[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
#3228: FACTS BEHIND DEBATE OVER ELECTIONS-PT 1 (fwd)
Document from Haitian Embassy in US dated March 28, 2000
THE FACTS BEHIND THE DEBATE OVER SCHEDULING ELECTIONS IN HAITI
In recent weeks, debate has intensified over the scheduling of parliamentary
and local elections in the Republic of Haiti. On the one hand, certain dates
have been described - inaccurately - as constitutionally mandated deadlines.
The Executive Branch of the Republic has been described - also inaccurately -
as being responsible for the repeated postponements of scheduled elections
over the past six months. On the other hand, President Preval has publicly
made clear that, while he shares the goal of "prompt elections" at the
earliest realistic date, his obligation as head of state is to ensure a "good
election;" that is, one with minimal social disruption or violence, and with
maximum integrity, transparency and credibility to both the Haitian people
and the international community.
Reviewing some fundamental facts will help to clarify the situation, and to
put the current discussion of purported "feasible" election dates in proper
THE PROVISIONAL ELECTORAL COUNCIL
Under Haitian law, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is responsible for:
- Proposing the terms of a statute to govern particular elections;
- Proposing the schedule for the elections - registration period, Election
Day and run-off elections, and
- Preparing for and conducting the elections.
In performing these tasks, the CEP is constitutionally independent of the
President of the Republic. They are not under his direction or control.
It is true that the President appointed the members of the CEP. Their
appointments, however, were negotiated as a group with a diverse array of
political parties and civic associations. Moreover, the diversity and broad
public acceptance in Haiti of those appointments were explicitly certified to
the Congress by the President of the United States under the FY 1999 Foreign
Assistance Appropriations Act. (1)
The CEP duty is to propose an election date. Under the election statute
proposed by the CEP and issued by the Government, however, it is President
Preval who is responsible for officially publishing the date. This clearly
was not intended to be a purely ministerial act. The President is entitled
to consult with the CEP and its international advisors, with the nation's law
enforcement leaders and with other officials, in order to assess the
feasibility, and all the potential consequences, of holding elections on a
THE REPEATED DELAYS OF THE ELECTION SCHEDULE
Originally scheduled for November, the parliamentary and local elections were
postponed, first to January, then to March 19 and then once more to an
indeterminate date. It was the CEP, supported by its US and other
international technical advisors, who recommended those postponements - not
President Preval. (2) At the request of the CEP, however, President Preval
did readily publish the new March 19 election date.
In addition, the duration of the period for voters to register was changed
and extended three times because of severe problems in the CEP's conduct of
that registration, which are discussed below. It was the CEP, supported by
their US and other international technical advisors, who stated the need for
those extensions - not President Preval.
One major reason for delay, and for subsequent irregularities in the
registration process that had to be corrected, was the introduction for the
first time in Haiti of photo-ID cards, in addition to inked thumb prints, to
identify registered voters. It was the CEP, encouraged by various political
parties, and supported by the CEP's international advisors, who proposed
using these photo ID-cards and who implemented that plan so perfectly (3) -
not President Preval.
In short, President Preval had not delayed or changed any of these election
dates or registration periods. Yet various observers with their own agendas
continue to allege or imply that the repeated delays of the elections thus
far have somehow resulted from President Preval's unreasonable positions or
maneuver. The media has echoed this totally unjustified accusation.
THE CURRENT DEBATE OVER A FEASIBLE ELECTION DATE
With these fundamental points in mind, the current debate over a feasible
election date can be viewed in proper perspective. As the March 19 Election
Day approached, IFES indicated in its quarterly report that this "final" date
might have to be postponed once more, in order to have a credible election.
The US State Department reportedly was unhappy with that judgment, which it
regarded at the time as premature.
Then in early March, the CEP proposed that the elections be moved to April 9.
But where did that date come from? It appears that this date was picked by
working backward from the goal of installing a new Parliament by the second
Monday in June, or June 12. In other words, the State Department reportedly
asked the CEP, and its technical advisors, how soon the elections would have
to be held in order to accomplish vote tabulations, required run-offs,
certification and publication of the results and logistics related to
investiture of the new Parliament by June 12. This produced the suggested
election date of April 9.
The feasibility of holding good elections on April 9 was quite another
matter. There is no indication that the CEP technicians or their
international advisors were optimistic that all of the problems and
irregularities could be audited and corrected, or that properly screened and
trained polling place personnel could be in place by that date. Perhaps,
given the official displeasure that had greeted their earlier prediction of
another postponement beyond March 19, the technicians endorsed the April 9
date as feasible after agreeing to assume that, from then on, everyone would
perform perfectly; everything would work exactly as planned; and the
necessary remaining steps would be fully completed on schedule. In light of
all of the problems that had already occurred (and had already begun to erode
public confidence in the election process), and given the steps that
remained, this was a very debatable assumption, to say the least.
For example, there was no way of knowing with confidence when all of the
44,000 required Election Day personnel would be:
- Identified for the CEP by local election authorities;
- Approved by a consensus of political parties;
- Screened for qualifications; and
- Published in lists for public review and possible objection.
President Preval carefully reviewed the very troubled history of election
preparation thus far; the various complex steps that remained to be done; the
CEP's inability to report accurately on the status of the registration or
answer the many questions that had arisen about it; and the widespread public
unrest about the elections.