Haitian Protesters Concerned for Democracy

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Tuesday, 11 May 2010 15:35

Protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince yesterday, reports AP. Thousands of Haitians came to demand that President Preval step down, angered by the decision to stay on an extra three months if elections are not conducted. AP put the number of protesters at 2000, while Reuters reported that police "used tear gas and warning shots to disperse" the crowds. Al Jazeera, looking at the causes of the protest, reported on the perceived political vacuum that has allowed significant powers to be consolidated in the executive branch and international community:

The entire lower house and one-third of the senate are no longer sitting because the earthquake prevented February's legislative elections from taking place.

"Effectively the parliament is ceasing to exist as a governing body and the people on the streets are pretty concerned about that," Al Jazeera's Seb Walker, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said.

"It concentrates power in the hands of the president and the international commission that has been set up with former US president Bill Clinton as a co-chair.

"The people say that this means the day-to-day running of the country is now out of their hands."



The commission, which also includes Jean-Max Bellerive, the prime minister, is to oversee $9.9bn in foreign reconstruction money pledged at a March conference, a sum 40 per cent larger than Haiti's entire gross domestic product.

But many of the protesters said that Preval has sold the country to foreign powers, while the commission violates Haiti's sovereignty.
AP and the BBC both noted that protesters were also calling for the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This is an important point because the postponed February elections excluded numerous political parties from participating, including Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas. Allowing for the return of Aristide could increase the legitimacy of the government and help bring together the various actors in the reconstruction effort. In addition, it would be a positive single that when elections do proceed they will be inclusive and fair.

Tags: elections | fanmi lavalas