Eight Months – Still under Rubble
Haiti continues to struggle after the January 12 earthquake. Sunday will mark eight months since that tragic day, and, unfortunately, will mark little progress on the reconstruction front. Only 2% of the rubble has been removed. Port-au-Prince has an estimated 28 million cubic meters of debris. Worse, more than 2 million people are living in 1,370 makeshift camps with no estimate of when they might receive more permanent housing. Most of the aid organizations on the ground – while very good in intention – are inefficient with little coordination among the organizations and almost no accountability for spending the money. There have also been reports that some programs are being used to meet the political goals of the Preval Administration. This is in that context that we released last week electoral update, see: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2010/09/weekly-haiti-electoral-update-by.html
Growing Discontent with the CEP
This week the CEP representative of the Catholic Church, Enel Desir, resigned leaving eight members of the contested CEP in office. The constitutionality, legality and partiality of the CEP continue to be challenged. Of the eight remaining members representing various sectors of society only one has legal status. Article 289 of the constitution stipulates that, “Awaiting the establishment of the Permanent Electoral Council provided for in this Constitution, the National Council of Government shall set up a Provisional Electoral Council of nine (9) members, charged with drawing up and enforcing the Electoral Law to govern the next elections, who shall be designated as follows:
1. One selected by the Executive Branch, who is not an official;
2. One from the Episcopal Conference;
3. One from the Advisory Council;
4. One from the Supreme Court;
5. One from an agency defending human rights, who may not be a candidate in the elections;
6. One from the Council of the University;
7. One from the Journalist’s Association;
8. One from the Protestant religion; and
9. One from the National Council of Cooperatives.”
Only one of the current members represents one of these sectors. Preval appointed the others from sectors, such as voodoo and women’s organizations, that are not stipulated in the constitution.
1. Ginette Chérubin was delegated to the CEP by a woman’s organization, Fanm Yo La, headed by Madame Lassegue the current Minister of Culture. Madame Cherubin is also a former Minister of Women’s Affairs under Preval. While it is of course important to have women well represented on the CEP, women’s organizations are not one of the nine sectors.
2. Laurette Croyance is a close ally of Preval and was picked by the Anglican Church, which of course is not one of the nine sectors.
3. Leonel Raphaël was supposedly picked by the Protestant Federation; however, a network of Protestant members of the Federation has demanded his recall because of the immoral management of the elections by the CEP (see: http://lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=83303&PubDate=2010-09-07).
4. Jacques Belzin was designated by a union, Confédération des Travailleurs Haïtiens (CTH). Prior to his appointment, Belzin worked as an advisor to Preval traveling with him on all his overseas delegations. Unions are not one of the nine sectors.
5. Gaillot Dorsainvil was selected by the Centre d’Education Spéciale (CES), which is a member of MORENO, one of Preval’s political organizations. Gaillot is a close associate of Preval. This is not one of the nine sectors.
6. Anthenor Guerrier represents the voodoo community. This is not one of the nine sectors.
7. Ribel Pierre represents the National Council of Political Parties. This is not one of the nine sectors.
8. Jean Theleve Pierre Toussaint is a friend of Preval nominated by the Minister of the Interior, Paul Antoin Bien Aime, on behalf of the Federation of Locally Elected Officials (CASECs), which is affiliated with the Ministry. This is not one of the sectors and furthermore he represents a quasi-governmental agency.
Meanwhile all the managers of the Departmental Electoral Bureaus (BEDs) and Municipal Bureaus (BECs) that were recruited on the basis of interviews and exams have been fired and replaced by partisan elements of Preval’s INITE Party.
In the court of public opinion, 8% believe that the elections will be free and fair and 92% believe that Preval will conduct an electoral coup. When asked what should be done to stop the coup, 53% believe civil disobedience should be the course of action while 46% believe that the international community should freeze the funds for elections until the appropriate reforms in the CEP take place. Protest against the CEP is growing, people went after one member of the Council, Ginette Cherubin the South (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?breve2262) and the Haitian Protestant Federation Network have asked the Protestant Federation to recall their representative for the “immoral management of the elections” (see: http://lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=83303&PubDate=2010-09-07 ).
Voter Lists Cannot Be Updated in Time for the Elections
Access to the registration offices to obtain an electoral card remains a huge challenge. Furthermore, the spokesperson of the National Office of Identification (ONI) stated this week that prior to the elections it would not be possible for the CEP to update the registration list to account for the 300,000 people who lost their lives in the earthquake. Not cleaning the list will certainly result in massive electoral fraud.
Electoral Identification Confusion
Adding fuel to the fire are conflicting reports on electoral card issuance coming out of the ONI. On the one hand, Jean Francois claimed that the institution has distributed 48,000 electoral cards but then later revised the number to 800,000. Between 2007 and 2010, the institution said it had identified 928,000 new voters. On top of that, nearly 45% of the registered voters lost their electoral cards in the earthquake. When asked how they intend to reach out to the 2 million potential voters and displaced persons to ensure that every single voter can reapply for their electoral cards, the office said that the OAS was going to do a civic education campaign and offered no details.
