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#53: Haiti Proposed Election Law Unfair (fwd): A comment


Proposed Election Law is Not Fair! 

Designed to Exclude the Base While Creating Image of "Participation"- A Look 
at Articles 50 and 154 of the Proposed Electoral Law 1999

The new provisional electoral council has submitted their proposed electoral 
law to the executive for passage, rejection or changes by Presidential 
decree.  However, upon close examination of its various sections, many 
questions are being raised not only about the origin of some of its clauses, 
but also whether it is in fact designed to overwhelmingly exclude the "pep" 
and further block certain political parties or participants from the 
electoral process.  

Comments on Provisions of the Electoral Decree

If this Provisional Electoral Council is sincere in organizing free and fair 
elections to attract the majority of the electorate, it must acknowledge the 
inherent contradictions of Articles 50 and 154 of the draft decree to this 

Article 50 provides in part that  "the voter card must be duly numbered and 
must reserve a space for a photo of the voter, in the event necessary."  It 
is highly improbable, if not impossible, that the electoral bureaucracy can 
register and photograph Haiti's 1 million plus voters
within the 3 to 4 months timetable envisioned.  After three years of trying, 
Haiti's Central Office of Taxation (DGI) has yet to effectively convert to 
the computer photo identification system.  The computerized camera has never 
quite made it to the rural communities deep in Haiti's mountains.    
If the Council decides to not opt for the herculean task of itself 
photographing each voter, the alternative, letting voters present their own 
pictures, is no solution.  Most Haitians will have to pay to have their 
pictures taken. (In Port-au-Prince it costs approximately between 5 - 10 
Haitian dollars depending on quality and whether in color. But most places in 
the countryside do not have photo studios and people would be forced to 
travel long distances at their own expense to obtain photos.  Or if they have 
to travel to a government office to be photographed, they will incur travel 

The photo requirement would be equivalent to the long abolished poll tax on 
the right to vote, and Article 52.1.C of the Haitian Constitution 
specifically grants the right to vote without any constraints. 

While a photo ID card can help deter voter fraud, it should not be used to 
deter voter participation, unless of course low voter turnout is the whole 

Article 154 opens a potential pandora's box of magouille by creating an 
incentive for ballot box stuffing.  It describes as "valid and to be 
accounted for the bulletins de vote en blanc -- blank ballots found as is in 
the ballot box, bearing no indication of a vote on the part of the voter."  
Further on in Article 157 the decree states that a vote can be expressed in 
one of two ways, "in favor of candidates, political groupings and cartels" or 
"as a blank".  Legitimizing the blank ballot as an "expression of vote" makes 
it a potential slippery factor in calculating the number of votes cast.  
Let's take an easy example. To be elected deputy a candidate must have "an 
absolute majority of votes expressed in his/her district."  (Article 54)  If 
no candidate wins an absolute majority of "votes expressed," the two 
candidates with the highest votes proceed to a
runoff election.  (Article 55)  A candidate who thinks that the front runner 
may have an absolute majority has a motive to stuff the ballot boxes with 
blank ballots to skew the vote percentages and force a runoff.  (Runoff 
elections attract less voters, less observers and are easier to win.)  And 
since blank ballots by definition bare no political fingerprints it would be 
hard to pin the crime on the guilty candidate and/or party. 

The highly contested April 6, 1997 elections hinged on the blank ballot 
controversy.  Extensive research was performed as to all prior electoral 
decisions regarding blank ballots.  The research findings, which were 
published in the Nouvelliste (Haiti's daily newspaper), revealed that 
throughout the history of Haiti's elections, all decisions were consistent on 
this issue -- blank ballots are not to be counted in the final tally of 
votes!  Why go backwards on this issue now?