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#2332: Voter registration (fwd)

From: chris-shelane <chris-shelane_at_a01-000-000@gs-server.globelsud.net>

About voter registration: the CEP is now saying that almost 3 million 
people have registered. I agree that Haitians are enthusiastic about 
getting a card. And it is difficult to argue with the CEP figures because 
they say they have a computerised system which all the figures across the 
country are fed into. If they give those figures I presume they can back 
them up.
Nevertheless I fully understand local daily le Nouvelliste's attitude of 
incomprehension at these figures.  "We can hardly keep up with the CEP, 
and their figures which contrast so strongly with what we might even dare 
to hope is the case" said the daily in an editorial. And they said that 
when the figure was 1.5 million!
So why should we doubt the figures? Voters are estimated at 4.2 million in 
Haiti. So we have now registered almost 75% of the eligible population 
(unless that estimate is wrong, which is always possible - reliable figures 
are not easy to come by). Now look at all the problems with voter 
registration across the country. In Port-au-Prince, where surely between 
half and one million voters live, registration offices only opened fitfully 
last week, two weeks (half way) into the registration programme. And I mean 
fitfully. Many offices stayed closed for various reasons - the owner of the 
premises failed to reach an agreement with the CEP, or the materials needed 
for making the cards ran out. There have been demonstrations in Cite Soleil 
because there aren't enough registration offices.
Across the country, registration offices have stayed closed for the above 
reasons, and others. There is now a problem of the cameras malfunctioning. 
The cep says a technician from Puerto Rico will arrive this weekend to sort 
out the technical problems. How long will it take this technician to visit 
all the remote areas of Haiti to fix cameras? Office staff are striking in 
Okap and Mirebalais for more pay. Registration offices in Anse d'Hainault 
and Petit Goave have never opened.
Let's hope the true reason for the high figures isn't fraud. There are 
widespread allegations that under-age people are making cards, allegations 
which don't lack credibility considering that you can make a card without 
any supporting documentation. And there have been several arrests of 
individuals in possession of more than one card.
As to whether those who make cards will actually vote, many people I asked 
said they would 'wait and see'. I think there is a genuine enthusiasm (in 
the face of many disappointments) to vote - 'something has got to change 
here' is a repeated refrain. But people won't vote if they feel it isn't 
safe, and many say that the present situation of insecurity must change if 
they are to vote. In a Nouvelliste/Radio metropole poll, 41% said they 
wouldn't vote, against the same figure who said they would. 60% said they 
hadn't decided who they would vote for.
Finally, I would like to reply to Jean Paul's comments of a while back: <I 
am a technical consultant for elections in Haiti, not funded by the US or 
UN, and sit in a glass office overlooking the CEP office entrance. Not once 
have I seen a foreign journalist come in and ask questions.> At the risk of 
sounding defensive (but not wishing my comments above to lack credibility 
all the same), I would just ask you Jean Paul to ask CEP spokesman Roland 
Sainristil if he knows of a foreign journalist called 'Mr Chapman'. I'm 
sure I detect a note of 'oh no not again' now in Mr Sainristil's voice when 
I ring (he now says 'hello Mr Chapman' before I've even had a chance to 
identify myself) because he knows I will try to keep him on the phone for 
about half an hour with a string of irritating questions, and because when 
I ring, he always seems to be on the point of leaving for a very important 
meeting. But you are right Jean Paul that I don't go to the CEP very often 
(only once in fact) and Mr Sainristil doesn't know what I look like. 
Foreign press agencies in Haiti often have only one staffer so it's not 
often practical to make the 3/4 hour journey each way journey (and that's 
when the traffic is not too bad) to the CEP on Delmas from the centre of 
Chris Chapman