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#243: This Week in Haiti 17:19 7/28/99 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 28 - August 3, 1999
Vol. 17, No. 19
ELECTORAL DECREE OFFICIAL... ALMOST
Double-talk and blunders have become particularly unrelenting
this political season in Haiti, and so it was that the government
of President Rene Preval last week made official an electoral
decree, and then promptly recognized that the document contained
errors and was unsigned and invalid.
Like all Haitian laws and decrees, the electoral project drawn up
by the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) in June
was to become official when signed and printed in Le Moniteur,
the government's official journal. But when the document was
published on Jul. 20, it lacked the signatures of the Preval, his
prime minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, and CEP president Leon
"After meeting with the members of CARICOM [the Caribbean
Community], they asked for some copies [of Le Moniteur] to go
with and it was then that we opened them and saw that in fact the
signatures did not appear at the end of the text," explained
Carlo Dupiton, a CEP member. He said that the CEP immediately
raised the matter with Alexis. "It was a printing error, not
something intentional, so they are going to make the necessary
correction," Dupiton reported.
But Haiti's gaggle of neo-Duvalierist politicians were not so
forgiving. They are convinced that the missing signatures are a
maneuver by Preval in support of former President Jean-Bertrand
Publication of the decree was somewhat unexpected since last
month Preval had seemed to disapprove of a CEP ruling to annul
the contested elections of Apr. 6, 1997, in which the Lavalas
Family party (FL) of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide won
two Senate seats. "The CEP doesn't have the right to annul a
previous election," Preval said on Jun. 18. "You cannot annul an
election without the force of a decree, of an order, or of a law.
You cannot do it verbally without an official act." Preval
virtually retracted the position a few days later, but that did
not assuage the right-wing.
Aristide opponents protest that the new decree does not
explicitly annul the 1997 polling. They also leapt on a word
("completer" meaning "to complete") in Article 130, which
addresses the disputed senatorial posts, and insisted it should
be "combler" meaning "to fill." CEP spokesman Macajoux Medard
tried to deflect the accusations of the neo-Duvalierists saying
that the word would be corrected and was "not the fault of the
executive branch or the national press but was an error made by
"We should note that the press of putschist leanings and a
certain political class of putschist leanings, which must resort
to nitpicking in order to launch an all-out attack, prove once
again their mediocrity," quipped Radio Haiti director Jean
Dominique. "The words "completer" and "combler" are synonyms in
the French language" and should not be used "stupidly for
personal quarrels by people who are avid to get their hands on
On Jul. 24, the CEP met with the parties opposed to Aristide and
virtually assured them that Apr. 6 polling would be annulled. "To
put you at ease, I would have you not only read Article 130 but
also Article 16, which says that the CEP will specify the number
of posts being sought when it convokes the Electoral Assembly,"
Medard said with a wink. In other words, trust us, we will
disqualify the FL senators later.
Reaction to the decree's publication has been mixed and muted.
The Espace de Concertation, a coalition of parties representing
Haiti's bourgeoisie, is guardedly pleased, if only because most
of the CEP members are their partisans. Micha Gaillard of the
KONAKOM, a Concertation member, called publication "a big, big
step to get out of the political crisis" which has wracked Haiti
for the past two years and felt assured that the CEP would
disqualify the two FL senators elected in 1997.
Meanwhile, the FL also grudgingly accepted the decree. "We are
ready to go to the elections with all of our people," said FL
spokesman Father Devalsaint. Accordingly, last week the FL
rallied 2000 delegates in Ganthier, east of Port-au-Prince, to
choose candidates and debate their platform.
But Devalsaint raised again the problems which the FL, the
National Popular Assembly (APN), and other popular organizations
have found with the CEP's project: "Will technically the CEP have
enough time" to make 4 million voter registration cards with
photos, especially in the remote areas where most Haitian
peasants live? There are only four months before Nov. 28, the
date set for the first round of elections. This CEP, unlike
previous ones, has also said it will count blank ballots, "which
maybe some people who think they might lose will use to make
monkey-business [magouy] in the election," Devalsaint said.
Most negative about approaching elections are the putschist and
neo-Duvalierist parties grouped in the coalition named Movement
to Save the Nation (MPSN). "We clearly told the members of
CARICOM that we did not intend to participate in any electoral
mascarade and that we are very strong on the ground," MPSN
spokesman Reynold Georges said. If they are so "strong on the
ground," why not go to the elections? Apparently Georges would
need more control. "We are ready to work with the CEP but on the
condition that our representatives are present at all levels [of
the electoral apparatus]... The Lavalas Family has six members in
this CEP," he alleged, "and the Espace de Concertation has three
members making nine, while we in the MPSN have none at all."
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been having its own snafus. On
Jul. 21, U.S. Embassy spokesman Steve Pike said that $10 million
to $15 million in election aid from Washington would be withheld
until there was "a transparent resolution of the Apr. 1997
However, three days later, Radio Haiti reported that they had
received a fax from the U.S. Embassy dated Jul. 23 saying that
"the United States considers the publication of the electoral law
as an important step toward allowing the U.S. government to
furnish considerable assistance for the organizing of the
elections and that any other declaration to the contrary is
incorrect." According to Radio Haiti, the Embassy's fax said that
Pike's declaration was taken "out of context."
After the CEP met with U.S., Canadian, and European election
funders on Jul. 24, CEP spokesman Medard said that the U.S.
representative had promised to immediately "release" $3.5 million
to help finance voter registration. The Haitian government says
that it already can scrape together $9 million toward their $18.5
million target election budget and that it can and will carry out
the elections even if there is a shortfall.
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