Two-faced Democracy in Haiti

The decision by Haiti’s Provisional Election Council (CEP) to prohibit the Fanmi Lavalas party from particpating in upcoming elections scheduled for early 2010 is clearly another attempt to continue to punish Haiti’s poor majority, this time through exclusion, for their political choices and the probability of a Lavalas victory at the polls. The Haiti Information Project recently published a short article reporting that the Provisional Election Council (CEP) had allowed the Fanmi Lavalas party to register to run in elections scheduled for early 2010. According to reliable sources an original document requested by the CEP and signed by Aristide was delivered to the offices of the council shortly after 1:00 pm on November 23. There was no indication on the part of the CEP or the Fanmi Lavalas party that anything was amiss in the process and it appeared a fait accompli.

Three days later the CEP would publish the names of those political parties allowed to participate in the elections and the Fanmi Lavalas party did not appear on the list. The CEP now clings to the same flimsy excuses it used to exclude Lavalas in the Senatorial race. The party did not meet all the legal requirements to register followed by incoherent legal opinions masking their true political intent. We humbly apologize for the mistaken assumption in our reporting that the CEP was telling the truth and willing to play by the rules of the democratic game in Haiti. Apparently they have no shame.

This decision by the CEP is clearly another attempt to continue to punish Haiti’s poor majority, this time through exclusion, for their political choices and the probability of a Lavalas victory at the polls. Ninety percent of the electorate boycotted the last Senate race after Lavalas was excluded by the CEP. The highest figure for the turnout in the April election and June runoff combined was given by the UN who placed it at 11% . Many independent observers noted voter turnout well below that number throughout Haiti’s ten departments.

More importantly, this can only fan the flames for another boycott campaign and gives the impression of duplicity on the part of US foreign policy and the international community. One wonders what the response would be if the same were to happen in Venezuela or Zimbabwe. Reuters recently wrote that Fanmi Lavalas is "still considered the most popular political force in the impoverished Caribbean nation of 9 million people." How can the US and the international community continue to sponsor and fund an electoral process that is built upon exclusion of the most popular political force in Haiti? It’s appears that democratic values as projected by the US State Department and its allies must be strictly upheld and enforced where the ruling party does not suit US objectives and they are otherwise ignored and given a pass when it does. The recent example of US and UN rapprochement over electoral fraud in Afghanistan comes to mind as an example of the latter.

What of the silence of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Haiti today? While the OAS takes a principled position on not recognizing bogus elections sponsored by the coup regime in Honduras their silence is deafening concerning the decision of the CEP to bar Lavalas in Haiti. Where are the OAS lectures to the Preval administration about the necessities of democratic inclusion and free elections in the hemisphere?

All of this begs the question, what does the US and the international community have to fear from Lavalas that they would not condemn Preval and his handpicked CEP for excluding them from the political process? It must preoccupy them greatly that after three years of hellish repression, thousands killed, arrested or forced into exile, that a Lavalas victory at the polls would expose their ultimate justification for Aristide’s removal and United Nations forces occupying Haiti. How would a Lavalas return through democratic elections color their longstanding argument that Aristide had lost the support of the Haitian people and that Lavalas was nothing more than a violent political organization intolerant of opposition from civil society?

An even greater fear must also be that a Lavalas victory would interfere with the US/UN development plans for Haiti. One could not imagine that a low minimum wage suited to make Haitian sweatshop operators and their international partners hefty profits would have passed so easily in a parliament where Lavalas held sway.

Sweetheart deals in parliament that encourage partnering Haiti’s elite families, who are historically notorious for fomenting political instability, with transnational companies would not be so easy to foist upon the Haitian people. Questions would likely be raised about deals between Mevs and George Soros, Apaid and GildenActive Wear, Bigio and Digicel all of which are being touted as the model of private investment for uplifting the majority of Haitians from their current economic state. The growing number of deals for mining rights on public lands and the current bidding process to sell the national telephone company or Teleco might also come under greater scrutiny with Lavalas in parliament. Simply put, taking a chance on a truly inclusive democratic process where Lavalas participates in elections would not fit into their plans for selling Haiti’s few resources to the highest bidder while relying upon the Haitian elite and transnational capital investment as the motor for economic development in Haiti.

Lavalas is clearly seen as a boat rocker they have determined cannot be let onboard, even if it runs against the democratic principles of inclusion and participation. The US and the UN often remind Haitians that one of their main objectives is to strengthen democratic institutions in Haiti. Allowing the Preval administration and his election council to once again bar Lavalas from participation in the democratic process gives new meaning to that endeavor.

Kevin Pina is a journalist and filmmaker who has been covering events in Haiti since 1991. Pina is also the Founding Editor of the Haiti Information Project(HIP), an alternative news agency based in Port au Prince.