By Garry Pierre-Pierre
To those unfamiliar with the zero sum game that has come to define Haiti’s politics, this electoral crisis gripping the troubled Caribbean nation seems simple to solve. Although this impasse has been percolating for a while, it reached a boiling point in October when Jude Celestin, who was declared the second place finisher in the presidential elections, decided that the vote was deeply flawed and he would not participate in a runoff unless certain demands were met.
Celestin’s demands include a recount of the October vote, an independent electoral commission and guarantee of free and fair elections.
Celestin felt that the process was rigged in favor of the ruling party’s candidate, Jovenel Moise. The former stood his ground prompting officials to postpone the elections twice, first on Dec. 27, 2015 and then on Jan. 24, 2016. Officials were keenly aware that holding an election with one candidate is a risky move, and could inflame a restive populace and plunge the country into more chaos.
To be sure, elections are routinely held with a single candidate across the world. But there is only one candidate for a particular post. But in this case, the other candidate is raising some serious concerns about the transparency of the process.. Celestin has seen this script before. In 2011, he was cast aside from a runoff, even though he was the second place finisher for president. He made no fuss then and returned to his private life. Now he promised to fight to the bitter end.
Having crossed the Rubicon, Haitian officials have called upon the Organization of American States (OAS) to help them out of this morass of their own creation. The OAS delegation will likely address Celestin’s concerns and make a series of sensible recommendations that Haitian officials will resist until the last moment.
The process will drag out because the electoral commission – commonly known by its French acronym CEP – is embroiled in its own scandal. Some members have been forced to resign amid fraud allegations while others have left voluntarily. A recount of the vote can be lengthy and the international community will have to cough up more money on top of the roughly $70 million they’ve spent on the elections so far.
Ultimately, a resolution will be accepted, elections will be held and a new president will be sworn. The only loser here will be the Haitian people as always.