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6431: Elections Commentary (fwd)
From: Guy S Antoine <GuyAntoine@worldnet.att.net>
I was a member of the International Coalition of Independent Observers
for the November 26 elections. I was invited by Global Exchange and
Quixote Center to participate as a group leader. I believe that the
reason for this invitation was due to my work on Windows on Haiti.
Others were also invited, though most simply volunteered their services
to one of four organizations: the two aforementioned, and Witness for
Peace, and Pax Christi USA.
I was not asked to first subscribe to the ideology of those organizations.
There was no attempt at indoctrination. I consider myself still an
independent. Someone wrote the other day that "we all know" that
the ICIO (or members of) were pursuing their own "progressive agenda".
I have to say " THANK YOU! ", because I would much prefer to be
associated to a progressive agenda than a reactionary one, as the
evidence of a reactionary agenda continues to accumulate every day
in Haiti, in the so-called "International Community", in the Haitian media
(airwaves, newsprint, and web), and the foreign press (though I sense
that my friend, Greg Chamberlain, will be quick to dispute that), and
perhaps on the Corbett list itself.
Like Greg, I am usually not given to conspiracy theories, though I am
surprised that one has not been formulated from the "right", given this
tantalizing fact: The International observers (ICIO, not the five members
of CARICOM who stayed only in Port-au-Prince, please!), the largest
contingent of national observers, KOZEPEP (a peasant leadership
movement primarily concerned with agricultural reform), and the KEP
(or CEP) all arrived at a "national projection" of 60% participation of
REGISTERED voters (not the general population!) Did the ICIO,
KOZEPEP, and KEP have lunch together, a lunch generously catered
by Fanmi Lavalas to arrive at a pre-determined figure of 60% (to counter
the 1%, 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20% figures cooked up by the opposition,
and the media), and they forgot to invite me? Now, I am mad.........
But what does "Independent" mean? This is a charged word that can
signify different things to different people. But, as I participated as
a member of that group, I should tell you what it meant to me. First
and foremost, we were volunteers and all had a price to pay for our trip
to Haiti, largely out of our own pockets, with precious grant money
available to cover the rest, since these elections were not "approved"
by the so-called "International Community". Many of the observers
contributed the requested $1,200 + air fare per individual, out of their
personal savings. Some were lucky to find sponsors to cover part of
those real expenses. As far as I know, we did not receive a dime either
from the U.S. government (obviously) or from the Haitian government.
We sacrificed our time, day to day means of livelihood, and personal
savings to participate in this effort. Next time, please join the fun.
Furthermore, we were not stooges of any political party. We did meet
with the KEP, and we did meet with the leaders of some popular
organizations such as Batay Ouvriye (who did not endorse the Nov.
26 elections). We attempted to meet with some members of the
vaunted opposition, but we were rebuked in our effort, as they were
not at all happy with our presence in the country at that time, since it
appeared to validate those elections which they were boycotting. Their
position was respectfully understood, and because of it we did not
even attempt to meet with Fanmi Lavalas prior to the elections either.
After the elections, a session with the President-elect was arranged
however, and he graciously answered many of our questions and
concerns. I, for one, wish the President-elect the political will
necessary for a strong government which will be able to put into
action the ideas that he formulated for us, and on which I will
elaborate in subsequent notes to the list. President Aristide will
be rightfully judged on the success of his policies. I wish him the
best of luck, though luck has very little play in politics. Contrary to
the fancy of most of the foreign press and the fancy of the diplomatic
members of the so-called "International Community", and the fancy
of several opposition leaders in Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was
popularly elected by a majority of the Haitian people (most of which
reside outside of Port-au-Prince, and beyond the turf of the vast
majority of journalists and embassy personnel). He was not
appointed by the Supreme Court nor is he the leader of a shadow
government in parallel or in convergence (and without any votes,
The people of Haiti did vote for Jean-Bertrand Aristide. JBA is
not a Messiah, and need not be treated as such. HE SHOULD
BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE, LIKE EVERY PUBLIC SERVANT.
But to attempt to deny him the legitimacy that he deserves is not
only hypocritical, but it is a course of action that is far more likely
to lead to rigidity, and intolerance, and mistrust, and resentment,
and violence from the part of those who will feel betrayed by
such intransigence and the resulting administrative paralysis.
Certainly, this would also be fertile ground for a coup, as the sons
are likely to commit the same sins as their fathers. I certainly hope
that the current political situation will not continue to degenerate.
In Haiti, we desperately need a political opposition that is mature
enough to understand its historical responsibility to support the
people of Haiti and receive from them a mandate for change,
through the electoral process and not through the sympathies of
a certain "International Community".
