Lavalas flexes its muscles in Haiti
by Kevin Pina
President of Haiti Rene Preval appears visibly worried as his security detachment far out numbers voters at the polling station where he cast his ballot.
A nearly empty ballot box sits at a polling station in Port-au-Prince on April 19, 2009. Voters overwhelmingly stayed away from the polls after Haiti’s largest political party called for a boycott.
HIP — Haiti’s Lavalas movement effectively destroyed the credibility of yesterday’s Senate election through a successful boycott campaign called Operation Closed Door. Even the most generous electoral count puts participation at less than 10% in the capital of Port-au-Prince while the actual figure may be as low as 3% nationwide.
According to Rene Civil, one of the spokespersons for Operation Closed Door, “What we are seeing is the non-violent resistance of the Haitian people to undemocratic elections. There is no way they will be able to call the Senators elected in this process legitimate. You cannot hold elections without the majority political party.” Ronald Fareau, another representative of the campaign stated, “We want to congratulate the international community for their hypocrisy in these elections. They spent over 17 million dollars on another electoral fraud in Haiti while our people continue to suffer from malnutrition and illiteracy.”
The controversy over the election began when factions of the Fanmi Lavalas party originally presented two slates of candidates to the Conseil Electoral Provisoire or CEP. The two slates were an apparent attempt to wrest control of the party from former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was ousted in Feb. 2004 and remains in exile in the Republic of South Africa. A break-away faction led by former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune questioned the legitimacy of the candidates presented by the former president’s appointed representative Dr. Maryse Narcisse. The campaign against Narcisse and Aristide was brutal among their supporters including accusations of his appointed representative working with the CIA and the US State Department. Neptune’s group then presented a second slate but in the end the Fanmi Lavalas party’s leadership managed to hammer out a compromise list of candidates in time to meet the deadline.
The CEP finally refused to accept the Fanmi Lavalas applications on the grounds they did not have former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s personal signature from exile in South Africa. The CEP reportedly would not allow for a facsimile copy of his signature on the documents when they were presented on the final day of the application deadline. This effectively excluded all Fanmi Lavalas candidates from participating in the election and led to the boycott of the Senate elections on Sunday.
Neptune and other members of his faction within the Fanmi Lavalas party called for participation in the election despite the nationwide boycott. Early Sunday morning Neptune said publicly on a local radio program, “We must vote today if we are to keep the integrity of the democratic process.” When asked on Radio Caraibe’s Ranmase program if he had a message for voters Neptune responded, “Vote well.” The success of yesterday’s boycott was taken as a referendum of support for Aristide by the base of the Lavalas movement in the much-touted internal party conflict.
Although there were some reports of sporadic violence in yesterday’s elections between supporters of current president Rene Preval’s Lespwa party and its rival L’Union, the disruptions were isolated to a single city, Mirebalais, in the country’s Central Plateau region.
There were largely no reports of violence or voting irregularities in the capital where streets and polling stations remained deserted throughout the day. The only incident occurred in the seaside shantytown of Cite Soleil after a member of the L’Union party was accused of handing out money and food to bribe voters.
Private vehicles and motorcycles were banned during the election as they were during the presidential election in Feb. 2006. Where long lines formed at the polls early in the day on Feb. 7, 2006, polling stations remained virtually empty on Sunday due to the Lavalas boycott.
Five Lavalas hunger strikers continued to occupy Haiti’ s parliament building in an effort to draw attention to their party’s exclusion from the election. They vowed to continue until the election is nullified and demanded that they be held over again during upcoming national elections scheduled for November.
As of 2:00 PM Haitian time, thousands of demonstrators were gathering in front of the parliament to support the hunger strikers as SWAT teams with the Haitian National Police, backed by UN military personnel, were seen surrounding the building.
©2009 Haiti Information Project ”