Elections are currently scheduled for November 28; many Haitian and international analysts have serious doubts that the process will be free and fair and have raised important questions about the process to date. The overarching concern is that under the Preval Administration, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), has been highly partisan in support of Preval’s INITE political coalition and has worked actively to put in place a structure that favors that coalition. More concerning, the INITE coalition has also been arming supporters. Preval and the Minister of Justice Paul Denis have already claimed victory in the elections (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7137 and http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7108 ). For those who forgot President Preval’s record on democracy and elections, please see: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2008/01/president-rene-prevals-questionable.html ) and for the previous electoral update see: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2010/09/weekly-haiti-electoral-update-5-by.html
Furthermore, in the eyes of Haitians, the United Nations Haiti mission, MINUSTAH, which is supposed to support the democratic process, is seen as an occupation force that is highly partisan. They have to manage competing interests. On the one hand, there is the United States and Canada, which are committed to free and fair elections. And on the other hand, they need to balance the interests of some South American countries are supporting President Rene Preval’s attempts to maintain power.
Meanwhile the situation has not improved in-country despite massive commitments from the international community. So far only 15% of the pledged international aid has been delivered, and there is little progress to show for that investment. In fact, the rubble remains in the streets, and there has been little effort to build more permanent housing for the 1.5 million people still living in the streets. Social tensions are rising (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7114 ). To compound matters, Interim Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) is getting ready to distribute projects to foreign contractors while Haitians continue to be marginalized if not excluded.
Aid is slow to arrive … and having minimal impact
The past three weeks have been very difficult for the 1.5 million Haitians living in 1,370 makeshift tent camps. Rain has been pouring into the camps and the “tents” are in no way waterproof; they are merely pieces of cloth on poles in many cases.
So far, American citizens have donated $1.1 billion, and it is difficult to track where all of that money went, but it is clear that it has really supported a patchwork of programs that, despite best intentions, have had a limited impact. The U.S. has already spent $1.2 billion in the immediate aftermath of the quake. Of that, a couple hundred million went to organizations to provide first aid and recover operations. The bulk of that funding went to support the deployment of the 82nd Airborne, which was first on the ground to open the airport and rebuild the ports (see: http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/countries/haiti/template/fs_sr/fy2010/haiti_eq_fs70_09-03-2010.pdf ). An additional $1.15 billion aid package passed the U.S. Congress for Haiti several months ago but has been held up by the State Department which was tasked with putting together an anti-fraud plan before the money could be deployed. The State Department just submitted that plan and says they will deploy the money soon. The money is reportedly all going to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) (see: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2010/10/115-billion-us-aid-package-for-haiti.html ). However, many in the U.S. press are asking what former President Clinton, who is managing both the private, multilateral and other assistance, is doing?
Finally, many Haitians are worried that some NGOs are acting outside of their area of expertise and mandate and becoming involved in promoting a specific political agenda (for an example see:
Voting cards not being issued
Despite a deal between a Brazilian company and Haiti’s National Office of Identification (ONI) to issue the registration cards, many Haitian citizens still cannot obtain their card (see: http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article10080 ). There are only 41 days until the elections and thousands of Haitian citizens cannot obtain the registration card, which is mandatory by law. The ONI, managed by the Organization of American States, is not fulfilling its mandate and leaving the door wide open for widespread electoral fraud. Citizens are reporting that have made repeated trips to the ONI office to retrieve their cards, and have come away frustrated that they have not been able to obtain the card for one reason or another. Many are becoming discouraged saying that they will not return anymore (see: http://lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=84644&PubDate=2010-10-14 ).
In October, the ONI office in Les Cayes in the South was burned down with significant losses, and the authorities believe this was a criminal act (see: http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article10076 ). On October 5, two individuals were taken in custody by the police in connection with that crime (see: http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article10081 ). Since then, no news has been reported on this case. These types of stories are contributing to the general atmosphere of distrust and skepticism of the process. As a reminder, a poll conducted last month found that 92% of the people believe the elections will be rigged.
