Ambassador Merten Briefs on Haiti's Upcoming Elections

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
November 23, 2010
A Campaign Rally in Cap Haitian, Haiti

Speaking today via videoconference, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten briefed the press about Haiti's elections, scheduled for Sunday, November 28th.

Ambassador Merten said,"...We are five days away from presidential and legislative elections here in Haiti, and we thought this would be a good opportunity to affirm our support for the Haitian peoples' right to participate in free, fair, and transparent elections on November 28th. This is something we have discussed with the Haitian government and various elements of the Haitian population for a long time. Given the issues the next president and the next legislature will have to confront here in Haiti in terms of providing vision for Haiti's future and a program for implementing that vision, we hope to see broad participation amongst the Haitian population in this important election. We urge Haitians to go out and vote and to exercise their right to do so.

"While this is the fifth presidential election to take place in Haiti since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship, I think everyone is aware of the issues that arose in the aftermath of the January 12th earthquake. And before any preparation took place, the first thing the Haitian government and the United Nations examined was the feasibility of holding these elections, from registering new voters, replacing lost or destroyed voter cards, ensuring sufficient voting centers, and tackling the question of where displaced persons could vote.

"They concluded that these elections could take place, and we have supported that process. We have provided $5 million in electoral fund -- to the electoral fund administered by the UN Development Program, and our contribution went towards materials such as paper for ballots and ballot boxes.

"While much remains to be done this week, the process is on track: 250,000 new voters were registered and more than 11,000 voting stations have been identified. Overseeing the electoral process is the Haitian Conseil Electoral Provisoire, or CEP, and they are the agency charged with ensuring that these elections take place in accordance with Haitian law; namely, that they are free, fair, and transparent. We expect the CEP to carry out its duties in fulfillment of Haitian law and with the transparency that befits democracy and that the Haitian people deserve. We emphasize that there must be transparency in the hiring and training of poll workers.

"Security is also an issue on everybody's minds, and the government of Haiti and the UN have thought a lot about this very subject. The Haitian National Police is in charge of election day security with support from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH. MINUSTAH is also assisting the CEP with much of the logistics for the elections, including transporting ballots and monitoring the vote count.

"There are a number of observers in Haiti, including the Joint Electoral Observation Mission, an effort of the Organization of American States, or OAS, and the Caribbean Community of Nations, CARICOM. This mission, headed by Ambassador Colin Granderson of Trinidad and Tobago, has been on the ground in Haiti since August working with the CEP and other political actors to observe the process and listen to grievances.

"The mission is expected to have over 100 observers in Haiti who will deploy throughout the country to monitor the electoral process. We have supported this mission from the outset and believe it is performing a crucial role, and we look forward to hearing their continued assessments of the process.

"Haitian civil society groups will also have important work to do, and we estimate that there will be between 5,000 and 7,000 Haitian electoral observers keeping an eye on things. Over the years, we have invested -- invested a lot in promoting political parties and grassroots organizations, including $8 million in grants to the National Democratic Institute and the International Institute for Electoral Systems this year. We believe that democracy is more than just elections and it includes a vibrant civil society. Funding to NDI and IFES served to assist voter registration -- excuse me -- recruitment and training of poll workers, training of domestic election observers, and development of nonpartisan voter education materials. We believe that these initiatives will increase the accountability and effectiveness of the CEP.

"So between Haitian civil society, the Joint Electoral Observation Mission, and other groups, there will be a lot of eyes watching the process and ensuring that it is free, fair, and transparent. We have been encouraged by the effort to date and hope that the Haitian people go out and exercise their right to choose their president and their legislators."

A complete transcript of the briefing is available here.

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