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6840: Dialog initiated by civil society (fwd)

From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>


After three decades of dictatorship, which have practically stopped the country's political and economic growth, the Haitian people was hoping that 1986 would be the beginning of an era of democracy, political stability, economic progress and social justice.  To the contrary, for the past fourteen years, the political life is in a severe state of turbulence, marked by "coups d'état", failed elections and institutional crises.  Democracy has gone through times, the economy has regressed, and poverty has gained ground.  The triple social, political and economic crisis the country is facing has become chronic and is worsening every day. The 2000 senatorial, municipal and local elections should have given the country a new opportunity on both the economic and political point of view.  Unfortunately, the irregularities in the electoral process, and the resulting frustrations and protests, are threatening to throw the country into a new cycle of social turmoil and economic recession.  One of the causes blocking the Haitian society lies in the absence of a real dialog between the actors on the national scene.  Instead of talking, negotiating, liquidating past disputes and creating a normal environment for future relations, one prefers to ostracize the other.  The organizations and institutions of the Civil Society Initiative believe that at this particularly critical moment in Haiti's national life, only genuine negotiations can open the road to a political and economic recovery based on safer grounds.  With that in mind, we, of the Civil Society Initiative, address an appeal and we propose a dialog process between the protagonists of the political crisis.  We hereby present the facts concerning the elections and their foreseeable consequences.  We submit to the Haitian people and to the concerned actors a resolution mechanism, and finally we address a message.

Senatorial, municipal and local elections were held on May 21, 2000.  The pre-electoral period has been marked by physical violence and intimidation.  Militants and candidates have been killed or assaulted, political party headquarters and electoral bureaus were burned down.  The procedures stipulated in the electoral law and the scheduled dates in the electoral agenda were not respected.  The Opposition had much difficulty campaigning.  In spite of these obstacles, many candidates participated and voter participation was over 60%.  On Election Day, despite many irregularities here and there, particularly the late opening of many voting stations and the perpetration of acts of violence and intimidation, one can say that everything was relatively calm.  Unfortunately, by nightfall, the established procedure for counting the ballots was not respected.  The Police, or sometimes some armed groups took away the ballot boxes from some voting places before the votes could be counted, in the presence of the parties' representatives and the independent observers.  The excuse presented for moving these boxes was the lack of lighting, for which a solution could have been determined in advance.  These irregular operations encouraged all kinds of fraud, from the ballot stuffing to ballot box substitutions.
But most important is the counting method used to determine at the winners of the first round of the senatorial races.  Seventeen (17) seats had to be filled: two for each department, except the Departement Du Centre where three seats were vacant.  Eight (8) departments were indeed concerned since elections had been postponed in the Departement De La Grand'Anse.  By the first round the seventeen seats were filled.  In fact, the electoral law stipulates that one must have 50% + 1 of the votes in order to be elected to the Senate.  The Electoral Council, instead of counting 50% + 1 of the total of the votes as prescribed by the law, counted only the votes expressed for the four candidates who received the most votes in seven geographical departments and for six candidates in the Centre.  From this calculation subterfuge it resulted that a great number of votes were merely eliminated in determining the first-round winners and therefore candidates who should have gone into a second round were declared elected in the first round.  In the elections held on May 21st, how many senators really had the required number of votes to be elected by the first-round?  This has not been officially determined.  According to the Electoral Council President, Mr.  Léon Manus, who has gone into exile because of threats he received, only 5 senators out of 17 would have won by the first round.  According to the OAS Mission, that number would be 9.  The main point is that the second round was unduly canceled at the senatorial level, thus abolishing the possibility for the opposition parties to win any seat at the Senate.  Furthermore, if the Opposition had participated in the legislative second-round elections, it would most likely have won a respectable number of seats in the lower Chamber.  This would have given the Legislative Corps a chance to fulfill its control mission by introducing some sort of pluralism.  The fraud committed during the night and the senatorial vote counting scandal, resulted in the opposition's boycott of the rem
The departure from the CEP of its president plus two members representing the opposition parties, due to threats; their replacement by the Executive authority, in an arbitrary fashion and without consulting the Opposition and the Civil Society; the lack of credibility and the partisan attitude of the new CEP gave enough reasons to the Opposition parties not to participate in the presidential and senatorial elections held on November 26th.  The OAS and the International Community have denounced these serious irregularities altogether.  Some important institutions of the Civil Society have also condemned these unacceptable CEP practices.  The Haitian electorate also expressed their disapproval through a very weak participation in the electoral process following May 21st.  As for the November 26th elections, many observers reported a turn about of no more than 10%.
In light of the above-mentioned facts, it can be stated that the party in power, Fanmi Lavalas, has caused serious harm and damages first to the Haitian citizens whose votes were ignored in the counting, second to the candidates and parties who did not receive a fair treatment and finally to the Haitian people as a whole who was not able to participate in the electoral process all the way to the end because of deviations after May 21st.

Besides the harm caused to the Haitian people, these infractions to democratic norms will undoubtedly have serious consequences, which, because of their importance, affect the whole nation and call for an immediate corrections.  These consequences are of socio-economic and of political nature.
3.1	Socio-economic consequences
As previously indicated, the successive political crises the country has faced for the past the past ten years are the main cause of the serious deterioration of the national economy.  Haiti is positioning itself among countries qualified as "ungovernable chaotic entities", alongside Somalia, Liberia, Bosnia and Colombia, to name a few.  While the world is experiencing an unprecedented scientific, technological and economic revolution, our country has known for the past ten years a particularly dangerous economic and social decline.
Due to the ill political governance, particularly because Haiti has not kept its promises and obligations in regards to the administrative, judiciary and economic reforms, as much as in regards to public security and respect of democratic rules, international aid has been substantially reduced and national and international investments have not materialized.  This has severely strained the national economy:
· National production of goods and services has dropped considerably during the past ten years, from 6 to 4 billion gourdes.  This represents a per capita income of less than 3,000 gourdes (three thousand gourdes) per year, equivalent to less than US$ 0.50 per day.  Need it be recalled that, at the start of the third millennium, our country is among the thirty poorest nations of the world and continues to show the lowest human development index of the Americas?  60% of Haitians live below the level of absolute poverty and cannot provide for their basic essential needs.
· During the last ten years, the wealth produced by the country has not stopped diminishing and has been largely absorbed by the demographic growth.  Thus this disturbing deterioration of the living standards of the population.
· In order to compensate for this decrease in national production we had to import more.  Indeed, during that 10-year period, our imports went from US$ 400 million to US$ I billion.  During the last year of that period our exports did not reach US$ 400 million creating a commercial deficit for Haiti of more than US$ 600 million.  This was financed in great part by transfers from Haitians leaving abroad as well as by other occult transfers.
· A forecast of our country's expected future is possible through a linear projection of the economy's tendencies, if nothing is done to reverse them.  With the compounded interaction of the predictable behavior of the demography, of national production and of unemployment, the great majority of the population will continue to live below the level of absolute poverty.
· Consumed by internal quarrels, divided on all essential matters, paralyzed when facing necessary political compromise the Haitian society will show up late, and out of phase with a world progressing through ever quicker-paced mutations and will slowly but surely engage on the road of self-exclusion and marginalization.

In the meantime, how is the public budget?
§ In a ten years, public revenues went from 1 to 6 billions gourdes.  This would be good if fiscal charges had been well distributed and if public spending and revenue reallocation were done according to the population's needs.
§ What we see is a State spending without control, often without a budget, with no attention to the basic needs of the population, with no parliamentary control, up to a budgetary deficit of 2 billion gourdes during the past fiscal year.
In order to face this deficit, the State
· Has issued new currency without any productive justification, thus raising the inflation rate.  Over ten years, the money supply has gone from 5 to 20 billions of gourdes.  The gourde devaluates and consequently the average exchange rate has gone from 7 to 20 gourdes for US$1.00.
This situation of currency devaluation has brought serious consequences for the consumer, the investor and the economy in general.

