|Parliamentary elections, initially scheduled for February and March 2010, were postponed to 28 November due to a huge earthquake that hit the country on 12 January. At stake were all 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 11 seats in the Senate. The parliamentary elections were held in parallel with the presidential polls.
The previous elections to the Chamber of Deputies (February and December 2006) were the first to be held after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been ousted in February 2004. The Front for Hope (Lespwa) - established by former members of Mr. Aristide' Lavalas Family Party - took 22 of the 99 seats at stake. The Haitian Social-Democratic Fusion Party took 16 seats, followed by the Democratic Alliance Party (ALYANS) and the People's Struggle Party (OPL), which took 11 and 10 seats respectively. The Lavalas Family Party and the Union took six seats each. The remaining 27 seats went to 13 small parties while the result of one seat was invalidated.
Lespwa also became the largest force in the Senate, winning 11 of the 30 seats at stake. The Haitian Social-Democratic Fusion, the OPL and the Lavalas Family Party took five, four and three seats respectively. The remaining seats went to four small parties. Lespwa's leader, Mr. René Préval, won the presidential elections. He was a former President (1996-2001) and long-time ally of Mr. Aristide. In May 2006, Mr. Préval was sworn in as the country's new President, officially ending Haiti's two-year political transition.
Upon assuming office, Mr. Préval nominated Mr. Jacques Édouard Alexis as Prime Minister. His nomination was unanimously approved by both chambers. However, many Lespwa members and President Préval's allies subsequently formed the Coalition of Parliamentarians for Progress (CPP) as they gradually became disenchanted with the government's economic policies.
In April 2008, the Senate voted to dismiss the Prime Minister. Two candidates for the premiership - Mr. Éric Pierre and Mr. Robert Manuel - were rejected by the CPP in the Chamber of Deputies. Although the renewal of ten Senate seats - elected in February 2006 for a two-year term - was constitutionally due by April 2008, it could not take place due to the political stalemate. In August and September 2008, both chambers endorsed Ms. Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis as Prime Minister. During those months, the Caribbean island of 9.8 million inhabitants was hit by a series of hurricanes that killed nearly 800 persons and caused damage amounting to 15 per cent of its gross national product (GNP). The post-hurricane confusion further delayed the Senate elections.
The one-third renewal of the Senate finally took place in April and June 2009 along with by-elections to two other vacant seats. The final results announced in July gave six seats to Lespwa. Four other parties took one seat each and one independent candidate was elected. The results in the Central Department were invalidated leaving one vacant seat.
Some sitting senators rejected the final results, arguing that massive fraud had been committed during the second round of voting in the departments of Artibonite and South. The validation of the newly-elected senators was consequently postponed. In September, the Senate validated the newly-elected members, paving the way for the Bureau of the outgoing legislature to resign. Mr. Kelly C. Bastien (Lespwa) was re-elected as Senate President. In October, the Senate voted to dismiss Prime Minister Pierre-Louis, blaming her for the slow economic recovery. The President subsequently appointed Mr. Jean Max Bellerive, the then Planning and Cooperation Minister, as the new Prime Minister.
The renewal of one third of the Senate members (elected in 2006 for a four-year term) and elections to fill the undecided seat in the Central Department were due to take place along with the elections to the Chamber of Deputies on 28 February and 3 March 2010. Prior to the 2010 elections, Mr. Préval, who was constitutionally barred from seeking another term as President, established the Inité (Unite) party. It comprised several senior members of Lespwa, the OPL and the National Christian Union for the Reconstruction of Haiti (UNCRH). They included the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Levaillant Louis-Jeune (CPP), Senate President Bastien, former Senate President Joseph Lambert (Lespwa) and most CPP members.
On 12 January 2010, an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter Scale hit the country, killing over 250,000 persons and leaving 1.5 million homeless. It destroyed the premises of most government institutions, including the parliament building. Two senators lost their lives in the earthquake. On 2 February, the Electoral Council announced that parliamentary elections would be indefinitely postponed. Due to the earthquake, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) was expected to shrink by 8.5 per cent in 2010 and unemployment was predicted to reach 30 per cent.
In May, President Préval announced that he would extend his term by three months in case elections did not take place in November 2010, triggering street protests. Although he subsequently declared that he would leave office by the end of his term, i.e., on 7 February 2011, both chambers of parliament voted to amend the electoral law, effectively extending his term until 14 May 2011 (see note). On 30 June, President Préval signed a decree, calling both parliamentary and presidential elections for 28 November. The 2010 elections recorded 850 candidates to the Chamber of Deputies, 95 to the 11 seats in the Senate and 19 for the presidency. Many outgoing members - most of whom belong to the Inité party - were seeking re-election in 2010.
The media focused on the presidential elections, pushing the parliamentary polls to the background.
Major presidential candidates included Mr. Jude Célestin - Director General of the National Equipment Centre and the fiancé of President Préval's daughter - backed by the Inité party; Ms. Mirlande Manigat, a prominent opposition figure and an outspoken critic of the President; as well as Mr. Michel Martelly, a popular singer. Another popular hip-hop star, Mr. Wyclef Jean, saw his candidacy rejected due to his residence in the United States (the Haitian Constitution requires candidates to have lived in the country for five years prior to an election). Ms. Manigat's husband, Mr. Leslie Manigat, had served as President for four months in 1988 before being deposed by a military coup. She was backed by the Rally of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP, which had won four seats in the Chamber of Deputies in 2006) and the Collective Movement for Haitian Renewal (COREH), a group of influential parliamentarians. COREH was formed by a group of some 100 current and former parliamentarians and is co-led by two senators: Mr. Youri Latortue (Latibonit Ann Aksyon) and Mr. Steven Benoit (formerly Lespwa and currently in "Alternativ").
