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General News    H2'ed 4/23/11

Violence Erupts in Wake of New Election Shenanigans in Haiti

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Haiti's newly elected president, Michel Martelly, has requested that the international community "not recognize the results of the Parliamentary elections." In a press release issued late Friday night, Martelly charges that vote tabulations for senators and deputies who were leading in the polls were excluded in favor of candidates representing the ruling party, INITE.

Martelly's long, winding, and difficult road
Martelly's long, winding, and difficult road
(Image by Georgianne Nienaber)
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According to HaitiLibre, the final results of legislative elections released Wednesday night by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) awarded twelve additional seats to INITE. "The governing party now holds 46 seats out of 99 in the Chamber of Deputies and 17 Senate seats." The end result is that INITE could be in a position to impose a Prime Minister, effectively limiting Martelly's ability to govern.

In a rare and quick move, the US Embassy in Haiti issued a strong response in support of Martelly's accusations and concerns. 

The United States shares the concern referenced by the Organization of American States (OAS)/CARICOM Joint Electoral Observation Mission (JEOM) regarding the reports and allegations of fraud surrounding the final results announced by the Conseil Electoral Provisoire (CEP) for the March 20 second-round legislative elections as a result of the contestation process. 

After reviewing the results and materials provided by the CEP, United Nations, and international observers, the embassy "found no explanation for the reversals of 18 legislative races in the final results, which in all except two cases benefited the incumbent party." 

A candidate from the incumbent party (INITE) who placed third in the preliminary results inexplicably finished first according to the CEP's final results. Total votes counted in the race increased by 55,000 votes, from 90,000 in the preliminary results to more than 145,000 votes in the final results.

The US Embassy has provided a spreadsheet which spells out voting shifts and irregularities.

Martelly has called for calm in the wake of isolated reports of violence in the Central Plateau. Protestors burned an administrative complex run by Zanmi La Sante (Partners in Health ) in the city of Belladere, located on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

A staff member, Phyzeme Isly, a 44-year-old lab technician who had worked for the charity for nine years, was killed.

Partners in Health issued a statement on the incident.

ZL staff across Haiti grieve the loss of their dearly loved colleague, Phyzeme (whose name means "beloved son" in Haitian Creole). Born in 1967 in Grand Riviere du Nord in the North of Haiti, Phyzeme worked for the last nine years as the head laboratory technician for PIH/ZL in Belladere, at the Haitian Ministry of Health's Hopital de la Nativite. As one of the longest serving PIH/ZL staff in Belladere, Phyzeme was a key figure in improving the quality of care at this site by ensuring that patients had continued access to laboratory services. Before moving to Belladere, he completed his year of social service in the neighboring town of Lascahobas.

"It's certainly related to the political situation, the election results," said Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser for Partners in Health, a charity founded by a public health doctor, Paul Farmer, in Haiti's Central Plateau.

A nurse and her two children were burned in the attack, and evacuated to the neighboring Dominican Republic for treatment. The violence prompted more than two dozen Partners in Health employees to evacuate, interrupting medical services at the only hospital in Belladere.

The intervention of The US Embassy is to be expected, since the State Department has put considerable influence and muscle behind Martelly. In a joint appearance on Wednesday in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Martelly noted that the Haitian population had become "desperate" and that the delivery of promised foreign aid was paramount.

Now, it is up to me to transform my campaign promises into an action plan. Clearly, I have huge challenges in front of me, but I intend to meet them. In spite of the generous donations of the American citizens, which have reached $1.2 billion received by 53 NGOs, and in spite of the donation by the Government of the United States of $1.5 billion, we still have 1.7 million people who still live under tents after 15 long months of waiting. The cholera epidemic, if it is not contained and if Haitians are not vaccinated, this epidemic threatens to extend itself to the entire country during the upcoming rainy and hurricane season. In addition, starting on June 1, the country will have to confront up to 16 hurricanes scheduled Â- anticipated next summer. The reconstruction process is despairingly slow.

Clinton stood, literally, shoulder-to shoulder with the President-elect, promising unflinching support from the United States. "The people of Haiti may have a long road ahead of them, but as they walk it, the United States will be with you all the way," Clinton said.

What form this support will take, given recent election shenanigans remains to be seen.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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