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#2868: This Week in Haiti 17:52 3/15/2000 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. For information on other news in French and Creole,
please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax)
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                       March 15 - 21, 2000
                          Vol. 17, No. 52


In the past week, it has become clear that the current
incarnation of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) meets
neither of its two essential requirements: impartiality and

The nine-member body charged with organizing Haitian elections
has shown that it is guided by and dependent on the U.S. State
Department's Agency for International Development (USAID) and its
quasi-official offspring, the International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES). Likewise, the CEP has clearly revealed
its subservience to the center-right coalition of parties,
stealthily supported by Washington, known as the Espace de
Concertation (EC).

These sectors have been working with the CEP to bring about an
"electoral coup d'état" whereby the electorate would be
circumscribed through shortages of voter registration cards and
stations, according to the analysis of several popular
organizations and parties. Progressive parties based in the
peasantry and urban poor would suffer.

The plot has not gone well, however, and demonstrations over the
shortages forced the CEP to cancel polling originally scheduled
for Mar. 19, 2000. Rather than redressing the electoral problems,
the CEP has complied with pressure from Washington and the EC for
hasty polling and unilaterally fixed two new rounds of elections
for Apr. 9 and May 21 (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 17, No. 51,

Under the new calendar, the CEP extended the voter registration
deadline until Mar. 15. However, at press time on the day before
this deadline, nothing has been done to resolve the fundamental
problems which caused the postponement in the first place.
Massive amounts of disappeared electoral materials have not been
recovered or replaced. Large numbers of potential voters still
are unable to obtain their photo I.D. voting card. Disputes over
the political favoritism toward the EC demonstrated by personnel
in the Departmental Electoral Offices (BED), Communal Electoral
Offices (BEC), and the Registration Stations (BI) have not been
resolved. Clashes continue in different regions around the
definition of territorial voting boundaries. No electoral
registers have been entered into computers, which one
organization noted was the only way to systematically identify
people with multiple electoral cards. Many electoral workers are
demonstrating for their unpaid salaries. At last count, material
and monetary losses amounted to about $1.2 million.

One would expect the CEP to deeply evaluate these problems,
replace the lost materials, make necessary changes in the
electoral personnel, and set in place better structures to allow
the unregistered to procure their electoral cards.

Far from it. The CEP has instead put the nation in front of a
fait accompli by setting a new election date without any
consultation or coordination with the executive.

Shortly before departing for Guadeloupe on Mar. 9 to participate
in a summit between French president Jacques Chirac and the
countries of Cariforum, President René Préval expressed his
dismay at the CEP's unilateral announcement of new election dates
without approval from the executive. "This morning, I heard talk
of a press communiqué which I don't have, which speaks of a new
date," Préval said. "I think there it is a a minimum of courtesy
that before such a decision is taken, the Executive should be
informed." He insisted that before forging ahead, major problems
should be corrected, such as a detailed investigation into the
229 electoral registers lost in the Artibonite Valley, which
contained materials for making more than 90 thousand electoral

Article 16 of the electoral law stipulates that the government,
at the CEP's request, decrees "the purpose, place and date of the

Préval and his Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis have both
denied that they want simultaneous legislative and presidential
elections in November, as opposition politicians have charged.
However, both say it would be better to take the necessary time
to do things well rather than repeat the mistakes of the nation's
last elections on Apr. 6, 1997, which were hotly contested.

On his return from Guadeloupe, Préval spoke clearly about the
problem: "I am not worried about the date. I have but one worry:
it is essential that the elections are well-organized. I have
said it for months: for us to have legitimate institutions, for
us to assure stability in the country, whether the elections are
held in November, December, January, February, or even April, I
have always said that they should take place as quickly as
possible. But it is not worth it to announce dates that one
cannot respect."

On Mar. 13, the Alexis and all his ministers issued a resolution
which further put in doubt government support for elections on
Apr. 9. "It is indispensable to proceed with speed in the
evaluation of the operations linked to the voter registration and
associated with the polling so as to guarantee the reliability of
the electoral process," the resolution read.

Even the "opposition" has spoken out against the cavalier fashion
in which the CEP has acted: "They did not contact us to fix the
date and, we have learned, the communiqué is dated Mar. 4. That
means that the communiqué was prepared since Saturday, and they
issued it today [Mar.8]," complained Mme. Mirlande Manigat, a
senatorial candidate of the right-wing RDNP.

Stung by reproaches, the CEP has redoubled its declarations and
press conferences in a desperate attempt to show its goodwill.
But the explanations have not been convincing. "There were not
any lost registers,"said CEP president Léon Manus in trying to
explain his colleague Carlo Dupiton's declaration that 229
registers had disappeared in the Artibonite. "They have been
returned, but they have not yet been entered into our counts."
But the main questions remain. Who had the registers? Where and
how did the CEP "find" them? Why and how long were they missing?

Meanwhile, all across Haiti, there have been firings and arrests
for the theft of election materials.

In the face of outcry, Manus points to false deadlines and
constraints. "If we change the date again, we will end up losing
our credibility," he said. "The candidates are tired and short of
financial resources... We cannot go further than Apr. 9... Jun.
12 is the final date for us. We have to respect the
Constitution... because after Jun. 12 we don't know what can
happen. Beyond that date, it gets hazardous."

The Constitution says that parliamentarians return from their
recess on the second Monday in June, which falls on the 12th this
year. But there are no parliamentarians in recess; the parliament
expired on Jan. 11, 1999. Curious his attachment to an irrelevant
constitutional clause while he flaunts the electoral law.

