by Randall White
Haiti Action.net – Port au Prince, Haiti — “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.”
– Urge Secretary Clinton to Support Free, Fair and Inclusive Elections in Haiti
Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
After being virtually silent on electoral justice in Haiti since 2005, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is now attempting to get her colleagues to sign on to a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to withhold US funding for the November 28 presidential and parliamentary elections in Haiti that are designed exclude the largest political organization in the country.
In a recent OpEd in the Miami Herald former Counsel to the President of Haiti, Ira Kurzban wrote:
“Imagine if the Federal Election Commission in the United States disqualified the Democratic and Republican parties from the 2012 presidential election and declared that only candidates of minor parties could run. No one would consider it a fair election, and certainly the people of the United States would rise up, claiming the election is unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Yet the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Haiti on Nov. 28 are just that — unfair, unconstitutional and undemocratic. The country’s Provisional Electoral Council, which itself is not constitutionally composed, is refusing to allow the country’s majority party — Famni Lavalas (Lavalas Family) — to participate in the election. Thirteen other legitimate political parties are also being excluded from parliamentary elections.,Se
In a June 10 report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, — Haiti: No Leadership – No Elections — Ranking Member , Richard Lugar pointed out the systemic injustice of excluding the Fanmi Lavalas political organization. While the intent of the report was to avoid delay and encourage President Préval to formally schedule the elections on November 28, the report pointed out that there were several hurdles to free, fair and democratic elections. Including the Fanmi Lavalas Political organization was considered key to achieving real democracy and avoiding potentially violent chaos.
An International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) “…assessment noted that the operational arm of the CEP was technically capable of organizing elections but argued that ‘giving the mandate of organizing the upcoming elections to the current CEP would mean that the electoral process will be considered flawed and questionable from the beginning.'”
Both the US Senate report and the US House letter point out that the current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) hand-selected by Préval is unsuitable and must be replaced before the election process could begin. Préval refused to reconstitute the CEP, but scheduled the elections, with the tacit support of the Obama Administration and the “International Community” with the duplicitous premise that they were needed to stabilize the country in the aftermath of the January 12 Earthquake.
Last year — on February 6 — President Préval met with Hillary Clinton in Washington DC, the next day Fanmi Lavalas was banned from the April 19 Senate elections. Fanmi Lavalas was contacted to meet on March 4, 2009 with a high profile delegation — UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon, Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — but the meeting was cancelled. When Moon and Clinton did arrive the following week they avoided any meeting with Fanmi Lavalas with the assistance of the US Embassy staff. Lavalas then called for a boycott of the primary election.
The USA put $17 million into the primary and the UN plastered the Lavalas strongholds with posters warning the pro-democracy supporters that “more hunger and more violence” would be the result if the People of Haiti honored the Fanmi Lavalas boycott. Less than 3% of the electorate participated in the election. The US media spin was that the elections were a resounding “success for democracy.”
For the runoff in June, just about the only voters were the election workers themselves who were required to vote if they wanted to get paid for their day of “work.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ note to her colleagues and the Letter are included below.
Constituents are encouraged to call their own Representative and request that they sign on to Maxine Waters letter.
IJDH has an urgent Action Alert encouraging constituents to call their own Congress member and request that they sign on to Maxine Waters letter:
Help Rep. Waters fight for democracy in Haiti by calling TODAY or TOMORROW to urge your Representative to sign the letter to Secretary Clinton. The letter is open for signature until Friday October 1, so call Wednesday or Thursday!
1. Dial the Capitol Switchboard – 202-224- 3121. Ask to be connected with your Representative’s office. (Click here to find your Representative by name or zip-code).
2. You will be connected with the receptionist. Ask to speak to the staff person who handles international issues.
3. Whether you speak to the staffer in person, or just leave a message on his/her voicemail, here’s what to say:
“My name is ___________ and I am a constituent from __(your city)___. I am calling to ask that Representative ___________ sign Rep Waters’ letter calling on Secretary Clinton to support only fair elections in Haiti. To sign the letter, contact Kathleen Sengstock in Rep. Waters’ office, at 52201.”
4. If you are speaking to the staff person be sure to thank them for their time and ask whether they think that the Representative will sign the letter
The text of Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ letter:
Urge Secretary Clinton to Support Free, Fair and Inclusive Elections in Haiti
I ask you to join me in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to urge her to support free, fair and inclusive elections in Haiti.
Haiti is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28. These elections are particularly important to re-establish an effective legislature following the devastating earthquake last February, establish political accountability for the expenditure of large amounts of foreign assistance, and resolve Haiti’s current societal disputes in a peaceful and democratic manner. It is imperative that these elections be free, fair, and inclusive, and result in a government that is legitimate and perceived as legitimate.
Please join me in urging Secretary Clinton to make a clear statement that elections must include all eligible political parties and ready access to voting for all Haitians, including those displaced by the earthquake. The letter also urges the United States government not to provide funding for elections that do not meet these minimum, basic democratic requirements. The letter is attached. If you have any questions or would like to sign on to the letter, please contact Kathleen Sengstock of my staff at 52201.
Member of Congress
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.