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#2280: Haiti Election Bulletin (fwd)

From: Torie Keller <Torie@ifes.org>

International Foundation for Election Systems
February 10, 2000

This Haiti Election Bulletin is the first of periodic election-related updates that will be disseminated in the weeks leading up to Haiti's local and legislative elections.  The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) maintains an office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and has provided technical assistance to Haiti's electoral authorities since 1990.  Questions or comments may be directed to Torie Keller at torie@ifes.org or by phone at (202) 828-8507.

Voter Registration turnout has been very good thus far.  Unofficial reports show that more than 900,000 people had received their cards as of February 4, 2000.  There have been some isolated instances of violence in which the registration materials were destroyed, but the process is going smoothly and peacefully in the majority of the registration sites that have opened.

Notably, the majority of the citizens turning out to register are women.

Due to some logistical mishaps, there have been instances where either no materials or the wrong materials were distributed to the registration sites.  The Provisional Election Council (CEP) is working to rectify these issues and get the materials properly distributed.  

Additional materials are being purchased to replace those that were destroyed and to cover the needs of the new registration sites around the country.  The CEP may be able to cover a percentage of these costs.

IFES has received reports that the card production is going much faster than expected.  The total time to produce one card has been five minutes on average.  In some areas there was a high rate of materials spoilage at the beginning of the process, due to either a lack of training or to a lack of hands-on experience with the cameras.  The spoilage rate appears to be tapering off as the process continues. 

Registration sites in the West are working hard to register all the people who show up due to the fact that many of the registration sites have not yet opened.  There are enough materials to accommodate the overall numbers of voters, but the Communal Election Bureaus (BECs) will have to carefully manage the materials distribution to make sure the locations that are open have enough materials on hand.  

There have been reports that some voters have registered more than once.  The Haitian National Police have made several arrests for this type of activity in the South (Cavaillon, Camp Perrin), Northwest (Bombardopolis), and the Artibonite (L'Estere).  Radio stations have been publicizing the penalty set forth in the Electoral Act to for these infractions, which is 15 - 25 days of imprisonment (Article 180).

Since the beginning of voter registration, there have been incidents in traditional "hotspots," and new "hotspots" have emerged.   Some of the reasons for these outbreaks include partisanship of electoral staff, problems in the selection of the registration workers, confusion about the location of the registration sites.  ICITAP reported 48 incidents since the end of November, and the PNH has made 28 arrests.  There are now problematic areas in almost every department.

The computerization of the Candidate List, and the quality control of the senators and deputies are complete.  The printing company Deschamps announced that they have finished printing the ballots for Senators.  Deschamps is now working on the ballots for Deputies, to be followed by the Communal Section Administrative Councils (CASECs).  The company predicted that they would finish printing the ballots two weeks before Election Day.  IFES is not directly involved in the ballot printing and not familiar with security measures taken for the ballots, if any.

The candidate registration list includes 29,306 candidates.  

The results of two recent polls were released publicly:
* According to a poll conducted by ECOSOF in October and November of 1999, 81% of the potential voters are likely to cast their vote: 33% of them said they would vote for La Fanmi; 26% for OPL; 5% for MOCHRENA; and 4% for the Espace de concertation.  
* The second poll released by a group of local media tried to find out whom the population would hold responsible if the election calendar was reorganized to accommodate a new election date.  Of the 403 persons questioned, more than 100 did not respond, for various reasons. The remainder responded as follows: the Haitian government (36%); the political parties (12%); civil society (9%); the United States (8%); and the CEP (6%).  (30% of the total did not respond.)

In order to allow for all registration sites to be open for a minimum of 30 days, it appears likely that registration may need to be extended by two or three weeks, although the CEP has not made an official determination at this point.  In IFES' opinion, restructuring the election calendar for legitimate technical reasons is sound justification; it is better to change the election date rather than compromise the integrity of the process.  The political impact will be tempered as long as the CEP continues to act with the consent of the political parties and civil society. 

Although the structural and political weaknesses of this CEP have been identified, we must emphasize the CEP's clearly expressed will to organize free and fair elections.  The CEP has been very innovative in a number of unique ways:
* They are the first CEP to post the preliminary list of the registration sites so that citizens would know where to go;
* They consult with political parties and civil society groups, including direct input on the Electoral Act;
* They have established sound inventory and archive systems;
* They have tight financial controls on their expenses;
* They published the destination of numbered voter registry books by BED/BEC so that parties could confirm that the proper materials were sent to the proper location.

# # #

Torie Keller
Public Information Officer
International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES)
1101 15th Street, NW  Suite 300
Washington, DC  20005
tel: 202-828-8507
fax: 202-452-0804
web site: www.ifes.org