Despite Everything, Haitian Government Continues to Move Ahead With Flawed Elections

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Tuesday, 16 November 2010 11:27
Despite the outbreak of cholera which has already claimed over 900 lives and spread to all 10 of Haiti’s provinces, despite new protests against authorities including the UN for possibly starting the outbreak (something which the UN continues to deny, while defensively claiming that the protests are “politically motivated”, “aimed at creating a climate of insecurity on the eve of the elections”), and despite public concerns from various Haitian politicians and parties, 45 members of the U.S. Congress, Senator Lugar, newspapers, and numerous NGO’s, the Haitian government still seems prepared to move ahead with November 28’s elections as scheduled.

As readers of numerous press reports and past blog posts know, controversy around the elections centers around the Provisional Electoral Council’s banning of some 14 political parties from the ballot, including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas. Many Haitians and observers are also concerned about voter access in the wake of the January quake that displaced over a million people.

Now a new constituency of people with experience and knowledge of Haiti are weighing to voice opposition to what they see as rigged elections: returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCV’s). As TruthOut describes:
This letter was also signed by Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association, which is the leading organization of RPCVs and represents a network of 30,000 individuals. Quigley supports the former volunteers' petition, which urges that the US condition funding for the Haitian elections on the full participation of currently banned political parties and active engagement to ensure that voters among the 1.5 million internally displaced Haitians are not disenfranchised. RPCV Neil Ross ('62-'64), founding president of the NGO Friends of the Dominican Republic, an NPCA affiliate for the Dominican Republic, also signed the petition.
Truthout goes on to say
The RPCVs ended their petition with a short list of recommendations for the US: (1) withholding financial support for elections "until the CEP is replaced by a new Council chosen through a process that ensures neutrality, competence and credibility with Haiti's voters"; (2) the adoption of a "clear, firm position on the need for the upcoming elections to be free, fair and open to all of Haiti's political parties"; and (3) "adequate funding and technical assistance for a fairly-chosen CEP to prepare elections." This would include production and distribution of lost or destroyed CINs, the updating of the electoral list and ensuring that polling stations are accessible to internally displaced, poor and disabled Haitians. Extensive voter education was also suggested.
A new interview with former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide sheds new light on the flimsy pretexts by which the CEP has banned Fanmi Lavalas from participating:
Last year I received a letter from the Provisional Electoral Council, by the way, a council that was selected by the president, which is why they do what he wants. Excluding Lavalas was the implementation of the will of the government of Haiti.

I received a letter from them inviting me to a meeting and I said to myself, “Oh that is good. I am ready. I will go.” Then they said in the letter, “If you cannot come, will you send someone on your behalf?” So I said okay and I replied in a letter (1), which became public, asking Dr. Maryse Narcisse to represent Lavalas and to present the candidates of Lavalas based on the letter I received from the CEP. But they denied it because the game was to send the letter to me and assume that I would not answer. Then they could tell the Haitian people, “Look he does not want to participate in the election.” So they were using a pretext to pretend that they are intelligent, but in reality to hide the truth.

Did they not claim it was false at some point, or that it was not your signature?

They claimed that the mandate from me should have been validated by the Haitian consulate in South Africa, when they know that there is no representative of the Haitian government in South Africa, you see.

No embassy at all?

No. When I was President, I had named an Ambassador to South Africa, but that ended with the coup...
Meanwhile – all but ignored by the foreign press -- thousands of people in Port-au-Prince came out on November 1 for a demonstration in support of Aristide’s return and to support the candidacy of Jean-Henry Céant, who is reportedly making Aristide’s right to return to Haiti a key part of his platform. See photos here.

This demonstration and the new protests targeting the UN for its role in the cholera crisis could also be a harbinger of things to come if the Haitian government moves ahead with elections that will, again, leave the Haitian people without a popularly elected leader. With over 1 million displaced, many of them confined to tarp and tent camps with inadequate sanitation and a cholera epidemic underway, many Haitians may not have much patience for a government that has no legitimacy -- especially if the new government is as ill-prepared to deal with the ongoing crises as the outgoing one.

The U.S. role in enabling such flawed elections could lead to yet another disaster. As RPCV Neal Riemer states: "If we care about promoting democracy, it's just much easier and more practical to not financially and logistically support fraudulent elections with our tax dollars," and "demand real democratic features in exchange for funding."

Tags: disease | elections | fanmi lavalas | minustah | UN