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#4515: Moving the Goal Posts in Haiti's Democratic Game (fwd)

From: KEVIN PINA <kevinpina@usa.net>

Moving the Goal Posts in Haiti's Democratic Game

By Kevin Pina
July 5, 2000

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - On May 21, 2000, the Haitian people once again played
by the rules of the democratic game, as directed and tutored by Washington and
the international community, only to see their hope for social change squashed
by yet another endless series of technicalities and accusations.  The current
political crisis in Haiti should come as no surprise if seen within the
context of earlier efforts at democratic change that resulted in the bloody
coup of 1991 and annulled elections in 1997.  Popular sentiment among Haiti's
grassroots organizations seems to be that each time they manage to score a
goal in the democratic game the United States and the international community
change the rules and move the goal posts farther out of reach.

Prior to the May 21st elections in Haiti, tremendous pressure was placed on
the Preval government to set a date for elections despite its official
objections that an evaluation of the process was necessary before proceeding
with the ballot.   The US anointed "political opposition" in Haiti cried foul
showing once again how their greatest constituency resides not in Haiti but
abroad.  They proclaimed loudly that Preval and Aristide were attempting to
delay the process so that parliamentary elections could coincide with
presidential elections in a plot to sweep Lavalas to victory on Aristide's
"coattails."  The Preval government ultimately relented and elections were
held on May 21st in what have been called "the most promising elections in
Haiti to date."  The international community initially embraced the May 21st
elections until it became clear that Aristide's "coattails" are so wide that
they must precede him as well as follow him.  Given the international
community's insistence on an accelerated timetable for the ballot, it made it
difficult for them to back down from initially endorsing the validity of these
elections.  This set the stage for the timely political debacle that has
ensued and what many in Haiti view as disingenuous performances by Orlande
Marville of the Organization of American States and Leon Manus the president
of the Provisional Election Council or CEP.

Given the tremendous investment involved, one cannot help but wonder at what
moment Mr. Marville was inspired to conclude that the calculations of the
ballots was based solely upon the top four vote getters and not the total
percentage of votes cast in the elections. It is difficult to believe that the
international community, and the OAS in particular, were not present to
observe the entire process of balloting and calculations of the ballot count
prior to the CEP releasing the initial results of the election.  Rather than
quietly communicating this discrepancy to the CEP and requesting a change in
the calculations prior to the release of results, the OAS chose to wait until
the CEP had committed itself to the purported incorrect calculations and timed
its "electoral revelations" in a manner that has obviously caused great damage
to the political process in Haiti. 

And what of Leon Manus, president of the CEP, who has fled to a self-imposed
exile in the US claiming that his life had been threatened by the Haitian
government if he did not sign off on the "bad calculations?"  Immediately
following Mr. Marville's revelations, Mr. Manus was quoted on Radio Metropole
in Haiti stating that the results had been calculated in the same manner as
previous elections. If we are to believe Mr. Manus's first position then the
last example we have to look to are the annulled parliamentary elections of
1997.  The results of that election, which appeared to give Lavalas a
parliamentary majority, were discounted amid charges of electoral fraud led by
the International Republican Institute, the Carter Center for Democracy and
the National Democratic Institute, each closely associated with the Republican
and Democratic parties in the US respectively.  An analysis of press reports
from that period clearly show that the procedure for calculating the
percentages of ballots was never once brought into question with respect to
the 1997 parliamentary elections.  Instead, charges focused on "voting
irregularities" amidst a ramped up campaign to link Aristide and Lavalas to
violence and political assassinations in Haiti.  

Presently, Mr. Manus has fled Haiti adding one more note in a well-documented
campaign to associate Preval, Aristide and Lavalas with violence as he
embraces the position of the OAS in a complete reversal of his initial
statement.  Mr. Manus's claims, whether coincidentally or by design,
overshadows the obvious error made by the "coattail" theorists and lends
support to the assertion that Aristide and Lavalas rigged the vote count in an
effort to establish a one-party dictatorship.  

Haiti's poor majority has fought tirelessly since the coup of 1991 to restore
their original mandate of 1990 to transform a system of endemic,
institutionalized, predatory corruption into a modern democracy fulfilling the
aspirations of its citizenry.  A prevalent view among many Lavalas supporters
is that every imaginable obstacle has been placed before them to preclude this
restoration including a brutal military coup, charges of fraud, charges of
political violence, charges of drug running by Lavalas officials, and finally,
bad mathematics. In this context one might understand why Lavalas supporters
took to the streets in force to denounce what they view as another attempt to
overturn the results of yet another election in which they believe to have
reclaimed their original mandate for change in Haiti.

In the words of one young militant, belonging to one of the popular
organizations behind the recent show of Lavalas strength in the streets of
Port of Prince, "Haitian history will not move forward without a return of
Lavalas and Aristide to the presidency."  Many in Lavalas are convinced that
the OAS and the international community are conspiring to discredit the May
21st elections and throw them into disarray in an attempt to forestall the
coming presidential elections in which Aristide would be the hands down
winner.  Others believe that this recent political battle over the credibility
of the May 21st elections is intended to discredit the majority's popular
mandate and further isolate a Lavalas ruled Haiti from the community of
nations.  Let us hope for the sake of the Haitian people and the integrity of
US foreign policy that they are not right.

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