§ For the consumer, the cost of living has gone up.  For example in 1999-2000, clothing costs have increased 25% from the year before; transportation costs 21%; energy and water, when available, 18%; education and health 14%.
§ For the investor, the cost of money has gone up, because of the restrictive policy imposed by the State on the banks.  Those who can get loans are privileged to find it at a lending rate of 30%.
§ The economy in general is a mess.  No one wants to invest in such a state of financial uncertainty.  Most of the national savings is in US$ and is being sent abroad for investment in more secure economies.
On the social front, insecurity is prevailing.  Armed assaults, murders, holdups, daylight burglaries are common.  Journalists are threatened and killed in their line of duty.  Militants of some political parties make verbal incendiary aggressive threats.  Some categories of people enjoy total impunity.  Corruption seriously affects all functions of the judiciary system, which does not inspire confidence to the citizenry.  Fear is in the streets and in the hearts.  Drug consumption is rampant and vulgarized: a doze of cocaine is sometimes cheaper than a loaf of bread.  Due to the inexistence of highway patrol, major road accidents are on the increase and are a leading cause of mortality.  The national police force is overwhelmed and it is felt they are neither willing nor capable of a reaction.  The population no longer trusts the institution.  Those who can, pay for private security services, which constitute one of the most flourishing industries in the country.  Many leave the country, while the great majority trusts in God.
The health situation is not better: chronic malnutrition has reached 32% of the population.  Due to the lack of education and sanitary training, AIDS is devastating.  If the attendance in schools is rising, thanks to the efforts of the private sector of education, the quality of training has yet to be raised.
If the social and economic situation keeps worsening, Haiti will no longer be considered a country or a nation, but will be an ungovernable chaotic entity.  The crime rate will go up together with poverty.  Drug trafficking will increase and will corrupt what remains of institutions in the country.
How can this erosion be stopped if the International Community isolates Haiti, if international aid or credits are withheld from our economy?  All indications, whether coming from the European Community, or from the Party which, starting January 20th, in the United States, will control the Executive and the Congress majority, all indications are that, if the Haitian electoral biases are not corrected, international assistance and foreign investments will stop.  Then country cannot afford another decade of economic decline, after 20 years of economic failure, from 1980 to 2000.  If nothing is done, our nation will undoubtedly fall in complete disarray and anarchy and become ungovernable.
3.2.	Political consequences
Maintaining the elections of May 21st and November 26th as a "fait accompli" will carry very serious political consequences.  First, this will be an important set back to the democracy institutionalization process.  Despite some convulsive movements, the democratic process has begun since 1990.  At times, it has been chaotic, but corrections have always followed.  The Haitian population is learning and getting used to democratic values like the respect of the popular vote, the inacceptance of coups d'état as a solution to political difficulties.  The values at stake in the 2000 elections have to do with fraud dismissal, the importance of the Legislative branch and of the Municipal Institutions, the necessity of political pluralism.  Accepting the status quo is equivalent to rejecting these values.  Democracy is a hard apprenticeship, with its share of trials, errors and corrections.  If lessons are not learned the population will doubt the advantages of democracy.  The enemies of democracy will re-surface and will try to reinstate a totalitarian regime.  The Opposition will also resort to non-democratic action in order to exercise its right to participate in the country's government.  At this stage, the door will be open to violence, dictatorship, anarchy and chaos.  Public liberties will be put aside.  Such a political atmosphere will discourage all investment efforts, accelerate the brain drain and reinforce the economic mess.  This is our future if adequate corrections are applied to the 2000 electoral process.
In order to correct the harm and damages done to the Haitian people and to the electoral process, to prevent the above-mentioned consequences, and to rekindle hope in the Haitian population, a political agreement must be reached.  Some avenues can be explored.  In this document, we will outline two positions presented respectively by the opposition parties of the Convergence Démocratique and by the leader of the party Fanmi Lavalas in his letter to President Clinton.  Indeed, in an annex to a letter to President William Clinton, Jean Bertrand Aristide committed himself to correcting the problems created by the May 21st elections.  He mentioned the possibility of re-doing the second round for the contested senators, or even the possibility of settling that matter through "other credible means".  Besides these two proposals, the Initiative de la Societe Civile is working on other options, which can be introduced at an appropriate time during the negotiations.

