The United States and the U.N. continue to push for elections to take place as soon as possible, operating by the mantra "bad elections are better than no elections," but they have it backwards: Building Haitians' confidence in the electoral process is vital to Haiti's stability. Therefore, there must be a thorough and transparent investigation of fraud prior to the runoff elections. Stability, democracy and confidence in government cannot be built on a rotten foundation.
Haitian elections have historically been rife with irregularities and violence, but government-backed fraud reached a new height — or low — during the first round of presidential elections that took place on Oct. 25:
- President Michel Martelly's chosen successor, Jovenel Moïse, was reported by the Haitian election commission, or CEP, to be in first place with 33 percent of the vote, but an exit poll found that only 6 percent of responders voted for him.
- An audit of 78 tally sheets showed fraud or irregularities in all 78 — and Haitian officials refused to investigate further.
- Over 900,000 "accreditation cards" were handed out to political party representatives who were allowed to monitor polling sites to ensure impartiality of voting officials. In practice, thousands of these cards were sold to political parties with the most money, and those holding the cards may have accounted for 50 percent of votes cast.
Martelly's grip on power
Martelly, a pop singer elected to the nation's highest office in 2011, commands a disturbing amount of power within Haiti. With the support of the international community, Martelly continuously postponed all elections in Haiti until legislative elections were held in the summer of 2015, which allowed him to install his own people at all levels of the government. Haiti's constitution established a balance of power between three branches of government similar to the United States, but Martelly's appointments that took place in lieu of elections have afforded him significant influence over all three branches. Since Haiti is a federalist system unlike the United States, local institutions report to the chief executive, granting Martelly power over them as well.
It is clear from government-sponsored tampering in both the August 2015 parliamentary elections and first round of presidential elections that Martelly intends to use his power to unfairly influence election results. Even more disturbing, however, is that the international community seems content to allow this. The United States, which has contributed more than $30 million to the Haitian elections this year, is comfortable overlooking flaws in Haiti's electoral process in the name of stability and "successful elections."
Democratic elections are, of course, key to preventing this type of dictatorial takeover. But when nearly 90 percent of the Haitian population believes the official results of the first-round presidential elections are fraudulent, there is little point to continuing the electoral process without first investigating and revealing irregularities — especially fraud committed by the government. It may not be possible to eliminate fraud from Haitian elections in the near future, but when the international community turns a blind eye to government-backed fraud, a strong signal is sent to the Haitian people: You cannot trust your government, and democracy will not come to Haiti any time soon. Champions of open elections and democratic processes in Haiti look to the international community for guidance and support, but there is none to be found.
The path to better elections
The international community cannot continue to quietly voice its concerns to the CEP and Martelly; this has proven useless. In order to build voters' trust in the government, the United States and the U.N. must take a hardline stance against fraud perpetrated by Martelly's government, as they did four years ago. In Haiti's 2011 presidential elections, when first-round election results were found to be rigged in favor of government-backed candidate Jude Célestin, the United States and the U.N. pressured his political party to withdraw his candidacy. It is unclear why the international community has not applied the same logic to the current elections and forced Moïse to withdraw his candidacy as a result of mounting evidence of government-backed fraud.
There is no truth to the phrase "bad elections are better than no elections." If the international community allows Haiti's runoff presidential elections to proceed before a thorough investigation that includes a full recount, it will condemn Haiti to five years of a legal but illegitimate regime that does not reflect the will of the Haitian voter. This will not further Haiti's democratization process and will not lead to political stability. For Haiti's sake, let us improve the electoral infrastructure before we move forward.
Jonassaint was appointed special envoy of the president of Haiti in 1994, assisted in the pre-negotiations of the Port-au-Prince Accord and is a popular adviser to investors and political leaders in frontier markets around the world. Follow him on Twitter @mjjonassaint.