More than two months after its contested presidential runoff was postponed amid escalating opposition protests, Haiti has taken a significant step toward resuming the process. Provisional President Jocelerme Privert issued a presidential order late Tuesday, naming nine new members to a re-established Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) charged with organizing a second round to elect a president and complete parliament. “It is still up to us to support this body, which will need to analyze the process before deciding how to revive it to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders,” Privert said the day before as he welcomed a new caretaker government and prime minister, and announced his intentions to officially name the council known as the CEP. The order was published after the newly-installed government ended its first council of ministers meeting. The entire government, including Privert and interim Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles, signed the three-page document in hopes of boosting transparency, and giving the new CEP the needed political clout to embark on the difficult task of seating a democratically-elected president in Haiti after a disputed electoral process.
Under a Feb. 5 political agreement, Haiti should be preparing to hold the postponed runoffs on April 24. But Haitian elections experts and political observers have said that the date is technically impossible. To begin, with the exception of media representative Leopold Belanger who served on a previous CEP, all of the electoral council’s members are new to the process. They will need weeks, if not months, expert say, to familiarize themselves with pulling off an election with 5.8 million registered voters and 10,000 polling stations.
The presidential and partial legislative runoffs were initially slated for Dec. 27, but rescheduled to Jan. 24. They were postponed for a second time in January amid violent street protests and a boycott by opposition candidate Jude Célestin. Célestin had placed second in the field of 54 presidential candidates after government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse, but joined a coalition of eight opposition presidential candidates, dubbed the G8, in disputing the official results.
Calling the results “a ridiculous farce,” Célestin refused to campaign and participate in the runoff after officials failed to adopt sweeping changes recommended by a special electoral commission to improve voting. Other opposition candidates, as well as local observers organizations and religious leaders, also denounced what they said was “systematic, massive fraud” in the Oct. 25 first round presidential vote, and demanded a recount by an independent commission.