April 18th, 2009
By Wander Pierre*-www.haitianalysis.com
Election or Selection?
Two days before they are due to occur, Haiti's senatorial elections are already a fiasco. According to a nationwide survey by The Haitian Priorities Project (HPP),“...only 5% of eligible voters would turn out on Apr. 19, based on polling conducted of some 65,000 people by 70 investigators during eight days in early April.”
Famni Lavalas (FL) the party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide has had all its candidates disqualified by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).
Rene Civil, a long time Aristide supporter and former political prisoner, said in a telephone interview “There will be a selection on April 19, not an election.” He said that demonstrations against the government and the CEP would be relentless. He believes that with FL banned from the senate President Preval will be able to force through unpopular economic policies such as the privatization of state institutions such as TELCO (Haiti's phone company) and the National Port Authority.
Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis declared a recent donor conference in Washington a success. But it is doubtful that this will inspire Haitians to turn out for the election.
Comments gathered below from people living and working in Haiti seem to confirm this.
Romy, a young labourer said in a telephone interview that he would not vote because FL has been banned. However, he also said that he wished FL were less internally divided.
Dave, a young vocational student who has worked with foreign journalists, also lamented FL's exclusion as a “lost opportunity” for Haitians.
Merisma Jean-Claudel, a law school student said “I am not sure that even 35% of the population will go out to vote. I have been in Cap-Haiti for the holy week. People are not interested in this election.”
Erline, a mother of two who works as secretary at a private school, said in an email, ” I am not going to vote, I am very disappointed to see some folks become rich overnight while most are starving..”
Disillusionment with Preval seems widespread. However, divisions within FL have also been harshly criticized. Even Aristide has been criticized for not taking a clear stand as the FL leader. It has been suggested that his silence during the dispute with the CEP was driven by a desire to do nothing that may appear to legitimize the coup of 2004. However, FL partisans have expressed frustration that they must guess what their leader is thinking.
The electoral fiasco has prompted more foreign attention for Haiti. Criticism of the CEP, at least among the foreign and Haitian elite, halted after a visit to Haiti by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Such high levels visits have provoked ridicule of the government for its deference to foreign donors.
*Merisma Jean-Claudle contributed to this article.