this crucial role is shared between local, regional and international observers.
Ambassador Colin Grandison, who heads the joint OAS/CARICOM observation mission confirms there are, “200 observers from CARICOM (Caribbean Community)
Latin America, North America. But we also have a high number of observers from Europe, as states such as France, Spain, Portugal are observer members of the OAS and also part of the joint observer mission.”
A core group of two persons has been on the ground in Haiti since October last year. Coordinators, who are in charge of different teams, came in about three weeks ago. Long term observers came in about a half before elections; followed by short term observers on March 16. “Short term observers are debriefed and leave the country immediately following elections. Long term observers stay longer”, says Ambassador Grandison, “Because we need them to do some of the follow-up in the electoral process.”
Preliminary election results are declared on March 31, and the final result on April 16.
In-between an electoral tribunal will adjudicate all complaints related to the elections process. The reports generated by observers help validate any election, which is important for the support of international community from which Haiti receives an estimated 80% of its budget. Observers have become an integral, though disputed, aspect of Haitian elections, since the first democratic election in 1991, due to the country’s history of dictatorship.
In addition to the multi-national observers the United Nations Security Council has a long established Stabilisation Mission (MINUSTAH) in Haiti. It has been in operation since 2004.
Officially there to support the political process and capacity-building of security and law-enforcement, MINUSTAH will provide logistical support during the election.
“Votes are not counted at the polling station. Results sheets are put into a clear envelope along with other documents. The envelope is sealed and all those envelopes from throughout the country, Some 33,000 results sheets, are brought to Port Au Prince. This is done by the peacekeeping mission.”
Despite the international presence however, elections remain plagued by violence and allegations of fraud. Grandison stresses that post-election reports are used to address inequities but says “Electoral processes are very complex. Many things can go wrong.”