PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haitians are bracing for trouble as an electoral verification commission delivers the results of a month-long review of last year’s contested presidential and legislative elections.
The five-member panel, led by a businessman who is a former ambassador to the U.S., was due to give its recommendations to Haiti’s revamped Provisional Electoral Council last Sunday. The commission then was scheduled to hand its report to the interim president Monday at a ceremony on the grounds of the National Palace.
Government officials would not comment on when the report would be made public.
Commission president Pierre Francois Benoit has said a random sample of 25% of the roughly 13,000 tally sheets from polling stations would be audited. In recent days, a team of police officers could be seen at a tabulation centre examining thumbprints on ballot sheets.
It’s far from clear whether the verification panel’s findings will provide clarity to last year’s elections or if its recommendations will be accepted by Haiti’s political class.
Robert Fatton, a Haitian-born politics professor at the University of Virginia and the author of The Roots of Haitian Despotism said doubts and suspicions about the commission are an indication that Haiti’s electoral impasse might actually deepen.
“I think we are in for a bumpy ride,” Fatton said in an email to The Associated Press.
In recent days, several foreign embassies have warned their citizens in Haiti that the release of the panel’s report and a scheduled announcement of a new election date could lead to civil unrest.
Interim President Jocelerme Privert, who became Haiti’s caretaker leader in February after a presidential runoff was scrapped for a third time, has been trying to show he can guarantee stability as the election impasse has widened divisions in the polarized country. He has said Haiti cannot restart balloting without first restoring confidence in the electoral machinery.