An international expert familiar with the electoral process discusses with AyiboPost the potential for anomalies in the electoral roll. Politicians and members of civil society are requesting an audit of this list before any elections take place
The electoral roll for the upcoming elections, issued by the National Identification Office (ONI), needs to be audited to ensure public confidence and dispel any accusations of potential fraud.
This request from civil society organizations and political parties has found a favorable response from the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP); amid accusations surrounding the issuance of multiple identity cards to certain individuals, and criticism over the contract signed between the Haitian government and the German company Dermalog to produce said cards, despite unfavorable opinions from regulatory authorities in 2018.
« It’s perfectly normal, it’s desirable, » stated Max Délices, head of the CEP, when asked about the need to audit the electoral roll in an interview with AyiboPost.
Updated gradually, the list currently contains around five million voters, as disclosed by Délices to AyiboPost.
The interim director since 2019 has expressed doubts about the possibility of a citizen voting multiple times, considering the biometric security guarantees embedded in the cards, and the unique numbers.
However, an international expert close to the electoral process revealed to AyiboPost the content of the high-level discussions held on the audit question.
« Some sectors of the international community are against the audit, but they don’t express it officially because they know there’s an issue. Others are not in favor because they anticipate that the exercise could be complicated and time-consuming, » the expert told AyiboPost.
Set aside in the political agreement of December 21, 2022, the question of an independent audit to ensure the integrity of the electoral roll was raised during the drafting of the political agreement of September 11, 2021, continues the expert, who requests anonymity to freely discuss this thorny issue.
« This is a demand made by opposition political parties because they don’t trust how the electoral roll was put together, » he says. « This demand has not been met so far, » he points out.
In April 2017, President Jovenel Moïse signed a bill to establish a unique National Identification Card, replacing the old identity card.
The following year, the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA) issued two unfavorable opinions regarding a $27 million contract between Haiti and the firm Dermalog, chosen by the executive for the project.
At the time, the government disregarded CSCCA’s recommendations and signed the contract with the German company, which has projects in at least twenty countries, including Brazil and El Salvador, for automatic biometric identification systems.
The card provided by Dermalog contains a smart chip that collects the holder’s fingerprint, iris imprint, biographical data, and signature.
Since the distribution began, reports in the media suggested the possibility of a single citizen holding multiple cards simultaneously, potentially allowing them to vote multiple times in future elections.
« It happened initially because we were mass-producing the identification documents, » says Reynaldo Camilus, technical director at the ONI, in an interview with AyiboPost.
However, he cautioned that even if a person possesses two cards, « only one is activated. »
The chip enables the deactivation of the old card upon receiving the new one. « The fingerprint that activates the second card automatically deactivates the first one, » according to Reynaldo Camilus.
An agreement signed in 2005 and renewed in 2020 between the CEP, the Ministry of Justice (MJSP), and ONI accounts for citizens’ biometric information in creating the electoral roll.
When in doubt during the elections, « we can always verify using fingerprints and facial recognition,' » asserts Max Délices, the CEP director.
However, the CEP has not communicated any provision for the use of devices to electronically detect if a citizen has already voted at another polling station.
Civil society institutions insist on an audit of the roll before the elections. « It’s essential to ensure voters’ trust in the upcoming electoral process, » thinks Samuel Madistin from the Je Klere Foundation (FJKL).
In the past two years, many people have been killed, and tens of thousands displaced due to gang violence, notes the FJKL representative.
The corruption allegations surrounding the selection of the firm responsible for making the cards, and the opposition campaign against Jovenel Moise have completely undermined the credibility of the card, according to Samuel Madistin.
Effective measures must be put in place to « correct errors on the electoral roll, including omissions and removing individuals who have passed away or changed their places of residence, » states the lawyer.
While opposing the holding of elections in the current context of the country’s gangsterization, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) also advocates for an audit.
When contacted by AyiboPost, the director of the RNDDH, Pierre Esperance, recalls the controversies and accusations of irregularities surrounding the last two elections in 2011, and 2015 – 2017.
« The biggest problem remains the electoral roll and the cards, » says Pierre Esperance. « Measures must be taken to avoid falling into these situations again, » he asserts.
Even if the timing was opportune and appropriate, economist and politician Fritz Alphonse Jean from the Montana Accord affirms that there are « many suspicions surrounding the electoral system in general, including the list of voters. »
« There’s an identification problem for some individuals, while others possess two or three cards, » indicates the elected president of the Montana Accord, who calls for « reforms » on this issue.
The debate on the integrity of potential elections looms against the dark backdrop of severe insecurity, accelerated since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.
Ariel Henry—whose name is among the suspected orchestrators of the assassination, according to several reports—ascended to power with the support of members of the Core Group, a coalition of foreign embassies in Haiti heavily influenced by the United States. He had pledged to stabilize the country and organize elections.
More than two years later, the CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) still lacks a board, and three envoys from CARICOM involved in political negotiations between Ariel Henry and the opposition departed the country on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, without reaching an agreement between the parties.
Haiti witnessed its first election in the so-called democratic era in 1990. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of the National Front for Change and Democracy won those elections.
With a participation rate of 50.8%, these elections contrast with subsequent similar exercises, mostly criticized for fraud and irregular interference by the international community in the selection of elected officials.
In 2016, an email from a Clinton Foundation executive suggested U.S. intervention to propel Michel Martelly to the second round of the 2010 elections, contributing to the controversial singer’s election as the country’s president. This intervention was corroborated by Ricardo Seitenfus, the Organization of American States (OAS) representative in Haiti at the time.
This year, a United Nations report pinned the former head of state, Michel Martelly, for his role in fostering criminal gangs and the high-level corruption within his government. Canada also sanctioned him for his alleged ties to gangs.
Former President Michel Martelly was contacted by AyiboPost through Facebook before publication. This article will be updated if he responds.
Jovenel Moïse, supported by Michel Martelly to succeed him as president, failed to hold presidential or legislative elections until his brutal murder on July 7, 2021, in the privacy of his bedroom.
« We can be technically prepared [for elections in 2024], but that doesn’t mean it’s possible to organize elections, » says the current director of the CEP, Max Délices, referring to the necessary « consent of the actors, » an electoral council, the resolution of technical difficulties and the establishment of a legal framework.
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