Friday, May 1, 2009

Haiti's Electoral Farce Continues in June of 2009

by Wadner Pierre

As widely predicted, Haiti's senatorial elections of April 19 were boycotted by the overwhelming majority of the electorate. Two days ago, as if to deliberately invite more ridicule, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that there were no winners in the first round for 12 vacant senate seats that were contested. Haiti has a 30 seat senate. A second round of the discredited elections will take place on June 7. However, the vote in the Haiti's Central Plateau has been cancelled due to fear of violence.

Government officials have claimed that turnout was 11% but many political organizations say it was 2-3% - consistent with a pre-election survey by the Florida-based advocacy organization Haiti Priorities Project (HPP). Regardless of the exact figure, no one is disputing that turnout was extremely low. U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson attempted to dismiss the significance of low turnout by saying

"Historically, off-year elections in the United States as well as in other countries tend not to be as well-attended as presidential elections. We'll have to see."

However, in 2006, turnout was 30%, according to UN officials, for legislative elections held months after Rene Preval won the presidency.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, gently chastised the Haitian people.

"Indifference is harmful for a democratic process that requires a strong interaction between political actors and governments".

In fact, outrage, rather than indifference, explains why voters stayed away. The boycott was provoked by the CEP's disqualification of candidates put forward by Famni Lavalas (FL), the party of deposed president Jean Bertrand Aristide. International donors, embarrassed by the CEP decision, were initially critical of the ban but soon opted to promise more aid for Haiti as a way to appease voters.

Eliminating FL was the objective of the 2004 coup backed primarily by US, France and Canada. Thousands of FL partisans were murdered during the two year rule of a UN backed dictatorship and hundreds became political prisoners. The FL base, overcoming countless obstacles to their participation, carried Rene Preval to victory in the presidential election of 2006. It was widely hoped that he would make it possible for Aristide to return to Haiti. He has disappointed the FL partisans many times since his election, but going along with the CEP's disqualification of FL appears to have been the last straw.

Increasingly bitter critics observe that Preval's LESPWA party is well positioned to prevail after the second round in June. Nine LESPWA candidates appear headed toward victory. It has been suggested that Preval's allies in the senate will then amend the Haitian constitution.

FL partisans sent a powerful message with the successful boycott. They have referred to it as "operation closed doors and empty streets." A group young people interviewed on a radio station said "We, in Bel Air, belong to Lavalas. Preval excluded us. We cannot vote today."

Cite Soleil, an FL stronghold with over 300 000 people, predictably shunned the election. An inhabitant of Cite Soeleil told a reporter "This election is not for us. It is for Preval. Lavalas are out we are out as well."

FL's message appears to have even reached the international press. An April 21 press report by AP reporter Jonathan Katz refers to FL as the "still-popular" party of Aristide.

Haiti Liberte reports that even a group of senators, led by Evaliere Beauplan, whose parties participated in the April 19 polling, dismissed the elections as a "farce" and called on Preval to apologize to the Haitian people.

After four tropical storms that ravaged Haiti last year, the $16 million wasted on this so-called election (which was postponed several times) could have used to help starving people.

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