Action needed to guarantee elections in Haiti: OAS

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) has called on all Haitian political and social actors to fully “assume their responsibilities and take all necessary measures to conclude the electoral process by holding free, fair and transparent elections in Oct. 9.”

In a decision adopted unanimously on Thursday, the Council called on “appropriate Haitian authorities to take the decisions on provisional governance, in accordance with Article 7 of the Feb. 5, 2016 Accord, so as to promote the holding of general elections at the established dates.

“That, consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and at the request of the authorities in Haiti, the Permanent Council will remain seized of the situation for strengthening the electoral institutions and processes in that country,” the declaration said.

Last month, OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, expressed deep concern over what he described as the demonstrated inability of Haitian parliamentarians to meet in the National Assembly to decide on how best to guarantee institutional stability and encourage the continuation of the electoral process.

“Given the importance of the challenges and the serious risks to the country’s stability, it is particularly troubling that the meeting of the National Assembly set for yesterday, July 14, was cancelled, once again, due to a failure to reach quorum,” Almagro said.

“Haiti can no longer afford to be the hostage of dilatory tactics and other ploys,” he added. “The situation is critical. It is time to make a decision that should have been made long ago.

“It is imperative for Haitian political stakeholders, including Parliamentarians and those provisionally governing the country, to fully assume their responsibilities towards the nation,” the OAS secretary general continued. “The interests of the Haitian people must supersede partisan interests. Every effort should be made for the presidential, legislative and local elections to be held without delay and in a calm atmosphere.”

The United States’ Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten also visited Haiti last month to further the U.S. government support for “credible and fair elections.”

The State Department said Merten had arrived in Haiti “to discuss the urgent need for elected representatives at all levels of government.”

Merten met with members of the Provisional Electoral Council and other stakeholders key to a return of constitutional order in Haiti, the State Department.

Meantime, the United Nations and its partners in Haiti have expressed “deep regret” that for the fourth time in as many weeks the Haiti National Assembly is unable to deliberate on the provisional governance arrangements.

In a joint statement, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Sandra Honoré, and the other members of the international community in Haiti represented in the “Core Group” (the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the United States and the European Union, and the special representative of the Organization of American States) cited the “absence of a number of parliamentarians leading to a lack of a quorum” as the reason for the failed deliberations.

“Haiti continues to face serious long-term socio-economic and humanitarian challenges. These challenges cannot be fully addressed in an environment of institutional instability,” said the Core Group, reiterating calls on parliamentarians to resume the session of the National Assembly and to “take action to end the uncertainty that prevails.”

“Reiterating the need to return to constitutional order, the ‘Core Group’ urges all actors to ensure the completion of the electoral process,” the statement added.

On Feb. 14, the Haitian National Assembly elected Jocelerme Privert as the island nation’s interim President, one week after former President Michel Martelly departed without a successor.

Privert served as interim President for 120 days, and an election had been scheduled for April 24, following an agreement – known as the Feb. 5 Agreement – between Haitian stakeholders to preserve institutional continuity and further the electoral process, the UN noted.

Subsequently, on April 25, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson issued a statement underlining the UN chief’s deep concern that that the agreed-upon date for holding elections in Haiti was not met and that no alternate electoral calendar was announced.

In June, when Privert’s 120-day interim period had come to an end, the Core Group called on the National Assembly to take action and reach a solution that avoids an “institutional vacuum,” and to facilitate the return to constitutional order through the holding of elections, according to the UN.