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Elections in Haiti 2015

On Jan 12 2015, most legislators in the National Assembly of Haiti will end their term, exposing the country to the possibility of being ruled by decree under the present President, Mr Michel Martelly.

The elections to the National Assembly is past due, as the President has failed to hold elections and is yet to announce the date for elections, despite strong political protests, some violent. The problem has been further compounded with six senators blocking a legislation proposing a new electoral council on the grounds that it will favor candidates supporting the current president.

On his part, President Martelly has given in to opposition demand by removing his Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who was widely seen as the favored candidate to replace President Martelly. This, however, has failed to break the political gridlock, so far.

The international community including the United Nations along with United States, France and Canada, have been putting diplomatic pressure on President Martelly to hold elections immediately but so far the country is stuck in a political logjam, with no solution in sight.

In the absence of elections, the country is in danger of sliding into anarchy, a scenario the international community would definitely not want for the people of Haiti, who have already lived through the brunt of a devastating earthquake in 2010 followed by a crippling cholera outbreak.

Election History
Haiti has always had a turbulent political history. The country continues to remain politically and economically unstable, earning it a 9th rank on the 2014 List of Fragile States Index.

The country suffers from rampant political corruption and lack of education among its majority Creole speaking population, is a serious impediment to social and economic development.

In 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the then elected President, was overthrown in a coup d'état, which was backed by the US and French governments. In the first elections post coup, Mr René Préval was elected as the President, in 2006. He however, failed to win popular support in parliament and following severe rioting due to rising food prices, the parliament voted to dismiss him, in 2008. This period was followed by a series of political upstaging and instability.

In the last elections held in 2010-2011, President Martelly got voted to power under controversial circumstances. In the first round of voting that took place on 28 November 2010, no candidate was able to get the requisite majority, as a result, a second round was held on March 20 2011, which saw Mirlande Manigat and Jude Célestin garner maximum votes. There was widespread protests against the results with accusations of electoral fraud, which prompted the electoral commission to eject Jude Célestin from the presidential contest.

This left the contest open between Mirlande Manigat and the next highest vote getting candidate, Michel Martelly. In the second round of voting held on 20 March 2011, Michel Martelly of Farmers' Response party, won the presidential race getting 67.57% votes and took office on 14 May 2011.

Election System
The bi-cameral Haiti National Assembly comprises of the Senate, which is the Upper House and the Chamber of Deputies, serving as the Lower House.

The Senate comprises 30 seats, with three senators being elected from each of the 10 administrative departments. Each Senator is elected by popular vote for a six year term, with one third i.e., one per department, being voted in every two years. In the last Senate elections in 2009, LESPWA won five seats, while one seat each went to FUSION, KONBA, AAA, OPL, UCADDE and one seat was won by an independent candidate.

The Chamber of Deputies comprises 99 members, each of whom is voted in for a four year term. The National Assembly is a joint session, which is presided over by the President of the Senate and is assisted by the President of the Chamber of Deputies. The Secretaries of both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, serve as Secretaries of the National Assembly.

Electoral Process
Voting is legally compulsory and candidates must seek absolute majority through vote. In case of lack of absolute majority, a run-off election is called for a contest between the next two highest vote receiving candidates.

Political Parties
Some of the political parties in the fray are Farmers' Response, Assembly of Progressive National Democrats or RDNP, Artibonite in Action or LAAA, Convention for Democratic Unity or KID, Cooperative Action to Build Haiti or KONBA , Liberal Party of Haiti or PLH, Merging of Haitian Social Democratic Parties or FUSION or FPSDH, Haitian Democratic and Reform Movement or MODEREH, Democratic Alliance or ALYANS, amongst several others.

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