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#4190: Carey sends article
From: Henry F. Chip Carey <email@example.com>
Published Monday, June 12, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Henry F. Carey
Not perfect, but improving
Henry F. Carey is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia State
University in Atlanta.
As I left the Port-au-Prince airport, after a week with the Organization of American
States observing Haiti's May 21 parliamentary and local elections, I had Yogi
Berra's sense of ``déja vu all over again.'' For starters, the exit-tax collectors
asked not only for the outrageous $30 fee to leave Haiti but for an additional dix
gourdes (50 cents). To the collectors' shock, I refused to support Haiti's
I have observed elections in Haiti in 1990, 1991, 1995 and 1997. Last month's
were the best so far. Still they were substandard, generating ambiguity on two
levels. Should progress be recog-
nized? Or the lack of
democratic credibility denounced?
Opposition parties to Haiti's Fanmi Lavals have denounced the election as
fraudulent and are threatening a boycott. This would leave Haiti and its election
process where both were in 1997: de-legitimated, producing a parliament without
a working majority, unable to confirm a cabinet or adopt a budget, and ineligible
for billions in foreign aid. And that says nothing about the confidence of investors,
within and without.
Ten days ago, OAS Ambassador Orlando Marville questioned how 16 out of 18
Senate candidates, all of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas Party, were
declared winners. The OAS charged that only votes for the top contestants were
counted, reducing the total number of votes needed to reach a majority and thus
avoiding a second-round run-off. So far, the Haiti's electoral commission has
provided few explanations, just as it had no credible explanations as to why
elections were postponed three times.
The leading opposition alliance -- the Convergence, led by Gerard Pierre-Charles,
Aristide's erstwhile ally in the 1995 elections -- charges that a million votes were
distributed before the actual vote and another million disappeared afterward.
Pierre-Charles called the vote the result of the ``prevaricating behavior of the
(Haitian) government in regard to the people and the will of the Lavalas power to
dump the country under an arbitrary, electoral coup d'état.'' The statement is an
exaggeration. Still it indicates how little trust there is in Haiti for elections or any
other action of the political elite.
Not long ago these politicians were fighting the army to restore democracy.
Without an enemy, they collectively appear to be bent on ensuring the country is
as bad off as before.
As for the polls, it has been the same for three elections: Right up to the midnight
counts, Election Day goes well, leading observers to pass positive judgments. In
other countries, elections often are rigged after midnight. In Haiti, sheer
over and opponents misinterpret the unintended chaos as bad intent.
Lavalas feels cheated of a deserved victory. Hundreds of thousands of ballot
boxes, as well as countless registration lists and tally sheets were dumped in the
streets. Why? Exhausted poll workers left them at communal offices. The
communal centers lacked plans for inventorying the tally sheets, the registration
lists and the ballot boxes.
None of the independent Haitian observers were entitled to copies of the tally
sheets, and few opposition parties got any because their candidates did not finish
among the top two, as prescribed by Haitian law. There is nothing to hide, and
Lavalas still will win most of the seats, but wholly avoidable suspicions of
magouille (fraud) now are rampant.
Haiti deserves -- as its constitution requires -- a permanent electoral commission
that can plan for an election to be held with an orderly process for collecting tally
sheets. The Haitian people deserve an honest statement of how the vote was
Until it gets one, the cycle of opposition boycotts will continue to threaten to
de-legitimate the Lavalas landslide and opportunity for one party to assume
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA 30303