Security Concerns Escalate
Security continues to be an issue with violence up 33%. A senior member of the United Nations stated they were greatly concerned about the security situation in light of the huge amount of illegal arms circulating around the country. A senior Brazilian diplomat added that looking at the conditions in-country, elections will not take place in November.
This week, the Haitian police captured a major gang leader, responsible for the kidnapping and killing dozens of Haitian, while he was visiting the Ministry of Finance. This again raises questions about the link between the government and the gangs (see http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7018). Since 2006 Preval’s security advisor, Jean Phillippe Jean Baptiste alias Samba Boukman, has been under fire for being a gang leader and head of Operation Bagdad (see http://www.rnddh.org/article.php3?id_article=300) while serving as the head of the Disarmament Commission (CNDDR). The Commission is supposed to collect arms from the gang leaders to get them off the streets. In practice, they are collecting arms to distribute them to their own gangs (see http://lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=&ArticleID=76321). The police are doing their best, but are constantly undermined by criminal elements in the governments.
Criminal elements linked to former President Aristide continue to pose a threat to the elections through their ongoing involvement in kidnapping and drug trafficking. The CEP has allowed many human rights violators, people involved in corruption and drug trafficking to run for the presidency, Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. These candidates are part of a heavily armed civilian network of the government – and of Aristide – that will use violence and intimidation in the run up to the elections. Because of their political connections, the police will be very timid toward them.
Political Parties to Hold Political Strategy Meeting
Political parties continue to call for a new independent and non-partisan electoral council to manage the elections. They are organizing a political summit next week to decide a unified course of action. The majority of them seem to tilt toward a civil disobedience campaign, while some would prefer that international funding for the elections be frozen until the CEP is changed. So far, the Canadian government has not provided the funds that they promised for the elections yet.
Preval and Aristide’s coalitions have splintered into many groups. Many presidential candidates from that old coalition are distancing themselves from both men. Preval’s corruption and mismanagement of the country since 2006 and especially after January 12 earthquake has plunged his job approval rate into the single digits eroding his political support. There is renewed outrage with Aristide’s corruption as Haitians are reminded of the fact that Haiti’s General Accounting Offices established that he stole $350 million from the state coffers (see official reports on Aristide’s corruption:
Among the 19 candidates, at least five are from the former Preval-Aristide coalition. They include: Jacques Edouard Alexis, a former prime minister fired for corruption and incompetence by the Haitian Senate in April 2008; Leslie Voltaire, former Minister of Haitians Living Abroad; Preval and Aristide advisor, Yves Christallin, Preval’s Minister of Social Affairs; Yvon Neptune, former Prime Minister under Aristide and close ally of Preval; Jean Henry Ceant, an Aristide lawyer and, Preval’s handpicked successor, Jude Celestin. Preval had initiated a series of meetings characterized as “briefings” for the presidential candidates. Most of the candidates have declined the invitation, and the one that did meet with him released a statement denouncing his management of the country and the partisanship of the CEP (see http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7034).
Civil Society Criticizes the Silence of the UN and the OAS
The major organizations of civil society came out this week against all the irregularities and technical failures of the electoral process and the partisanship of the CEP. They have also focused their criticism on the poor performance of OAS Secretary General Miguel Insulza for acting in violation of the institution’s Democratic Charter that requires free and fair elections for the transfer of power. They cannot fathom why the OAS is silent on Preval’s obvious attempts at an electoral coup. The organizations also went after Colin Granderson, the head of the OAS electoral observation mission, which they perceive as partisan (see http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7019). The organization has been criticized for providing technical assistance to the CEP to organize the elections while simultaneously observing and evaluating the process (see
Haitians believe that the OAS is acting as both judge and jury. The organization has not addressed any of the criticisms and tried to meet privately with the actors who responded that until the OAS starts issuing reports on each step of the process, they are wasting money and will not be taken seriously.
Using International Aid to Campaign
It is becoming increasingly clear that the government is using humanitarian aid to support its candidates. The “cash for work” program has been under fire this week because Rene Momplaisir, a gang leader advising Preval, has been distributing favors with aid money in the first, second, third districts in Port-au-Prince as well in Croix des Bouquets, Leogane, Grand Goave and La Gonave. Several NGOs and aid organizations close to the government have been implicated.
Exclusion of the Diaspora
All presidential candidates from the Diaspora community have been excluded from the process, and it seems that the four million Haitians living in 20 countries will not have representation and will not be able to vote. That has created a growing anger within the Diaspora community particularly in the United States, who are calling their Members of Congress requesting that the United States freeze the funds they agreed to provide for the elections until the necessary reforms to ensure that the elections are managed fairly are taken.
After eight months living in camps among rubble in primitive conditions, tempers are wearing thin. Everyone knows aid money poured into to support the Haitian people and no one is seeing the affect of that money. They are aware of the election rigging underway and are fed up. This is becoming a highly volatile situation with a strong prospect of erupting into a violent and chaotic political mess. Meanwhile, the international community is sitting on the sidelines. It is time for them to back up the Haitian people and insist on a free and fair electoral process – particularly since they are footing the bill.
For more information, please, contact:
Stanley Lucas, Washington Democracy Project, firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 256-6026