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  January 6, 2017

Jovenel Moise Awarded Haitian Presidency as Opposition Parties Allege Massive Election Fraud

Haiti's electoral council limited access to the voter tally sheets as the opposition began uncovering fraud, says radio host Margaret Prescod
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KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Kim Brown in Baltimore.

A winner has been declared in Haiti's presidential election. Forty-eight-year-old Jovenel Moïse will be Haiti's next president and he will be sworn in next month, in February – this, after the Provisional Electoral Council announced their decision on Tuesday. This election was fraught with numerous challenges, including postponements and allegations of voter suppression and other irregularities, and was also punctuated by protests, some of which were cracked down hard by police. But some of Moïse's challengers say that they will not accept the election results, and claim that the process was opaque and also not legal.

Joining us for an update on the Haiti election outcome is Margaret Prescod. She's a radio host of the Sojourner Truth Radio Show broadcast nationally on the Pacifica Network. She's joining us today from Los Angeles. Margaret, thanks again for joining us.

MARGARET PRESCOD: Good to be with you, Kim.

KIM BROWN: Margaret, what is the latest on the ground that you're hearing regarding the Provisional Electoral Council's decision to make Jovenel Moïse Haiti's next president?

MARGARET PRESCOD: Well, it's important to note that this decision came two days after Haiti celebrated the anniversary of the revolution which was January 1st. So it is quite an emotional blow to the tens of thousands of Haitians who have been out on the streets protesting since the day after the election. There was worry in the lead up to the election that there could be what people call an electoral coup or fraud, and that has been verified by a number of people. Certainly, when I was there, I witnessed some of the irregularities myself.

But also, there were three of the presidential candidates, including Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the candidate of the Lavalas Party, which is headed by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who of course was deposed in a U.S.-backed coup. She. along with Jude Célestin and Jean-Charles Moïse, all challenged the results, all said that there was fraud and, indeed, they and their legal team had limited access to the tabulation center where the counting was going on. And, Kim, if you would believe this, in the tally sheets that they themselves looked at, they and their legal team looked at, they found about 80% fraud.

So, after three days of this, several of the judges on the Electoral Council said, "You know what? You all no longer have access to these tally sheets. You can stand way in the back and watch us count, but you can't really see what's going on." And in protest, they and their legal team, just left -- because basically they were denied access, which they should, according to Electoral Council law, to being able to see the tally sheets and to be able to make challenges where they see irregularities.

KIM BROWN: And according to the official election results, Jude Célestin, as you mentioned, finished a distant second, according to the Provisional Election Council but he also told the Miami Herald that not only does he not recognize these results -- and, as you mentioned, his legal team said that there were irregularities -- but did they offer specifics as to what types of voter fraud that they observed when they were in the same room reviewing some of the ballots?

MARGARET PRESCOD: Well, some of that has emerged, and for -- you know, I don't want the audience to get lost in numbers and details -- but, for example, a tally sheet would be examined, and let's say on this particular tally sheet they were maybe, say, 16 votes for Jude Célestin, perhaps 20 votes for Maryse Narcisse, zero for Jovenel Moïse, who was the candidate, of course, the hand-picked candidate, of Michel Martelly, the outgoing president. But somehow, in figuring out the numbers, he ended up with the majority of votes on that tally sheet. How is that possible? These were some of the challenges that they were making.

Also, there were places where votes were clearly changed and, as I said, in about 80% of the tally sheets that they looked at, there were irregularities and they say there was fraud. And they're also very concerned as to why the judges on the Electoral Council then limited their access. If they want to show to the nation and to the world that this was a clear and clean election, then they should've allowed the process to move forward, they should've allowed the legal teams of the three candidates that are making the challenges to go ahead and challenge.

And Dr. Maryse Narcisse from Lavalas, she has also said that Lavalas, they are refusing the result. They have asked for continued mobilization on the street, and the reports that you might have heard, indeed, her supporters, have been the ones that have been consistently on the street protesting since the November 20th election -- and being met, by the way, with great repression.

KIM BROWN: And the United States, along with the United Nations, are calling on Haitians to accept this result, Margaret. What are your thoughts about that?

MARGARET PRESCOD: Well, you know, no surprise. I mean, one of the things I'm saying, if people really want to see how an election is stolen in the global south, Haiti is a case study of it. Since 2010, if you look at elections that have happened in Haiti, they always seem to be, say, about 20% turnout in terms of the votes. It doesn't matter which election -- it always seems to amount to 20%.

Then there always seems to be massive fraud going on. Now, I personally, and with people that I've talked to, would really like to challenge that 20% in this most recent election because what we found is that there were far greater numbers than 20% of people who wanted to vote. They just couldn't vote because their names were mysteriously dropped from the polls or they were sent to the other side of the island. They said, "Well, you've got to travel for three or four hours to go cast your vote," so a number of people were frustrated in their attempts to vote.

