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#3737: International Coalition of Independent Observers Pre-Election Statement (fwd)


Release Date: May 19, 2000
Contact:  Melinda Miles
Tel.: 404-2337 (until Tuesday) or see contact info below


Pre-Election Statement

International Coalition of Independent Observers

The International Coalition of Independent Observers expresses grave concerns 
once again about the ongoing electoral process as local and parliamentary 
elections are only hours away. Most importantly, several obstacles to voting 
have come to light. We wish to bring attention to the fact that as many as 
25% of the eligible voting population may be excluded from voting, which in 
addition to the obstacles that now exist creates the probability of an 
exclusionary vote. The potential for danger on election day and during the 
days following is very real, and several political parties have pointed to 
this possibility as a means of intimidating voters and encouraging them to 
stay away from the polls. Another serious concern of the Coalition is 
adequate monitoring of every stage of the process, from the inception and 
execution of the registration process to the observation of ballots as they 
follow the path from the warehouse to polling station to the CEP (Provisional 
Electoral Council).

Obstacles to voting: 
The most serious obstacle that now exists for voters to participate on 
election day is the inadequate dissemination of information, particularly the 
location of voter bureaus (BVs). As of today the location of the BVs is still 
not clear. On May 16th, 700 of those sites were not designated despite the 
requirement in the 1999 Electoral Law (Chapter 10, Article 125) which 
requires the CEP to publicize the list of all polling stations one week prior 
to the day of elections. We also express our concern that the BVs will not 
fulfill the legal requirements in terms of proximity to the location of the 
registration bureau (BI) to which they are related. Without a clear 
understanding of where they are expected to vote, registered voters are being 
blocked from participating in the electoral process. We are concerned about 
the lack of information to date and have serious doubts that adequate steps 
will be taken to provide information on voting day. With a majority of the 
population illiterate, locations of BVs needed to be publicized on the radio, 
and individuals will need to be placed at the location of all BIs in order to 
ensure that voters are directed to the appropriate voting locations. 
Considering the difficulties the CEP has experienced to date in hiring, 
training and paying its employees, it is difficult to imagine that necessary 
steps to direct voters to BVs will be taken.

Problems with registration: 
Although official agencies responsible for organizing the electoral process, 
such as the CEP, insist that the majority of the population have been 
registered, this claim is not consistent with the statements of numerous and 
diverse religious, civic, labor and peasant leaders. It is our understanding 
from meetings with these leaders that up to 25% of eligible voters have been 
prevented or deterred from voting. This disenfranchised population resides 
mainly in poor urban centers and the remote countryside.  It is impossible 
for the CEP to back up their claims as near total registration with any 
empirical evidence. There is no central data processing, creating a potential 
for individuals to register several times, and there is no means of computing 
the actual numbers of registered voters. This combined with eligible voter 
estimates based on a 1982 census create legitimate and serious doubt about 
the claims of near complete voter registration.

Danger and intimidation: 
Over the past few months, incidents of politically related violence have 
increased. At the same time, rumors about these violent acts have spun out of 
control, heightening the atmosphere of intimidation. For example, Hubert de 
Ronceray, president of the ultra-right MDN, in what was widely perceived as a 
veiled threat, issued a statement to the press on May 16th advising people 
"to exercise their civic duties to vote despite the high risks and dangers." 
The misinformation that is pervasive within the foreign press has also acted 
to exaggerate the rumors of violence, creating the impression that conditions 
in Haiti are violently out of control and further demobilizing the voting 

Inadequate monitoring: 
The question of observation for the electoral process creates concern on 
several levels. The role of observers in the process of the distribution and 
retrieval of the ballots is severely lacking. According to the OAS Electoral 
Observation Mission's most recent report, "the ballots did not have 
consecutive numbering and thus it would be difficult to control their 
distribution." In addition to the ballots lacking necessary monitoring 
information, we are concerned that there will be no observers present for the 
transport of ballots between the warehouse and BVs, or during the transport 
to their final destination, the CEP. It appears that the ballots have been 
unmonitored during the duration of their storage at the CEP warehouse.

The domestic observing missions also present serious concerns. As of Friday 
afternoon, May 19, several political party pollwatchers or mandataires have 
been unable to receive accreditation from the CEP. We also reiterate concerns 
voiced by many in Haiti, including recently assassinated radio journalist 
Jean Dominique, about the National Council of Observers (CNO). It has been 
revealed that the CNO, of which Leopold Berlanger is the coordinator, will 
have the power to declare the results of any BV invalid. It is also important 
to note however, that the CNO includes local justice and peace observers, and 
observers from peasant and church networks. The CNO is the domestic 
observation body, and it is unfortunate that someone with questionable 
foreign connections is coordinating it. 

In light of these observations and our fear that these elections will be 
exclusionary in nature, the Coalition was shocked to learn that in direct 
contradiction to Article 31 of the 1987 Constitution, Justice Minister 
Camille Leblanc issued a directive on May 12th obstructing the people's right 
to demonstrate until after the elections.  We wish to emphasize our desire to 
see free, fair and peaceful elections take place. But it is absolutely 
necessary to highlight the obstacles that exist today, with the elections 
only hours away, and to raise concerns about the exclusion of substantial 
numbers of eligible voters, most prominently through the neglect the CEP has 
demonstrated in making public and accessible the exact location of voter 

The International Coalition of Observers includes delegates from Haiti 
Reborn/Quixote Center, Global Exchange and Pax Christi. The Coalition is 
available for comments. Spokesperson Melinda Miles can be reached in Haiti at 
404-2337.  The Coalition will issue a formal report; for further information 
after May 24, contact Melinda Miles at Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center, PO Box 
5206, Hyattsville, MD 20782. (301) 699-0042, haiti@quixote.org.

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