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International ecumenical team will not observe
Members of the ecumenical team, which is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), announced that they will not continue with the electoral observation in the second round of elections, after having noted irregularities and tension in the voting process during local and legislative elections on 21 May 2000. However, the 13 team members drawn from France, Germany and Switzerland want to "keep the door open" if the situation changes.
The international community and Haiti's own religious groups and civil society have widely condemned and described as unfair the May election results in the Caribbean country, of which the declared winner was the party of the former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In a declaration on 24 June, seventeen organizations including the Protestant Federation, the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference, the National Chamber of Commerce and the Industrialists' Association stated that they could not endorse results that corresponded neither to electoral law nor to generally accepted norms. The political parties of the opposition have declared that they would not participate in the second round of elections. France, the USA and the Organization of American States (OAS) also strongly criticized the election process and questioned the validity of the results of the first round of the balloting.
The full text of the statement by the ecumenical observers on the May 21 election process follows:
A group of 13 observers came from Switzerland, France, Germany and the United States to monitor the Haiti elections.
Their presence expresses the concern of the worldwide fellowship of Christian churches for the people of Haiti and its solidarity with them at the important stage that this vote represents for the building of democracy.
For practical reasons, these observers were deployed in association with the monitoring mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Departments of West, Artibonite, Center, South, North East and Grand' Anse. Cooperation with the OAS regional representatives was good. The present statement, however, involves only the thirteen ecumenical observers signing it.
We admired the obvious determination of Haitian voters to take part in the poll in spite of its complexity and in spite of the material and technical difficulties, which made strict application of electoral law practically impossible.
We also noted the presence in the polling stations of many national observers and mandated representatives of different parties. We would emphasize the responsible approach and civic sense of the staff in the majority of the polling stations observed, despite their often-inadequate training. Their commitment allowed voting to proceed satisfactorily in these polling places.
In a number of polling stations, however, we did witness certain irregularities: pressurizing, intimidation, and failure to guarantee the secrecy of the ballot. Vote counting took place in particularly difficult conditions (length of time, lack of lighting, cramped space, fatigue of polling station staff, departure or exclusion of mandated representatives), and irregularities were noted, especially concerning the official reports (incomplete, not signed or not written on the spot).
We did not observe the transporting of the results to the District Electoral Offices, nor in most cases, the compiling of results, which was not generally completed within the legal time limit of 48 hours.
As from this stage when the results were being compiled, observation was made very difficult by the state of disorder reigning in most of the District Electoral Offices visited by us.
Starting on the day following the election, we observed deterioration in the climate in a number of places, with a marked increase in tensions (candidates arrested, street demonstrations, acts of violence, police interventions).
This being so, any assessment of the extent and consequences of the irregularities we observed seems to us premature: strict verification by Department and for all polling stations is essential. The Provisional Electoral Council, the Haitian authorities, political parties, civil society, all the actors in this electoral process and the representatives of the international community have a duty to act in their respective fields of competence to ensure that all the rules of democracy are guaranteed.
The will of all the electors must be respected.
Porte-au-Prince, 27 May 2000
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.