I also hope that the new government will understand the necessity
to develop relations primarily with its own constituency, then with
its opposition at home and abroad and the rest of the world... and
not simply with the United States, Canada, and France. Our concept
of "International Community" needs to be broadened. Furthermore,
we cannot spend the next few years chasing the elusive American
dollar. If we have to go though hell, let it be a redemptive hell, one
with an exit door... making sure that we do not end up in worse
shape than we are today, while we are wagging our tail in anticipation
of the almighty dollar. There may not be much that we can do
without it, but it's certainly possible to achieve something through
sheer political will, and any measure of success is preferable than a
complete surrender of one's ideals and soul for the promise of foreign
aid. We need true partners, wherever we can find them, and not
overseers that continually threaten to withhold our blood supply for
not blindly accepting their dictates.
Finally, as I finished reading my massive backlog of Corbett notes,
for the month that I was away, I am impressed with the number of
notes discussing the low voter turnout from the Haitian electorate.
I'll tell you what. I will not spend my time arguing with those who
heard this or that from trusted friends in Haiti, or those who believe
that the elite is representative of the Haitian population at large, or
those who believe that Port-au-Prince equals Haiti. I will continue
to speak of my own observations, based on the number of people
who came to vote at each of the 36 BV's (polling stations) I visited
in Jeremie, and externally to my personal observation, the 152 BV's
visited by my ICIO colleagues in Cap-Haitien, Milot, Gros Morne,
Gonaives, and Port-au-Prince. Our observation consisted of how
those who came to vote were being verified and recorded in and
against the electoral registers (with a norm of 400 registered per
BV), and in the end to measure the number of people who came to
vote against the number of people who had registered to vote at
each polling station.
We SAW AND DID THE MATH. We did NOT rely on what a
couple of friends were saying based on no respectable methodology
whatsoever. We did not rely on the media, which in Haiti is nothing
but aligned. We did not rely on the foreign press. We did not rely
on U.S. State department communiqués. Let me lose all measure
of politeness here: I do not care whatever the hell others are saying
in that matter, I know what I have duly observed and recorded,
and will continue to report only the results of my observations. I
did not work from 6:00a.m. to 9:00p.m. to satisfy the political or
ideological cravings of others!
I do have a few reservations, though. I do not have a great measure
of statistical confidence in any NATIONAL projection that might
have been reported by any ICIO spokesperson. The reason is simple:
what I observed in Jeremie ( 90% turnout of those who had registered
to vote) may not at all be representative of the department of
Grande Anse. The same logic carries through with the other
aforementioned locales for their respective departments, let alone for
the 5 other departments we were not deployed in. We simply were
not enough observers in enough corners of the country. We did not
have the resources to deploy ourselves satisfactorily throughout the
country, though we far outnumbered the few CARICOM observers
who, I believe, stayed in PAP ONLY. But KOZEPEP did have
national observers in ALL the departments. And I have no valid
reason to disbelieve the results announced by the KEP for the totality
of our territory. Though it may be politically aligned (should not be),
there has not been any serious allegation of wrongdoing in their
method of electoral vote gathering both at the local and national
levels, and in their compilation of such results, and their statistical
projection of a national average. No serious allegation by anyone,
as far as I can see, only shameless fingerpointing without any
evidence of wrongdoing. The workers of KEP are people too,
you know. Though I have not personally observed their operations
at the national level, I can attest to the great diligence of the BED
and the BV officials that I have come into contact with, and it is
nothing short of a gratuitous insult to so easily dismiss the work
of those Haitian citizens, performed under conditions of work, the
likes of which the readers of this note would consider unfathomable.
My general observation was that the people of Haiti wanted Aristide
to be THEIR president, whether I or anyone else liked the idea OR
NOT. They spoke, and if you don't want to listen, that does not
change one bit what they actually said.
My other observation is that there were legitimate grievances
arising from May 21 votes, and not because the OAS or the United
Nations said so. I believe that the calculation of the percentages
was unfair, because it basically ended up rejecting many minority
votes and the possibility of second-round elections that were called
for by Electoral Law. Did the KEP have the political authority to
make such a decision? Going strictly by the book, they did have
such authority. But it was bad policy.
Furthermore, I still believe that it would have been wiser for the
various political parties to have reached a compromise prior to
the constitutionally mandated elections of November 26. Why
was not a compromised reached -- was it due to the intransigence
of Fanmi Lavalas, the intransigence of the opposing political
parties, or both? In this case, intransigence equals foolishness,
nothing more nothing less. As a result, we are letting the blood
flow freely in a sea that is infested with sharks. The nation is the
clear loser in that squabble. But does anyone care? I note the
President-elect's invitation to negotiate and the opposition's
answer to that request is to form a so-called "parallel government".
Will the so-called "parallel government" receive the support of the
so-called "International Community"? In this theater of the absurd,
anything is possible. I urge Haiti's political opposition to finally
abandon the non-productive OPTION ZERO, and come to adopt
instead OPTION FIRST STEP, a step in the direction of satisfying
the nations' needs and not willy-nilly their own political ambitions.
In the end, let us trust that the Haitian people know by themselves
and for themselves what is best for them. Only with this trust, can
the political parties in Haiti truly evolve.
Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti