At this most critical moment for Haiti, we must secure strong leadership for the country through free and fair elections. All legitimate political parties – those that have registered and those that are boycotting – are joined by all actors of Haitian civil society, the Haitian Diaspora and the Haitian people in their commitment to seeing democratic elections. However, there is a significant chance the elections will be undermined, manipulated and rigged. The Obama Administration and the US Congress can play a critical role in supporting the Haitian people’s quest for legitimately elected new leadership.
Many challenges face the Haitian elections: out of date voter list, lost voter cards, decimation of polling stations, an unstable security situation, and an entrenched leadership focused on retaining power at any cost. Compounding these dynamics is a corrupt, discredited electoral authority, the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). The Haitian legislature has called for a reorganization of the CEP as have several international organizations and members of the US Congress. The current nine members of the CEP are corrupt, partisan and lack the confidence of the people to organize a democratic election for the following reasons:
- First, they rigged the senatorial elections in 2009 by manipulating and changing the results in favor of President Rene Preval’s Inite party.
- Second, Haiti’s General Accounting Office found that the members of the council have stolen state and international aid funds allocated for elections.
- Third, the members of the CEP have allowed individuals involved in drug trafficking, human rights violations and corruption to register as candidates for the next elections. According to Haiti’s electoral law, anyone involved in drug trafficking, violated human rights or were found to be corrupt by the anti-corruption unit, you are not qualified to sit as a candidate for Congress, Senate or the Presidency.
Despite the calls of Haitian society and a report issued by Senator Richard Lugar (entitled “Without Reform, No Return on Investment in Haiti” issued on July 24, 2010) advocating reform of the CEP, President Preval has steadfastly resisted undertaking the necessary reforms citing this as a “domestic issue”. By all accounts on the ground in Haiti, he and his allies are planning an electoral coup to steal the election for his Inite party.
If they succeed, there can be no doubt that Haiti will descend into political chaos and the current leadership vacuum will become a black hole. At the source of every political crisis of Haiti since 1995 is a rigged and manipulated election. The people of Haiti know and understand the Electoral Law and overwhelmingly support and expect democratic elections. Elections are a “vent” for all the frustration and hardship that the Haitian people face and therefore trigger a serious and swift response. Haiti cannot afford a political crisis on top of the earthquake crisis.
The United States can play a major role to ensure that the next elections are free and fair. The US Government will provide 90% of the $44 million needed to organize the elections. The US can ill afford to waste taxpayers money on a sham elections. And, you will find no one outside Preval’s Inite party who believes the elections will be otherwise under this set of circumstances.
Therefore, Haitian political parties, civil society groups, and all Haitian Diaspora organizations call upon the US Government to withhold financial assistance for the upcoming elections until the CEP is reorganized. Article 289 of the Haitian Constitution provides the legal basis for reorganization and the parameters for the organization of a legitimate electoral council.
Furthermore, there is historical precedence that placing conditions on the electoral assistance is an effective way of ensuring the integrity of the elections. In the past 20 years, Haiti has held only two free and fair elections of the 12 that have been organized: December 1990 and November 2006. In both of these elections, the US Government defined a set of benchmarks and conditions before electoral assistance would be released, including stipulating a non-partisan electoral commission.
There are 2.1 million Haitians sleeping in the streets and hunkering down for what is shaping up to be the most devastating hurricane season in decades. Haiti has not even begun to dig out of the earthquake rubble. Everyone knows that strong leadership is needed urgently to meet this challenge head on. But everyone also knows that conditions for such leadership to emerge do not exist, and that the US Government has the leverage to ensure the needed changes are made. We hope that the US Government stands with us in our quest to finally put Haiti on the right path.