Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Haiti election campaign opens amid anger over candidate exclusions

27 September 2010
By Han­nah Arm­strong, Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Monitor

The exclu­sion of pop­ulist party Fanmi Lavalas and other con­tenders height­ens con­cerns that the Haiti elec­tion will fail to intro­duce lead­ers closer to vot­ers’ core concerns.

In Camp Immac­u­late, a tent-city for many of the 1.5 mil­lion Haitians made home­less by the Jan. 12 earth­quake, hun­dreds of pro­test­ers gather reg­u­larly to tap out rhythms with bits of debris and chant in the noon-day heat: “No vot­ing under tents!” and “Down with Préval!”

Cen­tral to their anger is the belief that elec­tions sched­uled for Nov. 28 have been rigged in advance. These par­ti­sans of the pop­u­lar left­ist party Fanmi Lavalas (FL) blame an elec­toral com­mis­sion appointed by Pres­i­dent Rene Gar­cia Pré­val for ban­ning the party from con­test­ing the upcom­ing poll.

As the cam­paign sea­son offi­cially began today, the anger and dis­il­lu­sion­ment on dis­play in places like Camp Immac­u­late was evi­dence of how few Haitians believe the process will deliver a fair outcome.
On top of ban­ning the FL, the party of for­mer Pres­i­dent Jean-Bertrand Aris­tide that has won every elec­tion it has con­tested, the Pro­vi­sional Elec­toral Com­mit­tee (CEP) dis­qual­i­fied a num­ber of can­di­dates, among them the hip-hop star Wyclef Jean and for­mer ambas­sador Ray­mond Joseph.

Main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo?
Signs that this will not be a clean elec­tion have been in evi­dence for months. The US Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on For­eign Rela­tions warned in a July report (pdf) that the exclu­sion of FL and the fail­ure to reform the CEP could com­pro­mise the elec­tions’ legitimacy.

But US sup­port for the elec­tion appears assured. “Peace­ful and cred­i­ble elec­tions and the trans­fer of power to a new gov­ern­ment will be key mile­stones of Haiti’s progress,” Susan Rice, US Ambas­sador to the United Nations, wrote in an edi­to­r­ial on Fri­day that was released amid grow­ing alarm that the elec­tion is being stitched up for Mr. Préval’s allies.

The inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, which is pro­vid­ing most of the election’s $29 mil­lion price tag, “would rather work with Pré­val because he’s the only one they know right now,” says Mar­leine Bastien, a leader of the Haitian-American com­mu­nity in South Florida. Pré­val, who can­not run for another term, has endorsed for­mer gov­ern­ment con­struc­tion agency direc­tor gen­eral Jude Celestin. Observers say almost all pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates rep­re­sent the rul­ing elite sur­round­ing Préval.

We in the US have not put pres­sure on the CEP to do the right thing and uphold demo­c­ra­tic val­ues in Haiti – which means allow­ing Lavalas to par­take in elec­tions,” says Ms. Bastien, who is not an FL par­ti­san but says all viable par­ties must be allowed to participate.

Mario Joseph, Haiti’s most promi­nent inter­na­tional human rights lawyer, holds the UN respon­si­ble for tol­er­at­ing prac­tices that com­pro­mise the fair­ness of the country’s elec­tions. “They have sup­ported this elec­tion selec­tion, they have sup­ported the exclu­sion of polit­i­cal par­ties, they have sup­ported Mr. Pré­val in the choice of an elec­toral coun­cil with­out meet­ing with polit­i­cal par­ties,” he says.

Pré­val builds ties with inter­na­tional community
Pré­val came to power in 2006 in the first vote fol­low­ing the ouster of Mr. Aris­tide, whose increas­ingly vio­lent rule was marked by nation­al­iza­tion and wealth redis­tri­b­u­tion mea­sures that alien­ated Hait­ian elites and inter­na­tional part­ners. Pré­val cur­ried favor with inter­na­tional part­ners by pri­va­tiz­ing state-owned com­pa­nies and extend­ing the man­date for the UN peace­keep­ing mis­sion even as he lost domes­tic support.
Ten­sions boiled over in 2008, as food prices soared and riots broke out. Demon­stra­tors stormed the pres­i­den­tial palace demand­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Pré­val and the depar­ture of UN troops. The offi­cial turnout fig­ure for April 2009 sen­a­to­r­ial elec­tions was just 11 per­cent, stark evi­dence of the lack of con­fi­dence in the system.

‘Rebel­lion brewing’
Those elec­tions were the first to exclude FL. Despite for­mally object­ing, the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity con­tin­ued to sup­port the gov­ern­ment which “gave the CEP a green light to keep exclud­ing the government’s polit­i­cal rivals,” the Insti­tute on Jus­tice and Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH) wrote in a report.
IJDH direc­tor Brian Con­can­non says UN and US sup­port for the Novem­ber elec­tions is “a short-term expe­di­ent that’s going to come back and haunt them in the long-term.”
The exclu­sion [of FL] will hurt not only Haiti and its peo­ple but it will also hurt all part­ners,” adds Bastien. “I feel a lot of rebel­lion brew­ing under the surface.”

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