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#4486: Blanchet on the elections

>From Max Blanchet

It is truly discouraging to see the level of apologia being generated on 
behalf of the debacle of Haiti's last election. I've never seen Haiti en 
Marche go so far in swallowing the false
nationalism generated in defense of the rigged election results. And I 
speak as one of the many who had hopes for the Aristide government-twice.

No one seems to dispute that the CEP, under great pressure from Aristide 
and Prival, agreed to accept a miscount that violates the LETTER of the 
electoral law. It doesn't matter if the
wrong process was used earlier. The error--intentional or not-- was 
identified this time and the logical step would have been to correct it. 
What so many of the apologists seem to be
saying is: so what if the results were rigged--blame the inept 
opposition, blame the arrogant foreign observers, blame the less than 
perfect U.S. democratic system. They conveniently
forget to mention the CEP chairman's principled resignation --and flight.

So many of those who are outraged at foreign interference now cheered the 
U.S. invasion to restore Aristide back then. If you're going to oppose 
foreign intervention -- how about
climbing up on some principle and staying there? The fact is that we 
needed Uncle Sam to give us a chance at democracy -- and we're on the 
verge of blowing that opportunity because
of selfish, vindictive politics.

IT doesn't matter by what margin Aristide's supporters would have won. 
There's no doubt that the sheer scale of his support would guarantees his 
re-election and a healthy majority in
Parliament. The fact is that the murky results mean that his government 
will lack legitimacy among all Haitians. The results will also do nothing 
to close the gap between the elite class,
which controls the means of production (and increasingly more under 
privatization) and the masses, who depend on the economic engine driven 
by this elite class. It will do nothing to
assure the growing and restive urban working class of its right to vote, 
dissent and send representatives to elected office, especially in an 
atmosphere of intimidation that echoes some
of the regimes of the past.

No one should be surprised that Aristide wants to consolidate power. We 
surely know now that he is a politician: finely tuning his message for 
his various audiences; playing to the
galleries at the right moment; keeping his mouth shut when it serves his 
agenda. But what he and his followers seem unable to embrace is the 
importance of legitimacy. They can only
gain that by fervently adopting the principle of transparency -- of 
making processes public and unimpeachable. Instead, winning -- and 
crushing the losers-  seems to be the most
important goal.

If Haiti has any hope for revival, there must be some process of 
reconciliation among our mistrustful classes. The elite must concede past 
sins and abuses; the political class must
confess its shortcomings and corruption, and the poor must be led away 
from a politics of revenge. While so much of the discussion here is about 
political rules, we also need an
economic system with fair and open processes. The seminal work of 
Peruvian economist Hernando DeSoto has shown that economic systems with 
standard, published rules are most
likely to grow and those that have vague and secretive business 
procedures are most susceptible to corruption. (The package of laws he 
proposed for Haiti have never been voted on).

Haitians can clamber on another virtual Crete-a-Pierrot now and proclaim 
their disdain for "blan" who want to tell them how to run their country. 
But once we've felt good -- how will we
feed the children, how will we build an infrastructure for the 21st 
century? Who will invest in an Aristide-led government with a dubious 
right to power? Do we want another five years
of government run on the cash flow from long-distance telephone calls, 
remittances from weary Dyaspos and  the growing specter of subsidies from 
Colombian drug lords as the
alternative to foreign aid. If we think the strings to money from 
Washingotn are too visible wait until those lines extend to Cartagena.