4.1	The protagonists' proposals
4.1.1	Fanmi Lavalas
On February 7, 2001, installation of the president elected on November 26th, with an alliance government.  Formation of a new Temporary Electoral Council (CEP).  Organization of the second round of elections, for the May 21st contested senators.
4.1.2	Opposition
On February 7, 2001, installation of a President and a Government of Consensus and of National Unity; elaboration of an alternative program, organization of general elections with a consensual CEP.


The solution will be reached in four steps.

5.1	Promotion of the negotiating process
The present document entitled "Civil Society Appeal for a Solution to the Crisis" will be handed out to all concerned parties, local and international, distributed to the press and publicly discussed.  A massive press campaign will take place.
5.2	Formation of a Facilitation Commission
This Commission will have seven members, five of which will represent the institutions of the Civil Society Initiative Group launching this Appeal.  Fanmi Lavalas and the Opposition parties, via the Convergence Démocratique, will appoint one member each.  The first five members will come from the religious institutions, private business and private social sectors.  These must be people of unquestionable integrity, impartiality, objectivity, with a strong sense of common well being, a good knowledge of political questions and abilities to negotiate.  National or international negotiators may assist the Commission.
The Commission will work closely with representatives from the OAS and the United Nations, who will follow the entire process and represent the International Community in these negotiations.
5.3	Bi- and -multilateral meetings
The Commission and its associated members will meet with the concerned parties, first separately and then with other partners, in order to hear their points, discuss the stakes, the options and the alternatives, and in order to come up with constructive proposals.
5.4	Final Session
Once the results of the bi- and -multilateral meetings are satisfactorily conclusive, a final session with all concerned parties will be organized.  The results of the previous meetings and the terms of the final agreement binding all parties will be confirmed and finalized.  Then, the agreement will be signed.

A careful appraisal of our social, political and economic situation reveals particularly worrisome signals forcing us to admit that our country is slowly but surely sliding deeper into anarchy and hell.  This calls for immediate action.  We, members of the civil society, have bet on hope and have chosen to be actors in the national life.  We refuse both giving up and giving into excesses.  We refuse to believe that we are victims of a fatality against which there is no issue.  We pledge and affirm our commitment to change things in Haiti, that country of ours.  We shall be indefatigable in the search for a negotiated solution.  We believe and we know that Haitians can together find a happy non-violent answer to their problems.  We must offer the future generations something different.  We cannot bequeath them this somber picture of continuous discord, of uncontrollable and irrational intestine battles.  It is urgent to change this picture as the bicentennial of our national independence is quickly coming upon us.  Is it beyond our capacities to continue to strive to maintain alive and true our motto: "L'Union Fait La Force"?  We have lost, or are in the midst of losing our cardinal values.  The elementary respect for live and private property has become a highly expensive luxury here.  Distrust has replaced solidarity.  At this point, we can no longer indulge in whining like unable people.  We must be clear-sighted and courageous to engage in dialog when necessary, even when extremely difficult.  We must talk with those who think as we do, and also with those whose visions and approaches are different from ours.  We have what it takes to do it.  We love our country, and thus our country deserves this as a present from us. We must build the way to dialog.  Right next to us the Dominican Republic and the United States have taught us lessons in democratic practice: placing public interest above personal interest Is this beyond our reach?
We choose to believe that each Haitian is a brother to the other rather than repeating: "Depi nan ginen neg rayi neg" (Ever since Africa black men hate black men).  We choose to believe that the party in power and the opposition can, together, agree on a common ground. Yes, we chose to wager on hope.