On Sun., Sep. 18, observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) began deploying in Haiti in preparation for the Oct. 9 elections, which will include a re-done first-round presidential race and legislative run-offs.
Former Uruguayan Sen. Juan Raul Ferreira will lead the OAS observer mission, which will deploy about 130 monitors.
“Even though we never expressly accepted that the right decision was to do a redo, the OAS is there,” said Gerardo de Icaza, director of OAS’s Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation.
This grudging participation, not surprisingly, is also the posture of Washington, which dismissed the findings of a Verification Commission that the Oct. 25, 2015 presidential election was fraudulent and should be scrapped. Although the U.S. is withholding funding, it now says it will go along with the re-vote.
But a new report, released on Sep. 19, says that OAS and European Union (EU) observers white-washed the fraud and violence of Aug. 9 and Oct. 25, 2015 elections and “hindered efforts to initiate a verification process.”
“The 2015 elections in Haiti represent a monumental failure of international electoral observation,” begins the executive summary of the report, which was jointly prepared by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and the UK-based Haiti Support Group.
OAS and EU monitors “consistently downplayed, minimized and obfuscated the serious flaws and violations of voters’ rights that occurred” in 2015 and “OAS and EU reports were used to attack the credibility of Haitian observers, political parties and others demanding an investigation.”
The EU is withholding both funding and observers from the Oct. 9 election. The OAS, sometimes called Washington’s “Ministry of Colonial Affairs,” is sending observers funded by the U.S. and six other nations.
“The flawed assessments suggest that international observer missions are subject to influence by the powerful member states that sponsor them,” the report says. “OAS and EU observers’ positions on the 2015 elections closely mirrored those of the U.S., Canada, France and Spain – especially where they deviated from the consensus of local observers and the press – an indication that protecting these states’ political and economic agendas in Haiti may have taken precedence over upholding international standards.”
The report, entitled “Democracy Discouraged: International Observers and Haiti’s 2015 Elections,” documents how the OAS and EU electoral observation missions ignored reports of electoral problems from Haitian observers, journalists, two governmental commissions and, at times, even their own observers.
“The failure to uphold international standards for free and fair elections raises serious questions about the objectivity and independence of international observers,” said Nicole Phillips, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and one of the report’s authors.
“How is it possible that the OAS and EU observers did not see what everyone else did?” said Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), based in Port-au-Prince, and a member of the IADL’s governing Bureau. “Their unjustifiable endorsement of the 2015 elections has badly damaged international observers’ credibility in Haiti.”
The report recommends that international observation missions monitor objectively and honestly on the electoral process, refrain from political interference, and incorporate the views of Haitian civil society observers into their evaluations of the upcoming Oct. 9 vote.
In a short introduction, Ricardo Seitenfus, the former OAS Special Representative in Haiti before he was fired for denouncing the “electoral coup” of 2010-2011, hails the new report as helping to banish “the idea that Haiti’s salvation can only come from overseas. Finally, the Haitian government is making the elections a matter of sovereign concern.”
This verdict, as the timely report suggests, can only be passed after we see what role OAS observers will play in the Oct. 9 elections, as well as that of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), headed by long-time U.S.-ally Léopold Berlanger, and the government of interim president Jocelerme Privert.