Preliminary Statement of Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Head of the Canadian Mission for Accompanying Haitian Elections (CMAHE), on the December 3, 2006, Elections
On December 3, 2006, the election authorities met the challenge of organizing complex elections within the prescribed time frame, enabling Haitians, for the first time in 20 years, to freely exercise their democratic right to elect members of local and municipal administrations.
Since the presidential and legislative elections of February 7, 2006, the CMAHE has witnessed consistent and significant improvements in the conduct of Haiti's elections. The CMAHE specifically notes the increased role played by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), and in particular by Executive Director Jacques Bernard, who assumed overall responsibility for organizing the elections of December 3, 2006. The CMAHE also acknowledges the assistance provided by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) – most notably in the areas of logistics, transportation and security – and the Organization of American States (OAS) for assisting in the preparation of voters lists and providing expertise to the Vote Tabulation Centre (CTV). The election authorities built on the lessons learned from the first two rounds of presidential and legislative elections in order to ensure a smooth election process.
The CMAHE salutes the professionalism, dedication and exemplary behaviour of election workers across the country. Their contribution was once again instrumental in ensuring the good conduct of the election process.
Above all, the CMAHE wishes to congratulate the electors who went to their respective polling centres to exercise their franchise and elect the leaders of their local and municipal administrations. It is important to bear in mind that the elections of December 3, 2006, included the first local and municipal elections conducted under the Constitution of 1987 and, in this regard, electors' participation is a positive achievement in Haiti's path to democracy.
This statement is based on the CMAHE's findings to date. The Mission is continuing its observation work, notably with respect to the processing of minutes and the compilation of results. In this regard, the CMAHE found that the CTV was well prepared for an efficient and transparent vote compilation process.
As in the past, it would now be advisable for the CEP to continue to release the election results without delay, and as they are being compiled. This is a crucial element of the credibility and transparency of the process.
A positive assessment
The CMAHE wishes to underline the complexity of the current elections, in which some 29,000 candidates in 8,019 districts ran for approximately 8,820 positions as city delegates, mayors and members of communal section assemblies (ASECs) and communal section administration boards (CASECs). These elections also included a repeat of the second round for three senatorial positions in the departmental electoral office (BED) of the North East, as well as elections for 11 deputies. The CMAHE notes a number of positive points regarding the election process, including:
- the CEP's delivery of the elections in general accordance with the Electoral Decree
- the quality of training provided by the CEP, at both national and departmental levels, to members of the BEDs and communal electoral offices (BECs) as well as to election staff (managers, supervisors and polling station members)
- the experience acquired in the first two rounds of elections by the vast majority of election workers across the country and their dedication and exemplary conduct
- the overall proper conduct of the vote and vote-counting process;
- the logistical and security-related work carried out by MINUSTAH and its partners, the United Nations Police and the Haitian National Police
- the technical support provided by the OAS, primarily in terms of updating electoral and CTV databases
Specific observations and next steps
While the CMAHE notes that the elections generally proceeded in an orderly fashion, it nonetheless identifies a number of problems in election preparations and delivery and denounces some isolated incidents. The following points are notable:
- The large number of political party representatives at certain polling stations, some of which were located in confined areas, hindered electors' access to the polls. In this regard, it would be important to find a solution to ensure that candidates' right to representation at polling sites in no way impedes electors' exercise of their right to vote.
- There was an absence of helpful signage at polling centres to inform electors of what to do and how to mark their ballots for each of the elections.
- The voter education campaigns targeting Haitian electors got off to a late start, were poorly funded and had limited impact.
- Incidents of violence erupted at some of the polling centres in the departments of Artibonite, the North, Grande-Anse, the West, the South and the South East. These fundamentally anti-democratic and unacceptable incidents must be condemned by all. Nonetheless, the CMAHE is pleased to note that these were isolated events that did not undermine the overall proper conduct of the elections.
Once the CEP has completed the compilation of the results and releases them, the complaints process will get underway. Some 800 people have been trained by the CEP to carry out duties at the 142 communal electoral dispute offices in accordance with the Electoral Decree.
Haiti's current election cycle represents a significant advance on the road to democracy, thanks to the will of the people as well as political actors and election administrators. Haitians must now protect their gains and build on the work accomplished to date. The following recommendations, like those outlined in the reports of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections (IMMHE) on the previous rounds, should be given immediate priority:
- establish a permanent electoral council that is legitimate and efficient, with powers divided between the council's political and administrative bodies, whereby the administrative body would be invested with the expertise and resources needed to organize elections
- develop countrywide campaigns to inform and sensitize citizens, in addition to incorporating civic education into school programs, with a view to reinforcing Haitians' commitment to democratic values and their political system
- strengthen political party involvement in Haiti's democratic life, notably by helping political parties contribute to consolidating the country's electoral process. This could include training programs for members of political parties, party representatives and elected members at the local level
- clarify the electoral legislation so that it fully reflects both reality and the Haitian Constitution
- establish a permanent procedure for revising voters lists and distributing national ID cards in order to ensure the usefulness and efficiency of the registration process for future elections
The CMAHE is carrying on from the IMMHE and has been on the ground since mid-October, with 22 observers deployed in pairs across the country's 10 departments. The CMAHE regularly shared its observations with both the CEP as well as all levels of the election administration on all aspects of the December 3, 2006, elections, including preparations of the electoral process, the conduct of the vote, vote compilation and the beginning of the complaints process. The CMAHE's mandate is an integral part of Canada's significant contribution to Haiti's long-term development. The Mission will continue its monitoring work until mid-December 2006.
In the coming weeks, the CMAHE will publish an exhaustive report on the elections of December 3, 2006, which will include recommendations for ongoing improvements of the electoral process.