And then when you look at a strong point, the most impoverished area in the Western hemisphere, which is Cité Soleil in Haiti, now, the tabulation center is about 10 minutes away – a 10-minute drive – from Cité Soleil. Cité Soleil is a strong point, a stronghold of Lavalas Party -- Aristide and Dr. Narcisse, very popular there. But yet it took about two to three days for the tally sheets to travel those 10 minutes from Cité Soleil to the tabulation center -- and, again, with findings of irregularities in looking at those tally sheets.

So, Kim, the sad part about it is that we may never know, simply because those candidates that are making a rightful and legal challenge were really denied their right to be able to examine the tally sheets as they could, and I suspect it's because they were uncovering the fraud that they then said, "You know what? This is too much. We are going to proceed and call the winner Jovenel Moïse."

By the way, like Donald Trump, a businessman -- like Donald Trump, he's never held elected office. But what differs from Moïse and Donald Trump is that Trump, at least, was known in the world of reality television. Nobody had heard of Jovenel Moïse until two years ago when Michel Martelly sort of trotted him out as his successor as candidate, of course, with the blessings of the United States and the E.U. Isn't that interesting, Kim?

KIM BROWN: Highly. So, Margaret, for some reason it seems as though this election in particular was fraught with a lot of problems for a long time. Because Haiti was without an elected president for several months, and then, when the first round of presidential elections tried to happen, it was fraught with so many problems and challenges that the interim president decided to, I guess, void the first-round decision and decided to redo the election. So why was this election in particular so dysfunctional?

MARGARET PRESCOD: Well, there's the irony of it. Because the first round of the presidential election, again, massive fraud took place -- and yet again Jovenel Moïse, the candidate of Martelly, was nevertheless said to be the winner. Now, what happened is that people by the tens of thousands took to the streets, there were massive protests, but the fraud was so flagrant and so widespread that even some of the human rights organizations' delegations of observers said, "You know what? There's something wrong with this picture."

But what happened is that the protests forced the government to basically establish a commission to look into the fraud. And guess what, Kim, when they looked into it, they found that in some cases over 90% of the ballots were fraudulent.

Now, the ironic thing about it is that now that the election has been re-run, you have exactly the same winner and practically the same result as one did in the first round where there was massive fraud. Yet again, people are saying there's massive fraud again this time, which perhaps explains the similarity in the result. But, nevertheless, and I imagine there was a lot of pressure from the United Nations, from the United States, from the E.U., to move forward with this.

Now, why this election was problematic? In the election where Michel Martelly was basically selected to be president, people felt that, again, that also was not a clean election and that the United States got involved in it -- in fact, Hillary Clinton visited Haiti and Jude Célestin was also part of that election -- and by right there should have been a run-off between Martelly and Jude Célestin. But the United States forced the issue where Jude Célestin was not part of any run-off, and Michel Martelly declared president.

So, in this particular election, the people decided, "You know what? We're not going to have that again. We're sick and tired of not being able to choose our president, and our president being chosen for us." So there was a lot of mobilization and a lot of protests, and still we have this result -- and that's one of the reasons you see Dr. Maryse Narcisse, as well as two of the other candidates, saying they are not accepting this result. This was a fraudulent election and, as far as they're concerned, Jovenel Moïse did not win this election and people are continuing to be out on the street.

Kim, what I'm concerned about and what a number of people are worried about, however, the police have been very, very heavy-handed on the protesters. These are police that are trained by MINUSTAH, the U.N. force. Live rounds are being fired. People are being hosed down with water that seems to be laced with some kind of chemical that burns the skin. Tear gas being lobbed in communities where they know people from those communities are coming out and protesting -- at odd times, like, one o'clock in the morning where families are asleep. I think I spoke with you earlier about a couple of young children, including a baby, who died as a result of tear gas being lobbed, practically at people's doorsteps. There's a particular church where a lot of the protests start from. The people gather there and they march from there. Now they're being kettled-in by tanks, by police. They're not being allowed to leave that area.

And one of the things that's important for people in the United States and around the world, your many viewers of The Real News Network to know -- to be concerned about this level of repression. Whatever one might think about the election, about Jovenel Moïse, one has to express concern to their governments, including to the government of the United States, to really express concern and do something to stop this violence and repression happening against peaceful protesters that are simply trying to make the case that in Haiti there should be one person, one vote.

KIM BROWN: Indeed. We've been speaking with Margaret Prescod. She is the host of the Sojourner Truth Radio Show. It is broadcast nationally on the Pacifica Network. We've been discussing the Haitian presidential election. The winner has been declared. Jovenel Moïse will be sworn in as Haiti's next president in February. However, his challengers, and many Haitians themselves, dispute the integrity and the result of this election.

Margaret, we can't thank you enough for joining us. Thank you.

MARGARET PRESCOD: Thank you so much, Kim.

KIM BROWN: And thank you for watching The Real News Network.




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