Voter lists not up to date
The CEP announced they are not able to up date the registration list prior to the elections. The electoral law requires that the CEP post a month prior to the elections the list of voters on each polling station. Many wonder if the CEP will fulfill that requirement in order to facilitate fraud. An estimated 300,000 people died in the January 12 earthquake, and others died from natural causes prior to the quake. All the deceased names are still on the voting list.
There is a gap between what the locals and foreign technical assistance providers are claiming about the status of the lists. Despite these problems many officials seems to be pleased by the process (see: http://www.antiguaobserver.com/?p=43753 ). In any case, no election could proceed without an up to date voter registration list. Again, the door to fraud has been left wide open.
Polling stations to be staffed with partisan personnel
The CEP recruited 30,000 people to staff 10,000 polling stations. The president of the CEP has not provided any information on the procedures put in place to recruit the personnel of the polling stations, but reports indicate that the vast majority of the staff was handpicked by the INITE coalition in order to facilitate vote rigging at the polling stations. He added that the political parties and candidates that are involved in the electoral process participated in the recruitment, and insisted that he has not received a single complaint about this recruitment process (see: http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article10097 ).
Training of CEP personnel
Since the opening of the electoral process the CEP has not provided any information on the training for 10 Departmental Electoral Bureaus (BED), 140 Electoral Municipal Bureaus (BEC), 10,000 polling stations and the technical personnel of the CEP. For a successful process they need to have a good understanding of the electoral law, the voting process, the use of the ballots and tally sheets and other technical aspects of the elections. The CEP has maintained a total blackout on providing information about technical training.
Opening of the campaign period
Under charges of favoritism, the CEP has open the first phase of the campaign allowing the candidates and the parties to promote their messages (see: http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article10040 ). The CEP has decided to divide the campaign period in two parts. The first part is called the “silent campaign” period where only posters and banners can be posted. For many analysts that will favor President Preval’s handpicked successor because he has access to unlimited state resources, the funds of the business cartel known as Groupe de Bourdon and drug money. The second phase of the campaign or the “full campaign” opened on October 15 with candidates worrying about the direction of the process and making accusations about the distribution of arms around the country by President Preval’s political coalition, INITE. There is strong perception – and in some cases hard evidence – that President Preval is preparing an autolgole or electoral coup.
Polling and Debates
The non-partisan polling company BRIDES published the results of their first presidential poll in September. They polled 6,000 people from the 140 municipalities of the country (70% from rural areas and 30% from urban areas). None of the INITE-associated candidates made it to the top three. Mirlande Manigat (RDNP) finished first with 23.1%, Charles Henri Baker (RESPE) second with 17.3%, Michel Martelly (Repons Peyizan) third with 17.1%. The ruling party INITE with the support of the Groupe de Bourdon decided to take over the company polling after the first results were published. They spent $3 million to buy the investigators collecting the data and manipulated the results of the second poll released in October. The head of the BRIDES, Mr. Fortunat, was not part of the pay off. The goal was to place President Preval’s handpicked successor Jude Celestin in second place while reducing the percentages of the other candidates. There are three remaining polls (October 24, November 11 and 15), and all will be rigged. That manipulation move backfire because most Haitians are making a mockery of these polls since they learned that the second poll was rigged in favor of INITE.
Two debates have been organized. One was held in Haiti and the other one in Tampa by a group of Haitian students led by Riccardeau Lucceus. These students received support from the United States League of Women Voters. Four candidates participated; none of the leading candidates responded.
Campaign funding coming from drug money and state institutions
Many Haitians are preoccupied by the corruption and the amount of money available in this process. Last week a prominent member of civil society revealed that there is an additional $800 million circulating in the banking system and nobody knows where this money came from (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7115 and http://lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=84147&PubDate=2010-10-11 ). Analysts believe that 34% of the ruling party candidates and leadership are linked to drug trafficking and corruption. Two seniors leaders of INITE are under the most scrutiny: Senator Joseph Lambert, coordinator for INITE (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article4180 ); and Senator Kely Bastien, who is close to the head of a cartel named “Pasteur”. Many other candidates of the ruling party are linked to the cocaine cartels. About 78% of all cocaine coming to Haiti is from Venezuela via small planes.
