Photo: © Harvey Hook 2010
The New York Times, By REUTERS, October 8, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) ‹ The United States should support November elections in Haiti only if they include all eligible political parties, a group of United States lawmakers said in a letter sent this week to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Failure to hold free, fair and inclusive presidential and legislative elections on Nov. 28, the letter warned, could endanger Haiti¹s governance and reconstruction after the earthquake on Jan. 12, which wrecked the capital and killed up to 300,000 people.
In the letter, Democratic members of Congress expressed concern that Haiti¹s Provisional Electoral Council had excluded candidates from more than a dozen parties, including the country¹s largest, Fanmi Lavalas, which is loyal to the exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The council also excluded the popular Haitian-American hip-hop star Wyclef Jean as a presidential candidate. No reason was given, but Mr. Jean said he was rejected because he did not meet the requirement of having lived in Haiti for five consecutive years before the elections.
Among the candidates the council approved were Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and university administrator; Yvon Neptune, a former prime minister; Leslie Voltaire, an architect active in reconstruction planning; and Michel Martelly, a musician known as Sweet Micky.
The lawmakers urged Mrs. Clinton to demand the elections include all eligible political parties and easy access to voting for all Haitians, including 1.5 million people displaced by the quake.
A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, promised the department would look into these allegations.
“Obviously, we want free, fair and democratic, transparent elections to take place in Haiti as well”, he said.
Led by the United Nations, the international community is financing and supporting the elections in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest state, as part of a multibillion-dollar postquake aid and reconstruction effort.
The letter said, Haiti¹s next government will be called upon to make difficult decisions in the reconstruction process that will have a lasting impact on Haitian society, such as land reform and allocation of reconstruction projects.
It added that conferring those decisions on a government perceived as illegitimate is a recipe for disaster.
The head of the United Nations mission in Haiti, Edmond Mulet, said last week that conditions existed for successful, credible elections, including 19 candidates for president, the participation of 66 political parties and the registration of more than four million voters. President René Préval cannot seek re-election after two terms in office.
“You have quite an interesting diversity of candidates from different groups and ideologies”, Mr. Mulet said, adding, “The choice is there.”
Haiti’s general elections were originally due to take place on Feb. 28, but were postponed because of the earthquake. The Provisional Electoral Council had already blocked Mr. Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party from participating in 2009 legislative contests because of a dispute over rival candidate lists.
Electoral officials said party leaders did not provide required registration documents, and its exclusion was upheld for the November voting.
Below the full letter as published on Bob Corbett’s Haiti listserver:
Washington, Oct 7 –
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We are writing to express our concerns about the November 28 presidential and parliamentary elections in Haiti. We believe it is imperative that these elections be free, fair, and inclusive, and result in a government that is legitimate and perceived as legitimate. The November 28 elections are particularly important to re-establish an effective legislature, establish political accountability for the expenditure of large amounts of money, and resolve Haiti’s current societal disputes in a peaceful and democratic manner.
As it currently stands, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has decided to exclude candidates from over a dozen political parties from participating in the elections, including Fanmi Lavalas, Haiti’s largest political party. The exclusion will undermine both Haitians’ right to vote and the resulting government’s ability to govern.
Last November, the CEP, which was appointed through a process not recognized in Haiti’s Constitution, excluded 14 parties from parliamentary elections then scheduled for February 2010, without providing a written, comprehensive explanation. Although those elections were postponed and rescheduled for this November 28, the CEP refused to revisit the disqualifications, which have been widely condemned by civil society and parties across Haiti’s political spectrum. A previous CEP, with many of the same members, also excluded Fanmi Lavalas and other parties from Senatorial elections in April 2009. Haitian voters boycotted, and most observers estimated a 3-6% voter turnout.
Although some may argue that Haiti has more pressing problems, allowing flawed elections now will come back to haunt the international community later. Haiti’s next government will be called upon to make difficult decisions in the reconstruction process that will have a lasting impact on Haitian society, such as land reform and allocation of reconstruction projects among urban and rural areas. Conferring these decisions on a government perceived as illegitimate is a recipe for disaster.
Haiti’s next government will also have to ask its citizens to make sacrifices, such as losing land through eminent domain, or take risks, such as relocating to a new displacement camp. Citizens are unlikely to sacrifice for or trust a government that obtained power through dishonest means.
President John Kennedy famously remarked, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Running transparently unfair, exclusive elections, with the support of the international community, will leave many Haitians to conclude that they have no choice but to protest the elections and the consequent government through social disruption. That disruption threatens to severely limit such a government’s ability to govern, and imperils the United States’ past and future investments in Haiti’s reconstruction.
The CEP and international community must also ensure that all Haitians entitled to vote are afforded the opportunity to do so. This includes all those who have lost their voting cards and other identity documents in the earthquake this year, as well as those who have turned 18 since the last elections in 2006. We are particularly concerned that the 1.5 million people who have been internally displaced have access to identity cards and polling stations close to the camps where they live so that they can vote. This is also essential to holding legitimate elections.
We call on you to make a clear statement that elections must include all eligible political parties and ready access to voting for all Haitians, including the displaced. The United States government should also state unequivocally that it will not provide funding for elections that do not meet these minimum, basic democratic requirements.
Maxine Waters; Donald Payne; William Delahunt; Barbara Lee; Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Alcee L. Hastings; Charles B. Rangel; Jan Schakowsky; Dennis Kucinich; Hank Johnson; Jim McDermott; Yvette D. Clarke; John W. Olver; Keith Ellison; Sam Farr; Donna M. Christensen; Raúl Grijalva; Michael Honda; Betty McCollum; Laura Richardson; Alan Grayson; Chellie Pingree; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Danny K. Davis; Sheila Jackson Lee; Elijah Cummings; Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick; Lynn Woolsey; Chaka Fattah; Fortney “Pete” Stark; Al Green; Stephen Lynch; Donna F. Edwards; John Lewis; Bob Filner; Diane Watson; Bennie G. Thompson; Tammy Baldwin; John Garamendi; Bobby L. Rush; Jesse L. Jackson Jr.; Bart Gordon; Melvin L. Watt; Corrine Brown; Lucille Roybal-Allard
Members of Congress