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#4190: Carey sends article

From: Henry F. Chip Carey <polhfc@langate.gsu.edu>

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
 responsibility for


Assistant Professor of Political Science
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA 30303
tel: 404-651-4845
fax: 404-651-1434