Less than one month before the scheduled Haitian elections, many are still skeptical that the elections will yield a new, constitutionally elected president.
It has been a year since the presidential elections that were meant to replace former President Michel Martelly took place in Haiti — elections that were ultimately postponed indefinitely amid riots, electoral violence, and fraud.
Even without the violence and corruption that surrounded the 2015 Haitian elections, electing a President in Haiti can be challenging. Haiti works on a two-round voting system, where a candidate needs to have a 51% vote in order to qualify as the winner. However, if no candidate receives a majority vote — which is mostly the case in a country like Haiti, where presidential elections have over 50 candidates — then there is a runoff election with the candidates that are closest to having the majority vote.
The Infamous 2015 Elections in Haiti
The original elections to replace Martelly were held on October 25th, 2015, but despite much international support and oversight, the elections were plagued with fraud and irregularities. The second round of elections — planned after no single candidate received a majority vote in the first round — were scheduled to occur in December.
However, given the high levels of politically motivated violence and protests surrounding these elections, the second round of voting was repeatedly postponed. A full new set of elections is now due to take place this year — on the 9th of October — in lieu of the second round of voting that never came after last October’s elections.
Despite the fact that the October 2015 elections yielded no successor to the Presidency of Haiti, former President Michel Martelly stepped down from office in February 2016. The parliament then selected Jocelerme Privert to be interim President for a period of 120 days.
At present, that period of time exired months ago, and yet Privert continues to be the current leader of Haiti. For a country that has the highest poverty rates in the Americas, the drawn out political turmoil that has extended out over the past year has placed further strains on the government’s ability to tackle poverty, work on development, and address human rights issues.
The Challenges and Risks of the Second Elections
As a result, the stakes are higher than ever for the October 9, 2016 elections. There are numerous challenges facing Haiti’s political climate that spell uncertainty for both Haitian citizens and investors interested in the country’s potential.
Most clear of all is the fact that, with only 20 people needed to form a political party in Haiti, the number of presidential candidates remains too high, and the likelihood of a runoff second election is all but certain.
There is, however, hope for a more positive outcome this time around. The Conseil Electoral Provisoire (CEP) — Haiti’s election agency responsible of overseeing all elections — has already accepted a set of recommendations to improve the transparency and efficiency of the upcoming elections.
The Organization of American States, who oversaw Haiti’s 2015 elections, provided the list of recommendations — which includes the adoption of a more efficient statistical-sample-based quick-count system for the votes, and a way to make preliminary results more readily available. Changes at the polling stations, as well as the system used to keep track of the voters list, are important in ensuring the coming elections are transparent and yield positive results.
With less than a month left before the long awaited elections are underway, it is important for Haiti to demonstrate a willingness and ability to carry out successful, transparent, and peaceful elections. The social, economic, and political problems that trouble every Haitian must be prioritized. If the country remains in a political gridlock, the most dire needs of the people of Haiti will remain neglected.