Haitians went to the poll yesterday October 25th to elect new parliamentarians, a new president and new local authorities. The 2015 elections constitute an important challenge for the country whose transition to a well-functioning democratic system has seemed unending and at times chaotic. But democracy building takes time; it is tested and perfected through trial and error in any place where this system has been adopted. Haiti is no exception to that.
Free and fair elections constitute a cornerstone of the democratic system. Therefore, it is vital that election results reflect the will and choice of the people. Past Haitian elections have revealed that internal and external forces sometimes work against the choice of the people by manipulating election results to align more with powerful interests of actors at play on the ground. The Haitian people have clearly recognized that the international community has influenced the results of the 2010 presidential election. In this election, a clear signal coming from the population consists in the degree of vigilance citizens have demonstrated to ensure that election results better reflect the choice of the Haitians.
The Haitian population and civil society have expressed serious criticisms toward the electoral council for the way they handled the legislative elections last August 9th. Opposition parties’ candidates have complained that President Michel Martelly and his party PHTK (Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale) were controlling the Electoral Council to stay in power after the elections. It is too early to declare victory, but the common perception among the population for the October 25th round, is that the electoral council, the government, and the national police; all these actors have done better and worked harder to allow for Haitians to exercise their voting rights through a transparent, open and credible process. It is even noted once again according to the perception of the population, that voter turnout has been higher this time around than last August 9th where the level of participation has not even been more than 18%.
ActionAid Haiti, as an organization committed in building “power in people”, preferably in marginalized people, has not missed the electoral period as an opportunity to involve citizens in public debates around issues of land rights, women’s rights, access to natural resources, good governance and transparency. ActionAid Haiti has supported the Je Nan Je network in meeting with candidates at the local and national levels in roughly 7 different communities in the several geographic departments where Je Nan Je is active. This electoral momentum has represented a crucial moment for ActionAid and Je Nan Je which are looking for strategic allies in the upcoming government to push forward their advocacy for land rights and agrarian reform in Haiti. And on the very day of the election, ActionAid has supported CROSE, an organization and social movement anchored in the Southeast, in acting as a watchdog to ensure stronger citizen involvement in the process and election results that respect the choice of Haitian citizens.
As fingers are crossed and citizens expecting that election results will not twist their hopes, rights and aspirations, citizen engagement after elections remains key by putting pressure on the newly elected to deliver on the basic socio-economic rights of Haitians. Through the Je Nan Je network and other partners’ grassroots organizations, ActionAid Haiti will maintain its solidarity with Haitians fighting for their rights during elections and after.