[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
#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
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?