Manus also said: "There are a bunch of demonstrations which are
just trouble-makers in the street. They already have their
electoral card in their pocket." This reveals something of the
CEP's true perception to the peoples' demands for voter cards.

Meanwhile, the people also continue to demand the additional
registration stations which the CEP promised. Groups like the
Haitian Peasant Assembly (RPA), the KOZEPEP, and the popular
organizations of Ft. National have complained that there are many
well-stocked BI in upscale neighborhoods and very few BI without
materials in populated and poor zones. The groups have promised
to mobilize in the days ahead if the electoral process is not
freed from partisan control and international interference.

The Lavalas Family party (FL) of former president Jean-Bertrand
Aristide has kept a low profile. It apparently fears that the
"international community" will hold it responsible for any delay
in the election schedule. "When the elections were decreed, the
candidates of Lafanmi registered; the CEP came with a code of
ethics, Lafanmi signed the code of ethics; the electoral calendar
was established, and all the candidates of the Lavalas Family
entered into electoral activities, as one has noted on the radio
and television," said FL spokesperson Yvon Neptune. He said that
the Executive and the CEP should sit down to reevaluate the
electoral process, correct the errors, and determine the date for
the elections, not for a small group, but for as many electors as

Meanwhile, Father Joachim Samedi, the parish priest of St. Helen
in Jérémie and a leader of Korega, said that he had predicted the
failure of the CEP and called for its dissolution.

"I think that President Préval and the Prime Minister should take
the decision to fire the people in the electoral council. I don't
say all of them, but those like [Carlo]Dupiton who was
responsible for the electoral operations, who failed, and
Emmanuel Charles, who was responsible for the civic education
campaign... They must fire them and arrest them until they
account for the public funds which they have wasted."

As for the right-wing opposition, it remains split between the
partisans of the "zero option" (i.e. the departure of Préval and
the organization of elections without Aristide) and those
favoring an "electoral coup d'état." Leading the charge for the
"zero option" is the neo-Duvalierist alliance of the Patriotic
Movement to Save the Nation (MPSN), which is linked to U.S.
Republicans the CIA-Pentagon nexus, and the Organization of
People in Struggle (OPL). "This shows that [Préval] remains a
dictator and wants to continue to govern without a parliament,"
said OPL Secretary General Gérard Pierre-Charles. "He wants to
force the CEP to resign."

Pierre-Charles' even more zealous lieutenant Sauveur Pierre-
Etienne declared that "this problem is a problem of the Espace de
Concertation, the Lavalas Family, and of President Préval. The
OPL has nothing to do with the CEP... Now the contradictions are
beginning to emerge among the opportunists and the thieves, the
OPL will not enter in this game... It is necessary that President
Préval resign." This is the position of those who have nothing to
gain from elections because they are so unpopular, nor from an
"electoral coup d'état" because they have no control over the

As for the Espace de Concertaion, it is beginning to worry that
its plan may be coming apart. "First, the government and the CEP
must respect the date for the first round of elections fixed for
next Apr. 9," declared Evens Paul, alias Konpè Plim, of the KID,
an EC component. "Second, the CEP must extend voter registration
until Mar. 24 to allow everybody to register." But Paul and EC
know full well that the deep problems preventing voter
registration cannot be resolved in only 9 days. In the event that
the demands are not met, Paul said the EC will "force Préval to
leave power," in other words the "zero option."

Another EC leader explained the two-tier strategy. "If there are
new obstacles, we will assume our responsibilities and get
together with other sectors of the nation so that there is an
uprising," the leader said. "We already have an understanding
with the RDNP and other political parties... There is a concerted
position between the RDNP, the Espace de Concertation, and the

The RDNP of Leslie Manigat has in fact proposed the formation of
a block called the Alliance for Regularity and Transparency in
Elections (ARTE), which would, it says, stop the irregularities
in the electoral process. (Never mind that Manigat arrived in the
presidency for a few months in 1988 in one of Haiti's most
"irregular" elections ever). Also coming to the aid of the
bourgeois opposition, the pro-neoliberal Center of Economic
Studies, called the Growth Group, explained through economic
analyses how a delay in the elections would have a negative
effect on the economy, notably in the depreciation of the
national currency, the gourde, against the U.S. dollar.

The UN Security Council, Washington, and other international
"experts" continue to say that Haiti must organize elections "as
quickly as possible." Recently the White House sent to Haiti
former National Security chief Anthony Lake and the State
Department's Donald Steinberg, who declared "that there are no
excuses not to support the efforts aimed at making possible
elections on Apr. 9." For good measure, Lake specified that the
United States government was not for or against any political
party, but that it simply wanted to support democracy in Haiti.

But it wants democracy according to its own schedule, not
according to that which might be best for the Haitian people. It
clearly favors rapid elections, however slapdash, as does the EC.

However, the State Department has no interest in seeing things
degenerate to the point where Préval resigns. That would have a
negative impact on the campaign of Democratic presidential
candidate Al Gore in the upcoming US elections. But by pushing
for the organization of farce elections, the Clinton
administration could end up further destabilizing one of its few
foreign policy "successes."

Clearly the current CEP has failed in its mission. Perhaps it is
no surprise, since it was born from the Mar. 6, 1999 "agreement"
between the EC and the Préval government. It has allowed USAID
and IFES to control the process of creating the electoral cards,
which is at the root of today's crisis. For all these reasons,
the current CEP should be disbanded, and a new CEP appointed by
the government, made up of people who will be non-partisan and
independent of the pressures and threats of foreign "advisors."
That is the only way to have "honest, democratic, free, and
transparent elections," as the slogan goes.

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Please credit Haiti Progres.