By all accounts, Haiti’s recent vote to restore parliament and select a successor to President Michel Martelly was one of the most tranquil elections the country has seen in recent years. Whether the vote was fair and transparent is still up in the air.
Four local observer groups and opposition presidential candidates are denouncing what they say was “systematic, massive fraud” during the vote for president, parliament and local mayors. Among the allegations: ballots were stuffed in boxes during the final hours of voting, and political party monitors voted multiple times for a candidate.
On Thursday, one of the top presidential candidates, former Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, said checked ballots with his name are being burned. In response, supporters burned tire barricades in parts of the capital.
How widespread the fraud is, and whether Haitian elections technicians can detect it, have become key questions as the country waits for the Provisional Electoral Council to deliver preliminary election results. In addition to Moise, three others — Jude Célestin, Jovenel Moise and Dr. Maryse Narcisse — believe they either won in the first round or earned enough votes for one of two spots in the Dec. 27 runoff.
The vote tabulation is due any time after Nov. 3. Most of the tallies had already been delivered to a secure warehouse in Port-au-Prince, where technicians are meticulously going over the count and quarantining suspicious or fraudulent votes from 13,275 polling stations across Haiti.
This process is why Haiti, unlike its neighbors, takes at least 10 days to release preliminary election results, according to observers. As of Wednesday, 37 percent of the tallies had been processed at the Tabulation Center, where every single document must be registered, reviewed by multiple witnesses and archived. Quarantined documents are also reviewed for fraud by lawyers.
While international observers and Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul praised the elections, an avalanche of accusations and rumors about a tainted vote have emerged. At the center are charges that 915,675 accreditation cards, which were distributed to political party monitors and electoral observer organizations ahead of the Oct. 25 vote in hopes of diminishing fraud, were being sold in a thriving black market.
“For [about U.S. $30] you could obtain a card from a political party,” said Marie Yolene Gilles, assistant program director of the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), an observer group that issued a preliminary report decrying the fraud this week. On election day, they sold for as little as $3.
Fritz Dorvilier, a sociologist and political analyst, said the trafficking in cards “stained what otherwise would have been a good electoral day” compared to past elections, including the fraud-and violence-marred Aug. 9 first round legislative vote.