Post-Election Q&A: Haiti’s 2015 General Elections
On October 25, 2015, Haitian citizens returned to the polls for the second time this year to elect the President of Republic and members of the Senate, Chamber of Deputies, and municipal governments. These elections were particularly critical to regain Haiti’s democratic stability, as they have been postponed numerous times since 2011 due to a political impasse between the government of President Michel Martelly and the opposition over the passing of an election decree. In this post-election Q&A, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Haiti Chief of Party Alessandra Rossi discusses how voter education efforts impacted turnout and participation, IFES’ work to improve the participation of women and persons with disabilities, and IFES’ technical assistance to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) in the lead up to the vote.
How did voter education efforts impact turnout and participation?
IFES conducted three types of civic education activities in preparation for these elections. First, awareness radio spots were transmitted via 43 radio stations throughout Haiti, including community radio stations in order to reach voters in isolated areas. IFES also worked with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights and the Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities (BISEPH) to develop messages that encouraged women voters and persons with disabilities to participate in the electoral process and to go out and vote. Second, IFES conducted a SMS and robocall campaign targeting voters between the ages of 18-35. Third, IFES used a civic education methodology known as boite à image, or image in a box, transmitting civic education messages through caricatures, which is very effective for illiterate populations. This tool was used by three civil society organizations selected by IFES Haiti. The boite à image was also used by IFES’ Election Information Agents throughout Haiti. According to both national and international observer groups, voter turnout was 32 percent.
Describe efforts to include marginalized populations, including women and persons with disabilities.
IFES worked closely with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the CEP to develop a National Gender and Elections Strategy and conducted workshops in all 10 departments in order to present the strategy and obtain input from women’s groups and different stakeholders. These recommendations were included in the final document, which was officially launched at a national conference on July 13. IFES also worked with BISEPH and conducted an accessibility audit in six departments; the audit was conducted by persons with disabilities from disabled person’s organizations recommended by BISEPH. For televised presidential debates, IFES provided a sign language interpreter through a program supported by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). IFES also developed radio spots specifically designed to target women and persons with disabilities. As per objective 7 of the National Strategy on Gender and Elections, IFES installed a women’s complaints registry call line to promote a peaceful environment and develop conflict prevention mechanisms that take into account violence against women in elections.
For more on Haiti’s National Gender and Elections Strategy, click here to listen to a podcast with IFES Senior Gender Specialist Jessica Huber.
Are there any preliminary local and/or international observation reports? What is the overall assessment of the elections?
All international observation groups – including the European Union, Organization of American States, and ParlAmericas – and the local observation group Citizen Observatory for Institutionalizing Democracy, developed by IFES partners NDI and the National Human Rights Defense Network, have released observation reports. For the most part, the reports mentioned isolated cases of violence and certain obstacles; however, these incidents did not prevent the electorate from expressing their right to vote.
How were Election Information Centers used for these elections?
The Election Information Centers conducted the following activities: posted CEP press releases; assisted voters in finding their polling stations by using the Center’s resources to either go online or to call the CEP call center; distributed pertinent electoral materials to electoral stakeholders such as sample ballots and electoral decrees; provided crucial support to the Regional Electoral Offices; and provided a space where journalists and candidates could discuss electoral matters.
What is IFES’ role in supporting these elections in Haiti?
IFES provided technical advice and conducted a series of capacity-building activities to improve the CEP’s ability to communicate more efficiently and effectively with the Haitian electorate and other stakeholders. This was achieved through a series of trainings for the CEP, members of the media and other relevant stakeholders, direct technical assistance, the creation of Election Information Centers, and targeted civic and voter education activities. This assistance enabled election officials to improve their relationship with a number of stakeholders and develop and implement more efficient and effective public outreach.
IFES also conducted activities to address current barriers to political participation and the rights of marginalized sectors of the population, and developed and supported the implementation of strategies to mainstream gender and persons with disabilities to improve their political participation. These activities contributed to a more inclusive electoral process.