The Mobilization for Haiti's Development (MPH, which had taken four seats in the Chamber in 2006), led by Mr. Samir Mourra (a Haitian-American who had been barred from the 2006 presidential elections), endorsed former prime minister Jacques Édouard Alexis as its presidential candidate. Many outgoing parliamentarians who belong to the Inité party reportedly backed Mr. Alexis rather than Mr. Célestin. Former President Aristide's Lavalas party was excluded from the elections, as well as the Renmen Ayiti party. According to the Election Commission, these parties failed to submit proper documentation for the elections. Lavalas backed Mr. Jean-Henry Ceant, a well-known lawyer and another fierce critic of President Préval.
In October, Hurricane Thomas hit the island-nation that was still reeling from the damage and loss caused by the January earthquake. Later the same month, several cases of cholera - an epidemic the country had not seen for more than a century - were reported in the rural Artibonite region. The epidemic rapidly reached the capital Port-au-Prince - where the refugee camp for 1.3 million earthquake victims is located. Over 1,600 persons died from cholera before the November polls. Four of the 19 presidential candidates demanded the postponement of the elections but the first round was maintained for 28 November.
Many candidates - both parliamentary and presidential - reportedly led individually-driven election campaigns without any specific platform. Both ruling and opposition candidates pledged to strengthen national consensus, end corruption, improve justice and revive agriculture. Some candidates, in particular the younger ones, also promised to create jobs, work on educational reform, and rebuild the economy. Mr. Célestin (Inité), pledged to restore the nation. Ms. Manigat (COREH/RNDP) underscored that economic progress could not be achieved overnight. She promised a progressive withdrawal of MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti).
The 2010 elections saw a spate of logistical problems. Many citizens had lost their ID cards (required both for voter registration and voting) in the earthquake. Several cases of fraud, including the circulation of fake ballot papers, were reported. The low literacy rate among adults (35 per cent according to World Bank figures) further complicated the voting process.
Around 22 per cent of the 4.7 million registered voters turned out at the polls. Turnout in some areas was as low as 6 per cent. Although voting itself took place in relative peace, allegations of fraud and voting irregularities, such as stuffed ballot boxes, were reported.
Twelve presidential candidates demanded that the election be invalidated, urging President Préval to resign and hand over to a provisional government when his five-year mandate officially ends on 7 February. Mr. Martelly demanded fresh presidential elections. The Joint Election Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) and of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that had monitored the elections noted "serious irregularities" but stated that they were not sufficient to invalidate the elections.
In the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, 22 candidates secured the required majority to be elected in the first round. Inité took 13 seats while the remainder went to five small parties. Four candidates - three from Inité and one from Alternativ - were elected to the Senate.
Preliminary results for the first round of the presidential elections placed Ms. Manigat in the lead with 31.37 per cent of the vote. Mr. Célestin came in second with 22.48 per cent of the vote, narrowly followed by Mr. Martelly with 21.84 per cent. Supporters of Mr. Martelly led violent street protests, killing five people. President Préval requested the OAS to help verify the preliminary tally. The Election Commission subsequently postponed the publication of the final results, which had been due by 20 December.
On 3 January 2011, the election commission announced that it would postpone the presidential and parliamentary run-off elections, scheduled for 16 January 2011, to an undetermined date.
On 13 January, the OAS submitted a report concluding that Mr. Martelly had won the second highest number of votes in the presidential elections after Ms. Manigat. However, Mr. Célestin refused to withdraw. Mr. Alain Le Roy, Chief of the MINUSTAH subsequently urged the Election Commission to respect the OAS' conclusion, warning that Haiti could face a constitutional crisis with the possibility of "considerable unrest and insecurity". Inité as well as President Préval urged Mr. Célestin to withdraw his candidacy. On 3 February, the Election Commission announced that it had removed Mr. Célestin's candidacy in favour of Mr. Martelly.
In the meantime, on 16 January Mr. Jean-Claude Duvalier - the former dictator known as 'Baby Doc' - made a sudden return to Haiti after 25 years of exile, further intensifying the political tensions in the country. He was subsequently arrested and faces corruption and human rights charges relating to his rule from 1971 to 1986.
The second round of parliamentary and presidential elections was held on 20 March. The final results of the Chamber of Deputies gave 46 seats to Inité. LAVNI and A.A.A. took eight seats each while Alternativ took seven. The remainder went to small parties. In the Senate, Inité took six of the 11 seats at stake while Alternativ took four. In the run-off presidential elections, Mr. Martelly triumphed over Ms. Manigat.
On 26 April, the newly elected Chamber of Deputies held its first session and elected Mr. Sorel Jacinthe (Inité) as its new Speaker. On 28 April, the 11 newly elected senators joined the Senate, which elected Mr. Rodolphe Joazile (Inité) as its new President.
Mr. Martelly was sworn in as the new President on 14 May 2011.
The five-year presidential term started on the date of the first round of the elections (7 February 2006) and is due to end on 7 February 2011. President Préval argued that the five-year term should include only the term effectively served and thus commence on the date when the President had been sworn in (i.e. from 14 May 2006 to 14 May 2011) based on the Constitution which sets the presidential term at five years.