited, which would be consistent with official voter registration data for some areas. In Cite Soleil, for example - a Fanmi Lavalas party stronghold with a population of around 300,000 -- less than 100,000 people were registered to vote.
"It is clear that the sentiment here is that the international community should have done something to provide for people's basic needs, such as shelter, drinkable water and sanitation, and get some of the other life-threatening conditions -- including the cholera outbreak -- under control, before trying to hold elections," Main said. "The procedural illegitimacy has made this skepticism of the elections even stronger."
The elections were widely decried as unfair long before election day. The CEP's arbitrary exclusion of over a dozen political parties - including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas - was condemned by 45 members of the U.S. Congress; Senator Richard Lugar, the most influential Republican Senator on foreign affairs; dozens of aid and policy NGO's; and others. Numerous major media outlets including the New York Times, Financial Times, CNN, Reuters, AP, and others reported many instances of irregularities throughout election day, including registered voters whose names did not appear on voter lists and apparent attempts at ballot stuffing. The New York Times reported that less than half of requisite voter registration cards were believed to have been distributed ahead of the elections. Several violent incidents also marred the electoral process, with media reports of at least two people killed on election day.
Main noted that in all of the polling locations he visited around Port-au-Prince and neighboring Carrefour there were people who wished to vote but were unable to do so since they did not appear on voter rolls. Media reports described numerous similar incidents, such as at the polling location for Camp Corail, which houses over 7,500 people yet had only 39 registered names on the voter roll.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.