[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

6519: Response to Leinberger's opinion piece (fwd)

From: Greg and Susan Bryant <gregandsusan@rainbowtel.net>

I've been bothered by Topher Leinberger's essay titled "Haiti's election
was a charade" ever since it was posted. On the surface he seems to make
some reasonable points, but if you read closely he's not being at all fair,
or even honest. For example:

>The voter-turnout percentage cited by Global Exchange:
>I don't know whether those
>percentages describe the turnout in relation to (1) the
>total population of Haiti, or (2) the
>population of registered voters, but I seriously would
>doubt the accuracy of the first. No one
>really knows what the population of Haiti is.
>Semi-official figures range from 7 million to 13
>million. That means that, if those percentages are for
>scenario No. 1, they could be off by
>as much as 90 percent. If the percentages cited refer
>to the turnout among registered
>voters, then they mean relatively little. Many Haitians
>do not exist officially, according to
>government records; they are not born in hospitals,
>have not gone to school and have not
>had tax-subject jobs. Only four million are registered

I think Leinberger is playing a shell game with statistics here, and
ultimately not saying anything. Let's start off with the "official" count
of about 2,600,000 votes cast, as published on the Haitian embassy website
(www.haiti.com? .org? I forget). If you don't like that figure, please come
up with some documentation for another one.

First of all: 2,600,000 / .60 = 4.33 million, which comes close to
Leinberger's "four million registered citizens" figure. So Leinberger is
disingenuous when he says, "I don't know whether those percentages describe
the turnout in relation to (1) the total population of Haiti, or (2) the
population of registered voters, but I seriously would doubt the accuracy
of the first." He can do the math just as well as I can.

Leinberger doesn't bring up the 7 million and 13 million numbers only to
muddy the arithmetic. He says, "If the percentages cited refer to the
turnout among registered voters, then they mean relatively little." He is
suggesting that the significance of the opinion of 60% of "registered
citizens" is doubtful because it would represent a much smaller percentage
of the true population, and if the entire population were to speak, the
picture of support for FL would change.

Well, okay, let's agree that between 3 million and 9 million people are not
represented in the vote. So who are those non-enfranchised non-citizens?
Leinberger himself identifies them: people who "are not born in hospitals,
have not gone to school and have not had tax-subject jobs."

Good. If we heard from all or even 60% of those people, I'll agree it's
likely we'd see a different degree of support for FL and JBA. What I'm not
ready to accept is Leinberger's vague implication that the difference would
favor the opposition.

>There is much
>speculation that the string of bombings just prior
>to the election was the Lavalas
>Party itself, thus able to kill (literally) two
>birds with one stone: Aristide got rid of
>and intimidated potential dissenters, while he
>also created an atmosphere of
>violence so that he could come into office to
>``set things into order.''

When a columnist begins a thought with "There is much speculation..."
beware that you are about to take a sail into fact-free waters. And this
speculation is a real stretch. First of all, there are much more plausible
explanations for those bombings, and we all know it.

Secondly, Leinberger himself said just a few sentences earlier:

     "The Lavalas Party leaders are nothing if not smart,
     and they wouldn't have risked domestic suspicion,
     international condemnation, the withdrawal of U.S. aid
     and the disillusionment of the United Nations mission
     for a 5 percent gain in influence in a Senate already
     well under Mr. Aristide's thumb."

But that was then, this is now. He's making a different point now, so
different slurs are called for.

>Also, ballot cards in Haiti are pictorial. One
>must circle the logo of the party for
>which one wants to vote, so that the largely
>illiterate population still can choose.
>Because the Lavalas Party is the only one wealthy
>enough to afford ubiquitous
>publicity, it's no wonder that most illiterate
>Haitians vote only for Lavalas
>candidates, having seen their logo everywhere.

You mean they can't recognize the ubiquitous Mickey Mouse ears? Besides,
how does this differ in substance from the way literate people make their
electoral decisions?

Seriously, and more importantly: I want to see some documentation of the
assertion that "the Lavalas Party is the only one wealthy enough to afford
ubiquitous publicity."

>When assessing the efficacy of a democracy, the
>usual benchmark test comes
>when the party in power must give it up to a
>newcomer peacefully.

Like Cedras?

--Greg Bryant