posted on Wed 11 May 2016 5:46 PM
Briefing on Electoral Crisis in Haiti

Tomorrow afternoon (12 May), at the request of the US, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, will brief Council members in consultations on the electoral crisis in Haiti. A press statement is a possible outcome following the meeting.

The US request reflects growing concern and frustration among Haiti’s international partners about the stalled electoral process and its impact on the international community’s ability to help rebuild the country. When the Council last discussed Haiti, on 17 March, it was already becoming clear that the new timetable – set out in the 5 February accord between outgoing president Michel Martelly and leaders of parliament, to secure constitutional continuity in the absence of elections before the end of Martelly’s term – was unlikely to hold. The accord stipulated that the parliament should elect an interim president to serve for a maximum of 120 days, with the second round of the presidential elections scheduled to take place on 24 April (last postponed from 27 December), followed by the inauguration of a new president on 14 May. Jocelerme Privert was appointed interim president in keeping with the accord on 14 February. At the time of the 17 March Council meeting, however, parliament had not confirmed a new consensus prime minister and the new provisional electoral council had yet to be established, thus preventing preparations for elections from moving forward.

In an 18 March press statement (SC/12290), Council members expressed “deep concern” regarding the continued suspension of the elections, and called for the completion of the electoral cycle without further delay. They urged all relevant actors in Haiti to adhere to the 5 February accord and implement its provisions within the agreed timeline, noting the many challenges in Haiti that can only be resolved through close cooperation between a democratically elected government and the international community.

In the almost two months that have passed since this statement, progress in the electoral process has been slow, and at press time no new date for the second round of the presidential elections had been announced. Enex Jean-Charles was confirmed as prime minister on 28 March, and on 30 March a new provisional electoral council was sworn in, but divisions over whether to establish a new electoral verification commission to investigate allegations of fraud surrounding the 2015 elections led to further delays. Over the objections of supporters of Martelly’s party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), and its presidential candidate, Jovenel Moïse, who got the most votes in the first presidential round on 25 October, provisional president Privert announced on 28 April the establishment of a new five-member verification commission, stating that “the commission is indispensable to assure the credibility of the electoral process.” The commission now has 30 days to prepare its report. While it remains unclear when elections can take place, Privert seemed recently to suggest that presidential and legislative runoffs could be held in October, when elections for a third of the senate are scheduled to take place.

In light of these developments, Council members will want to get an update from Ladsous on the political situation, including the positions of key actors, and on what the UN is doing to support the process. They will also be interested in Ladsous’ assessment of any further complications that may arise in the coming months, in particular with regard to the fact that Privert’s mandate under the 5 February accord will expire in June. Ladsous might be able to provide an update on negotiations already underway among key players on possible options for this next phase. Additionally, Council members will be interested in Ladsous’ views on the most likely timeline for the remainder of the electoral process, in particular with regard to the date for the final round of the presidential elections.

The implications of the electoral crisis for the security situation and for the future of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) are expected to feature prominently in the discussions tomorrow. In her briefing to the Council on 17 March, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Sandra Honoré, noted that the mission’s operating environment would be shaped largely by the manner and timing in which the electoral process is completed, and that the strategic assessment on the future of the mission requested by the Council in resolution 2243 would only be carried out after its completion. (Resolution 2243, which extended MINUSTAH’s mandate until 15 October 2016, requested the Secretary-General to dispatch a strategic assessment mission to Haiti to present recommendations on the future presence and role of the UN in Haiti, “preferably by 90 days after the inauguration of the new President and ideally after the formation of a new government”.) She also said, however, that the Secretary-General would submit recommendations to the Council on MINUSTAH’s future ahead of the expiration of its mandate in October, “separately and apart from the electoral developments on the ground”.

During the same debate, traditional differences among Council members on MINUSTAH’s future reemerged. Some Council members stressed that any reconfiguration of the UN presence must be based on a careful analysis of the security situation and warned against any hasty decisions, while others emphasised that MINUSTAH cannot stay in Haiti “indefinitely” and said that delays in the electoral process should not be allowed to distract the UN from planning for a smaller and more focused UN presence. While Latin American members of the Council have in the past been united in advocating a cautious approach, Uruguay this time said that the Council should not allow Haiti’s political stakeholders to hold MINUSTAH hostage, and expressed the view that the strategic assessment requested by the Council in resolution 2243 could begin as early as May, regardless of the electoral process.

It seems that these differences remain and are expected to permeate the discussion tomorrow. Council members will be keen to get an update from Ladsous on the UN’s current thinking with regard to the preparations for the future UN presence and the timing of the strategic assessment mission. It seems that Ladsous may confirm that the full strategic assessment mission will not be dispatched until after the electoral process has been completed, but that he is planning a smaller, more limited mission to Haiti in June that can feed into the Secretariat’s recommendations to the Council ahead of the mandate renewal in October. Council members may be interested in more details on the preparations for the disengagement of MINUSTAH from functions that can be assumed by the Haitian government and other partners. In addition, they will be interested in a general update from Ladsous on the security situation and risks associated with the elections, as well as his assessment of the capacity of the Haitian National Police.

With regard to the press statement, at press time the US had yet to circulate a draft, but it was expected to focus on the electoral crisis, while also possibly addressing the future of MINUSTAH. While reaching consensus on the messages that the press statement should convey to Haitian stakeholders with regard to the electoral process is expected to be easy, any references to the reconfiguration of the UN presence and the timing of the strategic assessment is likely to be more controversial. It is therefore possible that the press statement will require some negotiation.