Haitian Elections: Less Parties Allowed, Less Voters Expected
Friday, 01 October 2010 10:47
An Inter Press Service article this week reports on widespread discontent with the planned November 28 elections. Surveying people in Port-au-Prince from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, journalist Judith Scherr reports that
Residents of a number of camps recently told IPS they are neither ready nor willing to participate in the Nov. 28 elections, for which the international community is paying two-thirds of the $29 million cost.
Only the more middle-class people interviewed said they planned to go to the polls.
Scherr describes some IDP’s sentiments, exemplified by a recent demonstration slogan "We are not going to the election in tents. We want housing before elections”, and noting that
In Camp Noailles, just outside Port-au-Prince, no one IPS spoke with planned to vote. A new president should come with plans to bring schools and jobs, "but most people come with a plan that doesn't work," one resident said.
Another – perhaps more significant – reason that people will abstain from voting is, of course, the exclusion of the most popular party from the ballot:
Another large group unlikely to go to the polls is the members of Fanmi Lavalas, the popular political party founded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, forced out of office in 2004 by the U.S., France and Canada and currently exiled in South Africa.
This begs the question: how will the U.S. and the international community react if – as with the April 2009 elections, only ten percent or less of eligible voters show up at the polls? Will a Haitian government consisting of officials from only those parties that the CEP has chosen for participation, and elected by a tiny minority of the population, be treated as democratic and legitimate? If the Haitian people decide to reject such a government –and make their dissatisfaction known through public demonstrations – will the international community see their grievances as justified?
Fanmi Lavalas, which won every election in which it was allowed to participate, was barred from the elections by Haiti's provisional elections council, which questioned the authenticity of the authorisation Aristide sent to Dr. Maryse Narcisse to register the party. "For us, this isn't just the exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas," Narcisse told IPS. "What they wanted to exclude is the majority - the people - from the electoral process....For us, the elections that are coming are not fair or honest. They are not democratic."
Fanmi Lavalas accuses President Rene Préval of manipulating the elections by hand-picking members of the electoral council, which the constitution says should be chosen through a grassroots democratic process.
Will Fanmi Lavalas boycott the elections? "We are not participating," Narcisse said. "For us this is a selection, not an election."
The U.S. State Department seems little bothered by such questions. Spokesperson Philip Crowley was caught off guard at a recent press briefing when a reporter asked "But I’m curious about if you have anything specific to say about what’s being called – just, well, what is the disqualification of political parties, not candidates, not specific candidates, including potentially famous candidates, but actual parties," and mentioned the letter [PDF] sent to Secretary Clinton from dozens of NGO’s expressing concern over the CEP’s arbitrary exclusion of candidates.
"Why don’t you ask us again tomorrow and we’ll see if we have more to say about this," Crowley said. But no subsequent mention of Haiti’s elections appears in press briefing transcripts.