Haiti’s 2016 Presidential Election: Another Step Toward Democracy
By Alessandra Rossi, IFES Haiti Chief of Party
On January 3, 2017, the Haitian Electoral Council (CEP) finally published the official results of the 2016 presidential election. The announcement was a cause for celebration for President-elect Jovenel Moise, a 48 year-old entrepreneur who, running for political office for the first time and after a 20-month campaign, received 55 percent of the vote in a field of 27 candidates. It was also a great achievement for all of us at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and other electoral partners, who were mobilized in the longest electoral process in Haitian history; a nearly two-year process marred by allegations of fraud, delays, change in power, and more recently, a hurricane that destroyed the southern region of the country.
To the Haitian people and their partners, it’s a step toward democracy and a return to the constitutional order, after a one-year transition. As for the CEP, transition has become systematic. The CEP, currently led by President Leopold Berlanger, is the fifth appointed during this ongoing electoral process. It is the 21st CEP since 1987 and the seventh since 2011. Nevertheless, committed to meet the various challenges encountered, and most of all, to complete the electoral cycle, the CEP initiated reforms and established a dynamic connection with Haitian political parties, media and local populations.
Along the way, IFES became a strategic partner for the CEP and Haitian communities, a proactive bridge serving nationwide to promote local solutions as well as an inclusive dialogue between electoral authorities, governmental partners, local stakeholders and the most vulnerable groups within the Haitian population such as people with disabilities, women and youth. IFES, through its 27 civic engagement agents deployed throughout the country and its five partners from civil society, contributed to spread the word: “Elections are everyone’s concern.” This message was disseminated through a massive campaign, nourished by civic education activities led by IFES’ national partners and undertaken within local communities, prioritizing public areas such as street markets, public transportation, public parks, churches, and professional schools. The campaign also utilized IFES’ “elections in a box” tool, robocalls, SMS, audio and TV advertisements, and training sessions, which reached all geographical areas including communities that were the most affected by Hurricane Matthew.
While preparing for the inauguration of its new president, Haiti is moving forward to local elections and elections for open Senate seats. On January 29, the electorate will vote for their members of departmental, communal and rural assemblies and eight of 10 departments will elect one-third of their representatives in the Haitian Senate. Therefore, a second campaign has already been launched, and IFES, more than ever, is working with the CEP and the Haitian people as a daily partner for the last step in this electoral process.
The slogan “local elections equal local development” aims to mobilize the Haitian people to participate in their electoral and political processes. Using the same communication strategies and resources, IFES, as member of the electoral assistance core group, anticipates vast improvements for this struggling nation that deserves the best outputs of democracy: good governance, opportunities for all, citizen participation, and rule of law. It will fall to the elected officials, particularly, President Jovenel Moise, to lead the rebuilding process of a country devastated by internal conflicts and natural disasters.