Ballot verification in Haiti suspended after electoral judges challenged
PORT AU PRINCE - On Tuesday, the verification of ballots cast in the presidential election in Haiti on November 20, taking place at the Vote Tabulation Center (CTV) was suspended for a few minutes following receipt of a summons from losing parties Pitit Dessalin and LAPEH requesting the resumption of the verification process from where it was on December 23, when the challengers decided to leave the premises after the decision of the Electoral Court to apply Article 77 of Council Regulation, which limits the challengers’ actions and prevents them from physically manipulating the Procès Verbaux (PV), the official voters lists, and making repeated objections and comments during the verification, thus delaying the process even further.
Moreover, a little before 4:00 pm on Tuesday the verification was interrupted following the filing by the bailiff with the Electoral Court of a request by the lawyers of losing candidates Jude Célestin and Jean-Charles Moïse for the recusal of the five judges comprising the Bureau of the National Electoral Litigation (BCEN) on suspicion of serious bias and conflict of interest, HaitiLibre reported.
Josette J. Dorcély, the president of the Electoral Court, considering that only the board of directors of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) can rule on the motion of recusal filed by the protesting parties, transmitted their requests to the CEP for a decision. Furthermore, in order to respect the relevant law, she announced the immediate suspension of the ballot verification, leaving unfinished the work that was to end on Tuesday.
According to the winning party, PHTK, this request for the recusal of the judges by the challengers is a final attempt by the losing candidates to delay the verification and prevent the publication of the final results scheduled for Thursday.
On Monday, the law firm acting for losing party Fanmi Lavalas. on behalf of its candidate Maryse Narcisse, also sent a letter to interim President Jocelerme Privert informing him of the summons made to the BCEN, as well as to the president and members of the CEP, to warn them against any publication of final results.
These recent developments therefore call into question the publication of the results impatiently expected on Thursday.
Rony Desroches of the L'Observatoire Citoyen pour l'Institutionnalisation de la Démocratie (OCID) has indicated that his "observers have found irregularities, but they are not massive irregularities, there may be human errors, but there is nothing that could invalidate the process… Most of the minutes with errors in the CTV have already been set aside."
However, Marie Yolène Gilles, the representative of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) at the CTV, left the centre on Monday around 6 pm, justifying her decision by the lack of transparency in the verification process.
"We believe there is no verification. In this sense, we decided to leave the CTV," she said.
LAPEH's lawyer, André Michel, warned that the final report of the verification cannot be enforceable against them since they were not present, notwithstanding that the challengers voluntarily left the CTV.
"No action taken in the absence of the representatives of the challenger will be enforceable against it," he wrote to the judges of the BCEN, describing as illegal and arbitrary the action of the electoral judges who continued the verification in the absence of the protesting parties.