Also from Venezuela, President Chavez has allowed government to use $103 million from the Petrocaribe agreement between Haiti and Venezuela to finance the ruling party INITE. The ruling party is also benefiting from the support of the largest Haitian business cartel, Groupe de Bourdon, which controls the banking system, the Petrocaribe agreement and the various monopolies. They fulfill a myriad of illegal functions for the ruling party, such as money laundering and financing of national and international political and business deals and lobbying.
The use of NGOs to promote political and electoral agendas is also concerning (see: http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1/7154-haiti-event-where-has-all-the-money-gone.html ). Meanwhile many other candidates are trying to reach out to the Haitian diaspora to raise money. The Diaspora remit about $1.9 billion every year. During the 1990 elections, they gave $3 million to candidates.
Security and circulation of arms
Violence on election day continues to be a concern. Arms have been distributed around the country to INITE supporters and candidates (see: http://lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=84552&PubDate=2010-10-13 ). Former Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, former presidential candidate for INITE now with the MPH party, brought this fact to light (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7100 ). According to various sources 40 9mm revolvers and two machine guns have been distributed to the central plateau (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7116 ). In the West department, a man called Dimitri, an influential member of INITE and a close ally of President Preval, distributed the arms. In the South, the arms were distributed to INITE supporters and candidates at the garage of the Ministry of Public Works (TPTC). In the North, three rounds of arms distribution have been carried out by INITE according to independent journalist Cyrus Sibert. Many sectors do not trust the top presidential advisor for disarmament and head of the CNDDR commission, a Haitian trained by the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Alix Fils Aime. Most of the arms recuperated by his commission have been redistributed to the gangs loyal to the ruling party INITE (see: http://lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=&ArticleID=76321 ). Alix Fils Aime contradicted former Prime Minister Alexis statement: (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7106 ).
Meanwhile the Haitian National Police have resisted pressure from Preval and his handpicked candidates to engage in partisan behavior. The leadership of INITE has reportedly changed strategy to recruit police support and is directly contacting police commissioners and officers loyal to INITE in various units. The police are receiving training from international monitors (including France) that will allow them to deal with riots and other problems (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GRgUT6znBI ). It is strange that the police are being trained to deal with any potential uprising by the people but not to investigate the vast corruption and violence being carried out by the government.
MINUSTAH viewed as an occupying and partisan force
MINUSTAH has been in Haiti since 2004 at the request of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. The mission spent more than $3 billion and to characterize progress as “little” is being charitable. The mission is not performing well and is building local capacity at a snail’s pace. In addition, the mission is viewed as partisan and corrupt because of its involvement in various scandals over the years, including: the kickbacks from the Groupe de Bourdon for a $10 million oil contract (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121701914.html ); the raping of Haitian women by soldiers from Bangladesh; the killing of 16 year old Haitian Gaspard in Cap Haitien which was allegedly covered up as a suicide; and inappropriate statements by Edmond Mulet, MINUSTAH head.
More and more the mission’s involvement in political issues is being viewed as partisan. Last week, a MINUSTAH patrol was seen putting up posters for the ruling party candidate in Saint Marc, according to local radio station, Tet a Tet. The Haitian population believes that MINUSTAH is aware of the arms distribution by the ruling party around the country, but MINUSTAH remains mute in order to protect Preval’s agenda (see: http://forums.sakapfet.com/WBSakapfet/default.asp?action=9&boardid=8&read=20662&fid=37 ). Last week the United Nations Security Council decided to renew MINUSTAH’s mandate instead of waiting for the elections angered many Haitians. A group of women used the occasion to protest against the UN military presence in Haiti (see: http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article10126 ).
