Haitians suspect fraud in election

Presidential candidate Moise Jean Charles goes by horse at an election protest in Haiti.
Presidential candidate Moise Jean Charles goes by horse at an election protest in Haiti.

MIAMI, Florida – A poll by an independent research group has found deep public suspicion of the first round of the presidential election in Haiti, a finding that is likely to fuel calls by opposition parties for a recount of the disputed results.
Teams of researchers with the Brazil-based Igarape Institute conducted exit polls on the day of the Oct. 25 election and followed up with the same voters again after preliminary results were announced Nov. 5. They found that public confidence in the process had plummeted between the two dates, according to an analysis they planned to release this week.
In the election exit poll, 82% of voters agreed with the statement “As far as I can see, this election is fair, there is no fraud.” But in the follow up, the conclusion was almost the opposite with nearly 90% saying they disagreed with the statement.
The poll also came up with a curious result when voters were asked who they voted for among the 54 names on the ballot. Just over six percent said they voted for government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise, placing him fourth. But preliminary results announced Nov. 5 said he came in first with nearly 33% of the vote, putting him in a runoff with second-place finisher Jude Celestin.
It is not unusual for exit polls to vary from actual vote counts. This “very large discrepancy” does not prove the preliminary results announced by the Provisional Electoral Council are inaccurate but suggests further scrutiny is necessary, said Robert Muggah, research director of the institute.
The electoral council has not released final results and has so far rejected calls by opposition leaders for a recount. The runoff is scheduled for Dec. 27 and is expected to feature Moise, a businessman who has never held political office but was picked as a successor by President Michel Martelly, facing Celestin, a former head of the state-owned construction company who was defeated in the disputed presidential election in 2010.
Opposition supporters have staged repeated protests over the results since Nov. 5 as they demand a recount. Several thousand marched in the capital last week until they were dispersed by police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
An observer mission from the Organization of American States noted some “irregularities” but concluded that the preliminary results appeared to be in line with what they saw on Election Day.
The Igarape exit poll found about four percent of voters witnessed what they considered fraud, which included officials improperly turning away voters, people voting multiple times or voting for other people. The U.S., Canadian and Haitian researchers interviewed 1,991 people at 135 polling stations. The survey had a margin of error of 2.29 percentage points.