The Washington-based group the Haiti Priorities Project recently dispatched a team of 70 pollsters throughout Haiti. According to their findings, “Only 5 percent of potential voters nationwide say they are ready to go to the polls in order to elect 12 senators for the upcoming elections on April of this year.” In polling from several areas of Haiti they make it clear that, “The majority who participated in the survey intend to stay home due to the inconsistency exhibited by the administration of President Préval and the international community wanting to practice [electoral] exclusion, a system in which the people have been rejected since the fall of Duvalier 1986.” If their polling is correct, the upcoming elections in Haiti may be the first real foreign disaster of the Obama administration since it took office.
BY KEVIN PINA
Posted by Bulatlat
The Obama administration and the international community have largely remained silent the past two weeks concerning a decision by Haiti’s election council to move forward with controversial Senate elections scheduled for April 19. A visit in early March by former president Bill Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to “draw attention to Haiti and promote development,” an international donors conference on Haiti held in Washington D.C. on April 15, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Haiti April 16, have only temporarily distracted attention away from the controversial election.
The apparent decision to green light the contentious ballot follows a ruling by Haiti’s Provisional Election Council or CEP to exclude the Fanmi Lavalas party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on procedural grounds. Haitian president Rene Preval met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington on Feb. 5. The election council’s decision to disqualify all of the Fanmi Lavalas party’s candidates was announced the following day. Major stakeholders in Haiti such as the U.S., Brazil, Canada and France have to worry whether excluding Lavalas from the upcoming ballot will be seen as undemocratic and call into question the validity of the elections.
Lavalas, which means flashflood, is a political party and social movement in Haiti. Its roots begin at the break between the Duvalier appointed hierarchy of the Catholic Church and independent parish communities known as “Ti Legliz” or the Little Church. Lavalas has served as the largest base of Haiti’s electorate since it galvanized around Aristide’s first successful candidacy for president in 1990. Preval’s election victory in 2006, and the success of his Lespwa party, is widely seen as a result of support from the Lavalas electorate.
Factions of the Fanmi Lavalas party originally presented two slates of candidates to the CEP for the upcoming Senate elections scheduled for April 19. After the CEP demanded they present a single slate, the Fanmi Lavalas party’s leadership managed to hammer out a compromise list of candidates in time to meet the deadline. The CEP refused to accept their applications on the grounds they did not have Aristide’s personal signature from exile in South Africa as the National Representative of the Fanmi Lavalas party. One analyst close to the CEP and who spoke on condition of anonymity commented, “It didn’t really matter what Lavalas did. The result was always going to be the same. There was more division within Lavalas and greater procedural irregularities with their candidates in the elections of 2006. The only difference is they needed them to provide legitimacy to those elections. The political infighting only provided the CEP with a convenient excuse to exclude them. They don’t feel they need them [Lavalas] to legitimize the April 19 elections.”