The Organization of American States
Haitian political parties and civil society have raised concerns over the manipulation of the political process by Preval to the OAS. The OAS has ignored the complaints of the political parties and the concerns registered by the U.S. Congress. Among the chief complaints brought to the OAS are: CEP has hired ruling party supporters at every level; manipulated the electoral process to allow former government officials involved in corruption to stand for election in contradiction of electoral rules; and INITE candidates linked to drug, kidnapping and corruption are being allowed to run despite existing reports from human rights and other organizations (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article5650 ). There is ample proof of corruption to disqualify these candidates. While the OAS Mission is aware of this, none of its reporting reflects the various manipulations. Each time the OAS finds a way to congratulate the corrupt officials of the CEP (see: http://www.sflcn.com/story.php?id=9300 ) in violation of article 23, 24 of the OAS Democratic Charter (see: http://www.oas.org/charter/docs/resolution1_en_p4.htm ).
U.S. Representatives call for free and fair elections on behalf of Aristide’s party
A letter written by the several members of the U.S. House of Representative to Secretary Hillary Clinton (see: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2010/10/united-states-congress-wants-free-fair.html ) requesting that free and fair elections are organized in Haiti has been received in-country with mixed feelings. All Haitians welcome any support for free and fair elections, but they do not like when one political party is singled out for support. While Representative Maxine Waters has tried to do her best to help Haiti, many Haitians view her efforts as lobbying for former President Aristide. There is a popular perception in Haiti that she cares more about her relationship with the former Haitian president than the well being of the Haitian people. News coming from the United States has strengthened that perception because of assertion that Mrs. Waters made millions from Haiti Telecommunication with Mr. Aristide (see: http://fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/democrat-congresswoman-waters-stole-from-haiti/ ). Haitians always equate the fabrication of facts coming from Washington for Aristide with the number of people he had made millionaires on the back of the Haitian people (see: http://www.haitipolicy.org/Lobbying7.htm ).
Specifically, the letter states that Fanmi Lavalas is the majority party of Haiti, which is false. Lavalas participated in the 2006 elections and won only six Deputy seats of the 99 slots available, and only three of the 30 Senate seats. Jean Bertrand Aristide, the head of Lavalas, stole $350 million over nine years from Haiti’s public coffers and is afraid to face Haitian justice (see official report of the Haitian government on Aristide corruption: http://www.radiokiskeya.com/RapportUCREF.pdf and http://www.haitipolicy.org/content/3284.htm and see report of journalist Lucy Komisar: http://thekomisarscoop.com/tag/haiti/ ). Aristide himself has purposely undermined the participation of Fanmi Lavalas in the next elections by not signing, as the head of the party, the authorization allowing their candidates to register. As a result, four Lavalas presidential candidates and many more legislative candidates have left the party to run under new banners. The presidential candidates are Yvon Neptune, Leslie Voltaire, Yves Christallin, and Jean Henry Ceant. In addition, Aristide’s former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has stated that Aristide, with the support of his lobbyists, has fabricated the theory that he was kidnapped by the U.S. military in 2004 for their political purposes (see: http://radiokiskeya.com/spip.php?article7105 ). Neptune said Aristide resigned in 2004, and he has a copy of the letter. Haitians appreciate the letters of support from the House of Representatives and Senator Lugar’s calls to revamp the CEP, but those calls have been ignored by Preval and INITE. Right now four major coalitions -- Liberasyon, Altenativ, Rasanble and UCADDE and the party Fanmi Lavalas -- are boycotting the elections because of the partisan nature of the Provisional Electoral Council.
Two trains have left the station. The INITE train, managed by President Preval, is on track to secure the presidency and control of two-thirds of both chambers by means of an electoral coup d’etat. The other train, led by the Haitian people, is on track for free and fair elections. In past elections the above-mentioned dynamics have led to serious political instability. We are headed down the same track for these elections, and no one is trying to address these issues.
Bill Clinton, Leonel Fernandez and several South American countries also have competing agendas further complicating the situation. It is looking more and more like these trains could collide resulting in more chaos and instability for the Haitian people.
For more information, please, contact:
Washington Democracy Project