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#3760: Executive Summary of the OAS EOM Interim Report (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

The Legislative, Municipal and Local Electoral Process in Haiti

Interim Report of the Electoral Observation Mission
of the Organization of American States
May, 2000

Executive Summary

The following is an interim report of the OAS Electoral
Observation Mission in Haiti.  The Mission arrived in late
February and established an office in Port-au-Prince and five
regional offices.  The observations and conclusions in this
report are based on numerous interviews with the different
actors in the process and first hand observations.

Despite many setbacks over the last year, the Mission report
concludes that the CEP has accomplished the major tasks
necessary to succesfully conduct legislative, municipal and
local elections, scheduled for May 21, 2000.  In order for these
elections to take place, however, the Government, electoral
institutions, political parties and civil society must each
assume their responsibilities and work closely together.The
report notes the many delays in this process have had a
deleterious effect on the campaign.  The failure of the CEP to
respect its deadlines and its lack of middle management
caused operational problems, which negatively affected the its
image of professionalism.  Additionally, the Governmentís role
in these delays has led some to question its commitment to the
timely and transparent conduct of these elections. In this
interim report, the Mission reiterates its conclusion that most of
those eligible voters who wished to register were able to do
so.  The report details the many problems of this process,
including a lack of communication, transportation and
materials.  In addition to registration, the report analyzes other
important electoral preparations completed and pending.

It notes that candidate registration was successfully completed
with some 29,500 candidates registering for an estimated
7,500 positions.   The CEP has also completed the
identification of the 11,238 Bureaux de Vote.  As of May 17,
however, there was growing concern that many of these polling
sites had not been well identified or may not be as close to the
registration center as stipulated in the electoral law.  The
uncertainty of the exact location of the polling centers could
cause crowd control and logistical problems on Election Day.
Some political parties allege that their candidates for poll
workers have been excluded.  The Mission is conscious that
the exclusion of certain political parties from the composition of
the BVs could cause undue suspicion and uncertainty on
Election Day.  While the law requires an equitable distribution
of party representatives at the BVs, the Mission believes that
the objectivity of the poll worker is more important than his or
her political affiliation.

Among the pending tasks, the training of the BV workers was
unnecesarily delayed by one week following the decision of the
CEP to change the format of the tally sheets even after training
had already begun.  The Mission also expressed concern
about the distribution and security of the electoral materials.
The OAS report reviews how a crisis developed in the Grande
Anse as a result of a struggle between two political tendencies
for control of the electoral apparatus in the department.  While
it appears that much more could have been done at an earlier
date, the Mission believes that the current political solution can
provide the framework in which the citizens of this department
can exercise their franchise on May 21 with the rest of the

The report also expresses the EOMís grave concern about the
numerous violent incidents during the campaign that have
created a climate of fear and which could threaten voter
participation.  The Mission regrets that the Haitian National
Police did not do more to stop the violent incidents, particularly
the aggressive demonstrations that took place from March 26
to 28 in Port-au-Prince and the arson attack on the Espace de
Concertation headquarters on April 8.

The present electoral situation has also illustrated the fragility
of progress observed in recent years in the domain of liberty of
the press, according to the Missionís observations.  The report
sets out a worrying toll of violations of these freedoms,
including the murder of Jean Dominique and threats and
intimidation against journalists during the electoral campaign.
Journalists from Radio Vision 2000 in hiding, an AFP
photographer forced to hand over a film at road blocks in La
Saline to the thugs at the barricades and correspondents in
GonaÔves threatened by an anonymous flier are some of the
violations of press freedoms documented in the report.

The Mission also applauds the efforts made by private sector
media to educate the public about the issues at stake in the
absence of an official civic education campaign. The Mission
reiterates the key role of national observers in these elections,
but at the same time expresses its concern regarding the
numerous problems of finances and internal divisions facing
the National Observation Council. The report encourages the
CEP to continue the process of accreditation of observers
before polling day, and allow them access to electoral offices
nationwide. Moreover, it is of vital importance that the CEP
communicates directives on this matter to the BECs and the
BEDs and ultimately to the BVs.

Despite all the difficulties observed, credible legislative,
municipal and local elections are still possible in Haiti on May
21, the report concludes.  It is now incumbent on political
parties, civil society, the media and the Government to work
together towards this common goal.

With this goal in mind, the Mission included the following
recommendations in the interim report:

The CEP should facilitate communication with the
departmental and communal bureaux to clarify any
uncertainties that might arise;

The CEP should ensure an adequate system to re-direct
voters in cases where polling booths have been moved away
from the original registration stations;

Political parties must take on an important role in prevention of
violence and avoid making premature declarations regarding
the result of the vote;

The Government and the Haitian National Police must assume
their responsibilities in the provision of security during the
polling, the transport of ballots and the vote tally in the BECs
and BEDs;

All sectors should respect the rights of journalists to carry out
their work without intimidation or violence;

the media must also exercise objectivity and independence in
its reports;

The electoral authorities must allow national observers access
to observation;

in turn, the latter must report their findings free of bias.

As it has since its arrival, the EOM offers its good offices to
achieve the common goal of peaceful and transparent
elections that accurately reflect the will of the Haitian people.